Apricorn Aegis Secure Key 3.0… your whole (data) life in your pocket

Put yourself back somewhere in between punch cards (pre-dating the 1970s and earlier) and onward to the proliferation of the (8-inch) floppy-disk and subsequently the 3 1⁄2-inch floppy disks that many of us came to know and love in the 1980s and 1990s.

This was a time when 1.44 megabytes seemed useful – and, if you teamed five or six together you could get a pretty good software suite (or at least application) installation off of them.

Of course the CD-ROM pushed us from 700, 800 and 900 megabytes close to a gigabyte, but this is still ancient history to today’s millennials, who were busy being born and learning to walk those two decades ago.

Since then we’ve all become used to USB ‘thumb drives’ or ‘sticks’, but the growth of the web meant that more and more data resources were downloaded online… and these units stopped being free giveaways after about 16 gigabytes anyway.

Some use of 64 gigabyte USB sticks happens, but for serious backup and muscle, you’re talking about investing in a terabyte drive… and although the best of them aren’t huge, most would fill up your whole pocket and then where would you put the casing and the cable and still have room for your smartphone and keys?

What if we could tell those old time computer operators that, by 2020, you could put 1 terabyte in your pocket on something the size (and let’s stay old school with this) a couple of ‘cigarillos’ or perhaps we should say a single fish finger?

Aegis Secure Key 3.0

The Aegis Secure Key 3.0 is (by lucky coincidence) almost exactly the same size as a fish finger and it can pack a full 1 terabyte in storage. Made by Apricorn, this disk comes in the following format sizes: 16 GB, 30 GB, 60 GB, 120 GB, 240 GB, 480 GB and the powerful 1 TB unit that we trialled for this story.

By way of an example, a complete history of all personal work files + 200 ‘ripped’ music CD album files + 100 ‘ripped’ movies + every digital photograph we (the Inspect-a-Gadget elf tasked with writing this review) have ever taken comes to 187 gigabytes… so just short of ⅕ of terabyte. We could get five versions of ourself on this device and still have room to download our complete Facebook history and plenty more besides.

But let’s talk about set up and usage first…

Inspect-a-Gadget knows there’s a password set up process to go through before the disk itself can be used. The one-sided A5 Quick Start guide takes the user through 7-simple steps for set-up in order to establish a numeric password on the device’s on-board keypad.

It’s a good idea to read through ALL the instructions before you start, but it is possible to set up the disk one step at a time… just one piece of advice, think about what your password number is going to be before you start and commit that to memory or keep it where you keep these things in a secure place (we won’t ask, we promise).

Tougher than tikka masala

A nifty rubber seal gives the Apricorn Aegis Secure Key 3.0 (if not quite a waterproof to 200-metres performance level) what the company calls the ability to shrug off ‘sustained water immersion’ to protect it. Drop this (closed in its casing) disk in your washing up bowl or some chicken tikka masala and you’ll be fine, but ideally stop short of taking it snorkelling if at all possible. It is in fact IP68 (Ingress Protection) certified.

Apricorn describes the devices as ‘software-free’. This means that the device doesn’t ‘launch’ any software to work – and this means it will support any operating system that will mount a USB (usual of Windows/Linux/Mac but also embedded systems, vehicles, medical equipment etc.)

In addition, it doesn’t need a screen or keyboard to operate – and the on-board PIN pad means you never share your critical security information (i.e. password) with the computer you are plugged into.

According to Apricorn, “The security itself comes from a 100% hardware-based 256-bit AES XTS encrypted, onboard keypad PIN authenticated and ultra-fast USB 3.1 (3.0) data transfer speeds. All data is encrypted on the fly and the secure USB flash drive device’s PINs and data remain encrypted while the drive is at rest.”

The unit is completely cross-platform compatible and OS agnostic and so works on Windows, Linux, Mac, Android, Chrome, embedded systems and other equipment.

One proviso there, Apricorn’s cross-platform claims are 100% spot on and we moved between Mac & PC beautifully, but don’t necessarily expect to be able to use the disk with every television on the market, especially older one. TVs have a habit of formatting disks out of recognition for all other devices… but you’re not going to use it for that, you’re going to store your whole data life on it – the important bits – not eight catch-ups of Strictly Come Bake Off, right?

All internal componentry is protected from physical tampering with a layer of hardened epoxy and the firmware is locked down, making it immune to malware attacks such as BadUSB.

Heat dissipation situation

These devices do warm up – they’re supposed to and they have to, they’re doing a lot of work in terms of data transfer, Apricorn EMEA managing director Jon Fielding explains the exact situation.

“Our USB devices are not able to dissipate heat in the usual way computing equipment does i.e. with an internal fan. So, we deliberately use the device casing as a heat sink. On the Aegis Secure Key 3.0 we also ridge the casing to provide a greater surface area across which to dissipate the heat. Therefore, the increased heat is by design and stays within acceptable boundaries so as to never damage the internal electronics or cause any external harm,” said Fielding.

In terms of device locking/lock-out, Fielding further explains that there are many configurable policy items in the unified feature set across all of his firm’s devices.

“One is unattended auto-lock (default is set to “OFF”) which, if turned “ON”, can be set to 5, 10 or 20 minutes, locking the device after that period of inactivity. If a user has auto-lock “OFF” and the device is logging out/suspending, it is likely to be a computer BIOS setting that locks USB storage devices independently to reduce power consumption,” explained Fielding.

Apricorn has also built in a unified feature set, which allows organisations to create their own policy profiles for device usage and apply them to the devices. This can be done via the PIN pad device by device or (more likely in enterprise use case scenarios) through a Windows-based interface (Apricorn’s own software) that allows profiles to be applied to multiple devices at the click of a button.

In summary, it’s actually quite mind-blowing to hold so much data power on something so small… for independent (freelance and other) workers in the time of Covid-19 do we really need to say more? Apricorn offers a number of encrypted portable, desktop and flash drives, including its latest USB-C device with up to 128 gigabyte for connection to mobile devices.

The 1 terabyte Aegis Secure Key 3.0 retails from around £500.

 

 

Image source: Apricorn

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Do you think the unified OS is the way of the future?
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Yes, I think all software companies are looking for ways to optimize their products across devices. But while the strategy makes sense, it's the execution that matters - and Microsoft showed with Windows 8 that it wasn't quite ready to deliver that unified OS. Maybe the next version will be different. 
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One for all ... Phone, Tablet, Desktop ...
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Unified OS is only the start, once you build Unified Applications and data storage/access into those as well irrespective of which device and or application you are accessing it from it will be a killer.
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The unified O/S approach enabled users to learn once and run everywhere. The new UX is key to the success of this strategy.

User's have already made the leap to the app store concept with Apple and Google products. Now, Microsoft needs to make sure that they don't kill the progress by being too greedy. User's have found that a $20 app can do their word processing, spreadsheets or presentations. If Microsoft tries to force a $500 office suite down people's throat they will continue to lose customers. Office365 is meh. I always have to be connected to use it and I have to trust Microsoft in the storage. Neither of which is possible in today's environment. So give me local storage and a local, cheap app that does what I need and you've got a winner.
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History has already taught us the lesson that "one-size-fits-all", both doesn't work, and isn't desired by exploiters/users.
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ease of use for most people they will not need to remember how to run their phone then use the desktop or tablet
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Its to commercial looking; designed for the surfer. I don't like the interface for at work.
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People, including admins, want to focus on using the tool to accomplish tasks; they don't want to focus on learning how to use that tool (especially not when they need to relearn it every X many years). They want to get a phone, or a laptop, and just "have it work the way they want", without investing any time or thought into learning the device.

Many of the people in my organisation, while refusing to admit it, resist learning new tech tools. The prevalence of people that don't use excel fully is a case in point for most businesses. Having to learn a single OS UI, and having to manage only a "single UI", is just such a huge advantage it can't be ignored - even more so with the numerous platforms and devices flooding the workplace these days.
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computing anywhere, anytime, on any platform.
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it can work, but the user interface should adapt to i) user preference (metro or desktop) and ii) hardware capability (touch or not).
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the unified concept is not going to work as too many users are accustomed to different interfaces to get the most from their technology purchases. People want an uncluttered,easy to grasp technology in their pocket, but more granular, deeper dive type technology on the desk. To bury that technology that makes it difficult to work with will push users away.
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I wish to avoid having to rediscover how to do things I already (thought) I knew. There's no need to have differences - so a unified approach is the way forward. I also hope that unnecessary, interface changes are minimised in later releases.
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By providing an experience where a user is able to pick up any Windows device and know how to use it (as long as they've used Windows on at least one device) will be a big advantage for Microsoft.
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I don't get why people think Apple doesn't offer a unified experience across multiple platforms. And if this is such a huge advantage, I need to hear why most of the people purchasing iPads are people who use Windows (since there aren't enough Mac users to explain the huge numbers).
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Seamless experience
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To make a unified computing experience it only makes sense if the interface is the same across all platforms. In Windows 8 MS has forsaken the desktop for the touchscreen w/out giving anyone with a desktop a way to get rid of the surface interface that don't have a touch screen.
They've gambled on giving a user community which is largely desktop/mouse a touchscreen interface when they don't control hardly any of that market. They should have to separate operating systems. They've spend years training users to use the "Start" button and familiar desktop only to take it away.

Windows 8 is doomed to fail and be another MS Bob, Vista, ME etc..
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Simplicity is the key to proving products that can cross the boundaries between home and work. Just like we are experiencing a flood of articles and discussions around BYOD, the pendulum will swing back to corporate provided models, and this is when Windows will have an advantage.
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Reduces the "Getting to know Ya" time.
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Haven't we already learned the lesson that one size doesn't fit all? This is one of the reasons that Microsoft's mobile strategy has failed so far; they've tried this "unified" approach before by putting a desktop UX on a mobile OS. Now, they're just doing the same thing in reverse by forcing a mobile UX onto the desktop. The strategy didn't take off before and I don't understand why they think it will work now. People want a UX appropriate for the paradigm that they're in, not one size fits all.
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My desktop is for work. Word excel PowerPoint. Not viewing pics of my vacation or the latest music video. My pad or phone is for diversion. Music videos txting. 2 diff uses. 2 diff looks
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From a consumer the one size works on all will simplify the use of much different type of devices.
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Consistent interface means more familiarity and less training.
It does NOT imply that one size fits all. Size relatest to form factor and performance rather than interface.
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I think that we have another ME or Vista here Windows 8 may work well with a touch screen but using a mouse or touch pad is to clumsey. I spent $65 on a wireless touch pad to give it a chance. Compaired to Android, you can't duplicate the touch and drag or double tap and open. It comes close with just the right sequence but I can't master it. Becides that they took out Solitare. I am not going to buy a touch screen just for that and I don't to many others will either.
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Simpler interface for users to be used to, less learning across multiple platforms
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unless hardware platforms become unified, but what for?
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One single interface dramatically reduces the leaning curve when switching HW devices.
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How do my fingers, vocal messages, motions and other natural commands work with these OSs if they are different?
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The use cases are not the same.
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Ease of use across devices. There is still some way to go to join WP 8 and Windows 8 but if that is accomplish it should be a winner
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Trained on one device, trained for all devices.
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Sure it will be in the future. The slight issue here is that we are not there yet. Apps and services need to back up the unified OS for the users to take full advantage of the available features.
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"Honda announces the merging of controls on their car and motorcycle lines." The same controls (UI) on different devices makes no sense at all.
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Great! We finally have the last computer interface that we will ever use. No changes anymore. Too bad it looks so bad. Whatever happen to choice? Should we all dress alike and drive the same color car?
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At the moment we support WIndows XP, Windows 7, Android devices and IOS devices. Having unified OS would decrease support costs, simplified management, same experience across all devices and lower training costs.
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easy to learn how to use, can help people move from work place to life
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it's clearly a move to unify, but at the corporate level, wireless devices are NOT for every company as is the cloud or virtual desktops. Wireless security is NOT secure, period. Until MS gives me the traditional start menu & AERO, I will actively look for soultions NOT using WIN8 or Server 2012
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I'm using W8 on tablet and WP7.5, both for work and am glad of the commonality where it's warranted (devices are not the same but I like being able to apply the same approach where common functions are being invoked). I think it's a major step forward, particularly in the concentration on information (where all devices function as different sized windows on to the same information landscape).
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Microsoft are trying to leave the corporate sector behind with all these fancy gadgets. Could have allowed the Metro interface to be disbled for business users whe rely on a simple interface not a cloned desktop from a phone or tablet
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I don't need a touch screen on my server
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I use a phone/tablet and a desktop differently. Because of this, I don't expect the UI to be "unified". I expect it to be optimized for my usage.
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It will ease management and support for IT Managers. Enterprises will embrace it as applications are delivered across muliple devices.
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different devices have different appetite, capabilities, purposes and functions.
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It's impossible to have the same user interface in the cloud, on a workstation, on tablet and on a cell phone. Because of this, applications for different platforms will always be different. Having the same OS core running on all platforms might somehow help developers save some time on learning new platforms, but majority of development work on different platforms is different. Microsoft's vision will annoy more users than make developers happy.
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Different devices require different approaches to the UI. Users are not stupid and can adapt very quickly.
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I do not want everything the same. I want some things different.

As the article stated, the unified strategy, with a consistent interface, is great for IT managers - but IT managers are not picking out cell phones at the mall with their teenage girl friends, or commuters, soccer moms, etc. struggling to find the 'just right' smart phone. Consumers buy those items, hence the BYOD moniker.

What I do like, as do most sensible people, is having the steering wheel on the right side, the right pedal controls the gas, the standard H pattern for shifting, the pull-down menus that we learned to use over the past 15 or so years, the standard task bar, multiple windows, etc.

I would also like to see a Windows system in which the interface and the kernal were not integrated; where I could connect from the local console or remotely, possibly from another PC, possibly from multiple PCs, possibly from a tablet or smart phone. And I am not talking about RDP, Citrix or X-windows. I'm way beyond that.
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Freedom
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not all devices scale in the same way, it is hard to optimize the user interface across all
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The benefits out weigh the product differenciation advantages.
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Devices need to be seen as different but in the same 'cyber-environment'. A unified OS promotes that view and minimises development, support and training issues.
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The same style standard can not apply to all devices, one device limitations does not apply to others, and most of the time, having a unified strategy is forcing limitations on devices that does not have the limitation. i.e. windows will be as good as it's lowest common hardware denominator.
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for mobile devices - its ok. for desktop users, its a thumbs down - we've been here many times - give desktop users a choice in which UI they want - give us the traditioanl start menu
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I believe unified OS is the way of the future and Microsoft being the only version that connects to the business Domain make it very exciting. Apple and other always make huge productivity claims but they all end up being smoke and mirrors and the IT person is the one that is blamed when it does not work with the user's Windows Domain and Applications???
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Increase Productivity
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Unified OS that is hardware agnostic is in line with many technology platforms taking hold today, such as virtualization. This further streamlines and simplifies the rollout of technology from IT as delivery of OS becomes less of a burden.
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There isn't a process of relearning the different nuances between various systems with a unified OS in place. So adoption is quicker.
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I would prefer a password or fingerprint device with encryption, with no ugly and cumbersome buttons; plus, no battery required. The buttons make this huge for a Flash Drive and it's easy to watch someone type in their code to remember the pattern. 
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