Category Archives: Flash Storage

Apricorn Aegis Secure Key 3z USB Drive – Move over James Bond and Ethan Hunt, this data really can self destruct in 5 seconds!

Mission Impossible : Rogue Nation - USB Memory Stick deletion scene - image credit: Paramount Pictures
Mission Impossible : Rogue Nation – USB Memory Stick deletion scene – image credit: Paramount Pictures

If you watch Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, you will find a scene near the end of the movie where Faust (Rebecca Ferguson) hands a USB drive to her ‘handler’ Atlee (Simon McBurney), he then proceeds to surreptitiously erase the contents of the USB stick using an combination of distraction, slight of hand, a Nokia 930 smartphone and a copy of the Financial Times. Thus Faust is oblivious to the smoke and mirrors that has just taken place and continues on with her mission (should she choose to accept it!).

All of the above just seemed completely unnecessary and it was with this still in mind that I began testing and reviewing the Apricorn Aegis Secure Key 3z, a storage device which not only hardware encrypts your data but also includes a self destruct option for those most inconvenient moments when your only option is to completely destroy the data!

The majority of disk encryption is at software level which means that you can access the information, but it is in effect ‘scrambled’ using a password or code. Try enough times using either brute force or dictionary attempts and you may just crack the key and thus give yourself access to the information.

Gadget Man Reviews the Aegis Secure Key 3z
Additional technology is simply not required to secure your data with the Aegis Secure Key 3z

The Secure Key 3z uses a hardware based encryption, namely 256-bit AES XTS. AES is an acronym for “Advanced Encryption Standard”, originally invented in 2001 as the “Rijndael Cypher” after it’s creators Daemen and Rijmen. AES is a widely used encryption standard able to be resilient against attacks. It is in fact so highly respected, it has become to ‘go to’ encryption method for security agencies, banks and governments to trust it with their highly sensitive information and state secrets. The 3z uses 256 bit encryption, which gives a hundred thousand billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion combinations of keys. With the further addition of the XTS cypher, it renders data stored on the device effectively impossible to access or decrypt.

Gadget Man Reviews the Aegis Secure Key 3zOut of the box, the Secure Key measures in at 81mm x 18.4mm x 9.5mm and weight 22 grams and has an internal rechargeable battery. Once unpacked, you will need to set up your Admin pin number straightaway as there is no pre-programmed key. This must be between 7 and 16 digits, you cannot set consecutive numbers or numbers which are all the same, this pin is users to set up the Secure Key allows to to manage other features, but more of that later.

As soon a you’ve added your admin user, you can then (if you like) add a standard user. You would use this feature if you were going to manage the Secure Key and were going to issue it to another person to use. Again, this is a fairly straightforward and covered in the ‘quick start guide’.

Gadget Man Reviews the Aegis Secure Key 3z
In its locked state, the Secure Key is is not recognised when plugged into a PC, Mac or mobile device

Whilst locked, the USB is effectively useless, plug it into a computer’s USB port and you will find the computer won’t even recognise the device as it is hardware disabled, in other words it’s switched off. This is indicated by a ‘red’ led illuminating on the device. To unlock the device, you press the green padlock key and then enter either the user or admin pin number and press the green padlock again. The red LED will switch off and the green LED starts flashing, this indicates that device is unlocked and ready for use, it is simply a matter of plugging it in to a spare USB port.

The Aegis Secure Key’s FIPS 140-2 validation covers 11 areas of its cryptographic security system, including physical security, cryptographic key management and design integrity.
The Aegis Secure Key’s FIPS 140-2 validation covers 11 areas of its cryptographic security system, including physical security, cryptographic key management and design integrity.

The key itself is USB3.1 but is backwardly compatible to v3, v2 and v1.1. This gives it a surprising turn of speed of  to 190MB/s read and 80MB/s write.

OK, so the key performs really nicely and had government grade encryption, what happens if I lose the key and it gets into the hands of an enemy?

Apricorn Aegis Secure Key 3z
Apricorn Aegis Secure Key 3z

First off, the key is encased in a IP58 Dust and Water Resistant tough metal shell with polymer coated wear resistant keys. Inside the electronic components are protected by a filling of hard epoxy resin, making a physical attempt to access the electronics virtually impossible without causing catastrophic damage.

PIN entry ‘brute force’ protection means that if you enter the code number incorrectly more than 3 times, the space between entry of subsequent pins slows down, if the incorrect entry of keys hits 10, the red light on the key will start flashing rapidly, at this point you have 10 more attempts left, if you fail to enter a correct pin within these last attempts, the key will consider itself as under attack and will delete it’s data as a precaution.

Apricorn Aegis Secure Key 3zShould you be left in the position of Faust and Atlee in Mission Impossible : Rogue Nation, there is in fact a better option for destroying the data on the card (or in fact having a third party do it for you). Yes, the Secure Key supports the entry of a self destruct key, a key which is designed to delete all data on the key and reformat the device, this key is then assumed as the standard key for the device and it will behave as a brand new drive.

It was quite fiddly to set up, but I was successful in testing the ‘Self Destruct’ mode, it worked as documented and didn’t give me any indication that it was taking place.

Apricorn have made a very solid product with the Secure Key 3z, it looks and feels the part, it worked very well and the security features were exceptional.

I loved the fact that a company is working SO hard to make the theft of data so difficult. In times of cross border data theft, the counter-measures employed by the Secure Key 3z are both impressive and comforting.

Matt Porter
The Gadget Man

Starting at £74 for the 8GB to £228 for 128GB models, the USB Storage Key is reassuringly priced for the corporate market.

 

First Products of the Tech Giants – Play our Quiz!

We all have to start somewhere and so did some of the biggest tech companies. Play our quiz and see if you can guess what their first products were? You might be surprised at some of the answers!

Don’t forget to comment with your score and don’t forget to like and share!!

1257 Miles in an Electric Car – Part 1 – A Plan is Hatched.

Holzhausen’s drawings of the Model S
Holzhausen’s original drawings of the Model S

10th July 2017

I was sitting in my office in Martlesham on the 10th July 2017 chatting to a colleague about Tesla cars. The conversation had started after he noticed the framed artists sketch hanging on my wall.

I have driven a number of Tesla Model S cars in the past from the excitable P85+ to the ‘Insane’ P85D. They are very exciting cars to drive, not just because they are fully electric and pack extremely powerful single gear motors, but because you feel your are riding on the coattails of automotive history, participating in an irreversible shift change in motorvehicle technology. It’s very exciting!

The conversation moved on the the Model X and Model 3, Tesla’s entries in to the SUV and ‘affordable’ markets. The Model X has recently appeared in the UK, the Model 3 is two years away from being available. We continued to chat for the rest of lunch, but the seed was planted.

That evening I wrote an email to Tesla’s press office requesting the loan of a Model X for review. Nothing specific, simply available dates.

The next day I received a reply from Tesla, it’s explained that things were very busy with the Model X, but the 5th and 6th of October was available for a test drive, did that suit? I puzzled for a while, in the past I had been loaned vehicles for a little longer, to give me time to get to know the vehicle, two days seemed a bit short to get a proper review in place. So, I followed up with an email, requesting a little longer.

I quickly received a reply from Tesla asking what my plans were? OK, good question, time to put on my thinking cap.

15 July 2017

My initial idea was driving from Lands End to John O’Groats, but after a little bit of Googling, I discovered that this had already been done in a  Tesla and well documented on YouTube, there was nothing original to achieve in travelling down this this ‘road’.

But wait a minute! Was there? I live about 40 minutes from Ness Point, the most easterly point in the UK. Nestled in Lowestoft, Ness Point at first glance seemed a little unloved. Some thought and effort has been made to build a stone circle, with plaques showing distances to well known points in the UK. It’s quite nice, but the surroundings aren’t that impressive, but it seemed like the obvious starting point for a challenge and wasn’t too far from home.

Now to find the most westerly point of the UK.

Ardnamurchan Lighthouse sits on the most westerly mainland point of the UK accessible by a short ferry ride at Corran and a two hour drive along single track roads across an extinct volcano. There even appeared to be a ‘rapid’ charge point a few miles away at Kichoan Pier, which would set a challenge outside of Tesla’s ‘Supercharger’ network.

The plan was hatched, but it was just the beginning.

Matt Porter
The Gadget Man

Gadget Man Review – Transcend JetDrive Go 500G – Lightning / USB 3.1 Flash Drive

The Apple iPhone is a very popular device indeed and has played an integral part in the explosion of the Smart Phone and Tablet market over the last 9 years since its launch.

Transcend JetDrive Go 500G - Lightning Plug
Transcend JetDrive Go 500G – Lightning Plug

Apple have however played it safe with regard to storage though, happy to keep the iPhone, iPad and iPod firmly enclosed in milled aluminium with internal access to only the SIM card. Hard wiring (or soldering) components into a device means the manufacturer doesn’t need to includ memory and battery adapters which take up space and more importantly depth in the phone. Consequently Apple devices are therefore nice and thin.

Transcend JetDrive Go 500G - USB 3.1 Plug
Transcend JetDrive Go 500G – USB 3.1 Plug

Disallowing additional memory means users have to closely monitor their phone storage. It doesn’t take long for those high bitrate 4K videos to start eating into an iPhone internal storage, meaning you need to start archiving videos and photos to another device such as a Mac or PC (or cloud storage if you have the time and data bandwidth) to stop the memory being used up. Worse still, If you are out and about and run out of phone storage, you are going to be looking at dumping what might be precious footage stored on your phone to make space for new photos and videos.

Transcend JetDrive Go 500G - plugged into a iPhone 6S Plus
Transcend JetDrive Go 500G – plugged into a iPhone 6S Plus

This is where Transcend step in with their JetDrive Go 500G Lightning / USB 3.1 Flash Drive, a very nifty device (or dongle) that plugs directly into your iPhone or iPad’s ‘Lightning’ port and allows you to copy or move your photos and videos straight off your device onto a flash drive and thus free’s up your phone for more film making and photography. You can even take photos directly onto the flash drive if you wish using the Transcend Go App which is automatically downloaded when you first plug the device into your phone or tablet.

Transcend JetDrive Go 500G - plugged into a iMac
Transcend JetDrive Go 500G – plugged into a iMac

The jetDrive Go 500G is different from standard flash drives in as much as it both Lightning and USB on the same device which a connector mounted at end. The lightning ‘end’ plugs directly into your iPhone or iPad and allows you to copy data at speed of up to 20MB/s onto the drive. At the other end of the flash drive is a USB 3.1 connector (recognisable by its blue colour) which connects directly into a PC or Mac and copies data up to an amazing 130MB/s, so again no delays in copying your video and photos over to your desktop or laptop.

The drive comes in two sizes, 32Gb and 64Gb and in either Silver or Gold zinc alloy. These two storage options are going to be a dream come true for those of us with smaller internal storage options and may even delay that dreaded phone upgrade.

Transcend JetDrive Go 500 - Go App
Transcend JetDrive Go 500 – Go App

Package wise, the flash drive comes in a simple package along with clear instructions, a wrist strap and two plastic caps for either end of the device to protect the connectors. From opening the package, plugging in the device to downloading and running the small “Go” App, I was up and running in literally two minutes.

Transcend JetDrive Go 500G by a 50 pence piece
Transcend JetDrive Go 500G by a 50 pence piece

The device worked flawlessly for me and it wasn’t long before I was zooming around the house, backing up the kids iPads and my wife’s iPhone, it really was very easy to use.

I was certainly surprised how something that could be considered fairly insignificant to look at could actually be a bit of a godsend for the iPhone community. This is an excellent Apple MFi certified product and comes highly recommended from us.


Priced at £50 for the 32gb model and £67 for the 64gb, you can purchase directly from Amazon using the link alongside this text. Other options are available from other manufacturers and outlets, take care to ensure plugin peripherals are certified before using them.