Customer Review

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Meet the Iron Key......, June 23, 2008
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This review is from: IronKey 4 GB Secure Hardware-Encrypted USB 2.0 Flash Drive D20402A (Personal Computers)
Meet the Iron Key......The Iron what?
Original Review: February 16, 2008

***Note Recommended Practices:

Only insert your Ironkey into a fully booted machine. Trust me it will just make life easier and avoid any possibility of corruption

Firefox Updating: If firefox wants to update - Please make sure to let it complete, or as I did by accident, pull out the drive in middle of updating, amazingly the drive healed itself on the next insert but it did take time for the errors to finally go away.
More ongoing experiences as they happen....all to be added as notes to this post.
**Note: Just a quick addition to an item I should have made a better attempt to describe in the opinions below, that being the [...]website for Ironkey users. I had a reason to login and use it today and I have to say there truly was a lot of thinking that went into how and why you can do what you can online with two factor authentication protection. So sorry for my failure to mention the well thought out backend to the hardware product.

Also, I just wanted to take a moment to thank the Ironkey representative that commented below. It is nice to see that the human factor is also considered.


So the story started about 2 months ago now when I was just randomly searching for secure USB devices. Thanks to Google I came across the:

IronKey [...] - Great Demo Video here - Click Here

Click Image for a larger view

Strong Encryption
Learn how the IronKey Cryptochip protects your files with "always on" encryption.

Internet Authentication
Learn how IronKey helps you protect your online accounts and passwords.

Private Surfing
Learn how you can surf the Web safely and privately directly from the IronKey.

Device Security
Learn how IronKey ensures that only you can get into your IronKey.

Web Security
Learn how IronKey has secured its network infrastructure for protecting your data.

Rugged Design
Learn how the IronKey has been specially designed to be waterproof and tamperproof.

So I was skeptical to say the least. After reading over the site and trying to understand why on earth someone would have actually crammed all the features I have complained about not having into one device that actually had everything I was looking for astonished me to the point I actually had to purchase one and see if what must have been lies was actually true.

So here is the non-cryptographer's / layperson's view:

The beauty of Ironkey is they are basically in my backyard. I purchased the unit online and had it in two days. I was relatively excited that I might finally own something that would actually solve many of the security issues I worry about with both my business and personal lives. Upon opening the box I understood why the thing cost what I felt was a bit too much for a simple USB drive. First it is smaller than I thought it would be from the site. It is truly built like the site claims. The unit is solid and fully encapsulated to fend off vibration and damage from the occasional drop from desk, but I think Ironkey is setup to be even more robust than that, so much so I will just trust that it is one of the toughest USB drives I have ever owned, minus the need to hit it with a hammer. I also know that some people have already attempted to open them so I will let them take the hit to their pocketbooks.

Lets get a few things out of the way before I dive into what I have explored with the technology so far. There are two things I dislike with just about every USB drive I have ever owned. #1 - The Cover for the USB plug portion and #2 - The Lanyard. I just do not understand why manufacturers would make a cover that is not attached. I have not lost this yet (mainly because I am clearly more observant with this drive costing 2-3 times more than a standard drive) but I must say it will only be a matter of time. The only drive I have seen that does a cover well is the Lexar JumpDrives but even those are still removable. Maybe it is a space issue for the rest of the user base but I would love to see a way to retain the cover.

As for number two the lanyard is more something I just need to get used too. I would rather see a larger hole in it to accommodate a standard key ring but the material they are using has held up so far to my less than kind use of the devise so time will tell.

Lets move on to the use of the unit as a standard USD storage device.

After you get through the initial setup - And yes there is definitely more setup than any other drive I have used but this is for good reason. Seeing the drive is fully encrypted you need to have some way of recovering the drive in case of well the occasional solar flare of the mind. Setup is easy and the app just walks you through it.

When the setup completes you will be registered with Ironkey, you will have a new [...] account and you can begin to use the Ironkey. Here is where many have shown a lot of concern both on their site, the web and in some other reviews I have read.

To quote their website:

"To prevent unauthorized people or crimeware (malicious software such as viruses and Trojans) from gaining access to your encrypted drive, the IronKey prevents password guessing attacks (e.g. brute-force or dictionary attacks). After 10 incorrect password attempts (and ample warnings), the IronKey locks out all further password attempts. It initiates a patent-pending self-destruct sequence that securely and permanently erases your encryption keys and data. You can use IronKey's Secure Backup software to restore your backed-up data to a new IronKey."

Now when I read that I immediately thought of Mission Impossible and this thing would turn into a glowing ember and or explode if I entered 10 incorrect passwords. Well truth be told people should not worry about this at all. If you cannot remember a password in some fashion before you run out of attempts you can always recover it using the website before it "self destructs" (sadly it does not blow up and there is no cool poof of smoke, but it will definitely be dead and non-returnable). I have seen endless discussion about the fact the manufacturer will not recover them for you etc etc.. well if they could do that it would totally defeat the reasons behind why the Ironkey was invented.

Image of the Ironkey Desktop Interface.

When you plug the Ironkey into any computer it will pop up a login screen with multiple options. Those options will be remembered when you login in the future and can be changed at any time.

The image above is a screenshot of the desktop interface you are presented with after you successfully log in, all aspects of the ironkey can be controlled from this interface and I must say I like the simplicity of this design as I believe I can even teach my non-technical employees how to use this device.

Seamless integration of complex things designed for the non-technical end user are always things I find most helpful when it comes to implementing a security solution. Security in general is a painful experience no matter how you try to implement it. I will not say Ironkey solves all aspects of this nightmarish task but it sure seems to be a huge step in the right direction.

Now for the meat of this discussion:

What can I do with Ironkey?

Ironkey is a password manager - Finally a portable password management solution that also has many other features. I have used Roboform and I have used other options, heck I even used IE for the shortest time until I heard about IE PASSVIEW - Never again will I use IE for any kind of password management. Here is the sad part thou, Ironkey has some growing up to do before I will actually enjoy the password management experience. I have had a ton of issues with sites that just will not be recognized and or will not populate the device and the worst part is there is no way to manually add passwords. This is a major overcite and major issue to me, I have 100's of user names and passwords across 100's of sites and not being able to easily use this feature and the fact it is just temperamental is a major drawback. I have even had issues related to some sites and basic apache access boxes. I hope maybe this issue will be resolved in a future software release.
Ironkey is a Bookmark Manager - Well sort of... you can add them one at a time, at this time there is no way to mass add bookmarks so I have basically given up on this functionality
Ironkey also does the following: Secure Sessions via TOR, AES CBC-mode encryption, Two Factor Authentication for accessing any Ironkey related online services. (This is all very cool! But I am clearly not the one to spend a ton of time talking about things I have no idea how to properly test or talk about, I ill trust Ironkey to do these things. But I also look forward to the soon to be published review by the Security Now! broadcast in the coming week.)
Issues I have had so far in my use of the Ironkey:

Password Management Problems
Bookmark woes because of lack of options
Strange error the other day when I tried to re-plug the drive before it had time to fully exit. I think this was clearly my own stupidity and not a real technical problem.
Not as much an issue as a question for Ironkey. So the site says we get 1 year of Internet protection services - What happens after that year?
Not an issue for me specifically as I live in a Windows world, but the fact the device only works in XP/Vista only could be problematic for many that live in multiple operating system environments.
A bit expensive - but its not really a CON. The reason I say that is I can loose 10-30 buck USB drives and not shed a tear, but if I lost this I think I might have to at least cry a bit, but curiosity makes me think if that price point is not added security in itself. Get what you pay for? I know I do not treat my Ipod Touch like I do my 30 dollar Sansa player.

Ironkey has really has a winner here - With just a small tweak of the password and bookmark management software applications it would really do everything I need. That is of course if it passes the other TECHNICAL review this week from Steve at [...] - I would be very happy to both pay the premium and recommend this device to anyone worried about securing their personal information.
So to sum this all up in not so many words, for the normal user Ironkey places a ton of technology in your hand at a higher price than not receiving any technology with a normal USB portable thumb drive. The manufacture is excellent and for what its worth I would highly recommend the unit to anyone that needs this type of security. Who needs this type of security you ask..... the answer is clearly everyone and if you do not think you do, I would seriously consider just how open for exploitation we all are in this world.

Please take a moment to catch the upcoming Security Now! - Steve will be delving into the technical aspects of Ironkey and they will also be joined by the reps from Ironkey to hopefully fill in all the blanks when it comes to all the technology crammed into this device.

Links to Security Now!:
[...]Or you can catch it along with all the other great podcasts on the TWIT network at:

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Location: Danville, Ca United States

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