Nathan Edwards Nov 16, 2012

Apricorn Aegis Secure Key 16GB Review

At A Glance


AES-256 full hardware encryption; secure keycodes; hardened chassis.

Little Caesar

Pricey and slow compared to less-secure options; expensive.

A secure-but-poky USB flash drive

Everything about the Aegis Secure Key telegraphs that Apricorn is serious about the whole data-security thing. The Secure Key has 256-bit AES full hardware encryption, so it doesn’t require software or drivers—it’s completely platform-independent, and it will even work with USB On-the-Go devices like Android tablets. This is a big deal—many drives ship with software encryption clients, but those rarely include software compatibility beyond Mac and Windows.

The Aegis has a 10-digit alphanumeric keyboard and requires a 7-15 digit PIN before it unlocks. Its onboard lithium-polymer battery allows it to unlock even when not plugged into a computer, but it’ll lock again the instant you pull it out of one—or if the power to the USB port is cut. The drive automatically shreds all its data after 10 incorrect PIN attempts, and you can have separate user and administrator PINs.

Enter the wrong PIN 10 times and the Aegis will shred your data to prevent brute-force attacks.

The Secure Key’s enclosure is aluminum, and it has an aluminum sheath with a rubber gasket to make it water-resistant. The innards are epoxy-sealed to prevent tampering.

All this stuff—the aluminum shell, the epoxied insides, the rechargeable battery, and the hardware encryption—adds to the cost and physical size of the device. It’s 3.15 inches long, .7 inches wide, and .36 inches tall, and weighs just under an ounce. The capacity caps out at 16GB, and it ain’t cheap—at $125 for a USB 2.0 device, you have to really want the hardware encryption for this to make any financial sense. A much faster 16GB USB 3.0 flash drive can be had for as little as $10 online.

Thanks to the on-the-fly hardware encryption, the Aegis is quite slow—USB 2.0 caps out at around 30MB/s reads and writes, but the Secure Key’s reads seldom top 12MB/s and its writes were around 8MB/s. That’s a hefty penalty to pay for security.

From a technical and security perspective, the Aegis Secure Key mops the floor with software-encrypted drives, but people with less sensitive jobs and those who don’t need full hardware encryption might prefer to buy a larger, faster USB 3.0 drive and secure it with TrueCrypt.


Apricorn Aegis Secure Key 16GB

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