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Military-grade USB key supports Linux

Jun 26, 2008 — by Eric Brown — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 46 views

IronKey Inc. has announced that its line of encrypted USB storage keys is now available for all major Linux operating systems (OSes). IronKey devices come in 1GB, 2GB, 4GB and 8GB models, offer military-grade hardware encryption, and do not require driver installation, says the company.

(Click for larger view of IronKey USB key)

IronKey sells its USB keys in Basic, Personal, and Enterprise versions, all of which offer claimed performance of up to 30MB/sec read times and up to 20MB/sec write. The Personal version adds secure Internet browsing via an embedded FireFox 3 browser and the addition of Public Key Certificates and Open Authentication technologies. The Enterprise version adds remote management and configurable policies features. Users of Linux and Mac OSX systems, however, are limited to “Basic” encrypted storage features — secure web surfing and enterprise features are not yet supported. The full set of features requires Windows.

IronKey USB key
(Click to enlarge)

The secure encryption is based on the IronKey “Cryptochip” processor, which is said to use Public Key Cryptography ciphers linked to an online IronKey account. The encryption keys are generated in hardware by a FIPS (Federal Information Processing Standard) 140-2 compliant True Random Number Generator on the Cryptochip, says IronKey. (A PDF overview of FIPS 140-2 from the National Institute of Standards and Technology should be available here.)

The presence of an installed IronKey drive, as well as a password, is required to access the account. Once initialized, all data written to the drive is said to be encrypted.

Specs for the IronKey listed below apply to all three models unless otherwise stated:

  • Processor — IronKey Cryptochip
  • Capacity — 1GB, 2GB, 4GB, or 8GB
  • Read/write speed — up to 30MB/sec read; up to 20MB/sec write
  • Hardware encryption — AES Cipher-Block Chained mode
  • Encryption keys — 128 hardware DRNG
  • PKI — 2048-bit RSA
  • Hashing — 256-bit SHA
  • FIPS Validations — 140-2 Level 2, 186-2, 197
  • Encrypted web browsing — secure Firefox 3 browsing using Public Key Certificates and Open Authentication (Windows-based Personal and Enterprise versions only)
  • Remote management and configurable policies — Windows-based Enterprise version only)
  • USB — 1 x USB 2.0
  • Dimensions — 2.95 x 0.74 x .35 inches (75 x 19 x 9mm)
  • Weight — 0.9 oz (25 grams)
  • Water protection — MIL-STD-810F
  • Operating temperature — 32 to 158 degrees F (0 to 70 degrees C)
  • Shock resistance — 16G rms
  • Operating system — Windows XP, Vista, Windows 2000 SP4; encrypted storage support for Linux 2.6 and higher and Mac OSX

IronKey supports Linux distributions above Linux kernel 2.6, including Red Hat Enterprise Linux 4, Kubuntu 7.1, Kubuntu 8.04, Ubuntu 7.1, Ubuntu 8.04 (Hardy Heron), OpenSUSE 10.3, OpenSUSE 11, Fedora 8, Fedora 9, Sabayon 3.3, LinuxMint 4, CentOS 5.1, and Gentoo 2007. In justifying its (partial) embrace of Linux, IronKey quotes an IDC report stating that the growth-rate of Linux desktops “will continue at a compounded annual rate of 30 to 40 percent.”

Stated John Jefferies, VP of product marketing at IronKey, “Delivering a Linux-compatible IronKey enables a new set of customers to greatly reduce the risks associated with lost, stolen, or copied flash drives.”


IronKey USB keys are available today, says IronKey. Prices for IronKey Personal or IronKey Basic are $80 (1GB), $110 (2GB), $150 (4GB), and $300 (8GB). Pricing for IronKey Enterprise is available upon request.

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