I have been using an Ironkey for a little over a year now. I have been very happy with it so far.
I was recently given a Knox-IT to try out. After using both of them for a while now, I wanted to write down some thoughts I have on both of them.
When you think of secure encrypted flash drives, you think of Ironkey. Ironkey is the current industry leader. They are FIPS 140-2 Level 3 compliant, and are well known for pioneering the whole “after X failed password attempts the device will self-destruct.”
When I first received my Ironkey, the first thing I noticed about it was it’s overall design–The packaging (no photos sorry!) made it seem like I was unwrapping prized jewelry. The smooth, finished feel to the flash drive itself, and the (surprisely) heavy weight gave me the impression that this was a quality product.
When you plug the Ironkey in the first time, a proprietary autorun application launches and runs you through a wizard that sets up the Ironkey. Easy to use, no qualms here. A nice touch is that I can specify contact information that will display on every autorun, in case the Ironkey is lost.
Normal use is pretty straightforward–Plug in the flash drive, type in your password in the autorun app, and you get access to your sensitive data.
I have kept it in my pocket for the last year, and the only wear and tear that I see is some nicks here and there.
Knox-IT / Lok-IT
(Knox-IT is the name of the previous version of the Lok-IT)
My first impression with the Knox-IT was quite the opposite of Ironkey. The packaging was the cheap plastic that is really hard to open. The grey lightweight (plastic) material that makes up the Knox-IT screams Chinese knockoff all over it. Fortunately, it gets better from here.
The key differential between the Ironkey & Knox-IT is that Knox-IT uses 5 hardware buttons for your passcode, instead of a autorun app (software solution) from Ironkey. So you put in your passcode, the green light illuminates, and you plugin the flash drive and you use it like any other flash drive. It will automatically lock/encrypt the flash drive when you disconnect it.
Using the included docs, it was a very simple process to setup the passcode. Testing it out, I didn’t run into any issues unlocking and locking it back again.
According to their website, a FIPS 140-2 Level 3 compliant Lock-IT is slated to be released Q2 2011.
I really like the build quality of Ironkey better than Knox-IT, but I really like the concept of KnoxIT–Using hardware buttons to unlock the flash drive means that the Knox-IT is completely invulnerable to one of Ironkey’s primary weaknesses: Keystroke Logging. Yes, Ironkey does have an on-screen keyboard that can be used to mitigate this threat, but it is clumsy to use, and do you really know anybody that is actually using the on-screen keyboard? I don’t.
The only other issue that I would point out about Knox-IT is that with only 5 hardware buttons, the attack space for guessing the passcode is quite small, but the mitigating control for that is that you only have 10 tries to unlock it before it self-destructs. As a side note, the new version of Knox-IT (Lok-IT) now has a full complement of 10 hardware buttons–This fact plus the 10 tries & self destruct mechanism effectively disables a passcode guessing attack.
One final note that I have to mention. As I was researching for this post, when I went to Knox-IT’s website, I got soft-blocked by my organization’s content filter, because the site was categorize as “Malicious.” I thought that the content filter must have miscategorized the website, and so I continued anyway.
Here is the result.
Pretty ironic, huh?