Aegis Secure Key

While we all would like our data to reside in "The Cloud," the reality for most of us is that our data is on a USB flash drive. When I look at my own data flow, I see 14 gigs of data, being used across no less than nine computers- five at home, and four at work. For the stuff I am actually working on, it is simply impossible to have it reside on one computer, and the flash drive is what makes this work pattern possible.

However, with that much data, some of it is bound to be sensitive stuff that is not for sharing. While I have never lost a flash drive, I know plenty of others that have, and in the end they are an accident waiting to happen.

Enter the Aegis Secure Key USB flash drive. This is the drive that purports to allow a user to have their flash drive, while having it secure if found. Security is provided via a ten key numeric keypad. The Secure Key ships with a default PIN, and it is a simple two minute process to customize the PIN to a new one from 7 to 15 numbers long. It also forces a random one for the "security lazy" as it will not allow a simple repeating PIN such as "44444444," or a simple progression such as "12345678."

The Secure Key is a little longer than some USB flash drives these days, but to me it conveys a sense of solid rather than bulk. It has an outer case of metal, that clicks onto the body with a gasket making it water resistant. The drive itself is a soft plastic, and has 3 LED's, and 10 numeric keys to enter the PIN code.

The entire unlocking sequence is built into the drive itself, and is done before plugging the drive in. This is how the drive is compatible with Windows, Apple and Linux OS', and will also work on a computer that one cannot install software on, such as a locked down computer at work or in a library. The USB is the 2.0 standard, and not the faster, but still becoming common 3.0 standard. The Secure Key has a battery built into it to run the unlocking process before it gets inserted into the computer. Once it is unlocked, it behaves like any other USB key.

How secure is this drive? Quite a bit actually. It sports 256 bit encryption of the data. If the code for the PIN gets entered 10 times wrong, the drive gets totally wiped. If you forget the code, there is no way for anyone to retrieve it, and the only play is to reset the PIN code, and the entire data gets wiped with the reset. All this adds up to beingFIPS 140-2 certified, which stands for the Federal Information Processing Standard, which is the equivalent of "Top Secret" to the US Government. This is serious security.

The drive is available in various capacities from 4 GB to a max size of 32 GB. In testing, my 32 GB drive formatted to 30.7 GB available for use. The drive, given the overhead of encryption and decryption, had an average transfer rate of 6.7 MB/sec (range 4.8 – 15.6 MB/sec). The burst rate goes up to 16.2 MB/sec. There were no errors on an HDTune error scan.

The drive comes in the following capacities/price points:
  • 4 GB - $65.00
  • 8 GB - $95.00
  • 16 GB - $125.00
  • 32 GB - $179.00

While the price point is high, it is at least partially justified with the quality of the drive, and that the drive is encrypted at the level of the hardware, and not with a simple software overlay. This makes it a most secure solution, and also makes the drive compatible with any USB compatible device.


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