Network Computing UK: The Aegis Secure Key 3z / Cofigurator from Apricorn


With the EU GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) active early in 2018, businesses of all sizes must start work on full compliance now. This legislation is very specific concerning loss of personal data, and any business falling foul will be punished.

All businesses have a legal duty to protect sensitive and personal data whilst it's in transit - and that means encryption. Apricorn has the perfect answer: its latest Aegis Secure Key 3z USB flash drive delivers military-grade 256-bit AES XTS hardware encryption at a very tempting price. Its available in capacities from 8GB up to 64GB and the 3z is FIPS 140-2 Level 3 certified for added confidence. This means it will meet stringent U.S. government requirements such as physical security, cryptographic key management and authentication.

Apricorn hasn't left anything to chance. Our 8GB model arrived in a tamper-proof package with a large security seal. Enclosed in a tough aluminium shell, the 3z provides a small but easily accessible keypad and is powered by a rechargeable Li-Ion battery.

Setup was simple: press a couple of twokey combinations and enter an admin PIN of between 7 and 16 digits. Next, you can enter a user PIN yourself or activate the enforced enrolment state and let your staff select their own PIN. If they should forget their user PIN, an administrator can enter admin mode and reset it. To unlock the 3z, simply press the green padlock key, enter the PIN, and insert it in the recipient device.

Data on the 3z can be further protected from malware by setting it to read-only mode. The administrator can enforce readonly or it can be delegated to the user to decide when to apply this mode.

For forgetful users, you can create up to four one-time recovery PINs that will set it back to the enrolment state. The entire drive can also be reset to factory defaults where it performs a crypto-erase and randomly generates new encryption keys.

The 3z also protects itself from brute-force attacks as after three unsuccessful PIN entries it adds an extra delay after each subsequent attempt, up to a maximum of ten. You can unlock it and try again, but after the requisite number of attempts is reached the 3z assumes it's under attack and destroys all of its data.

It comes pre-formatted as NTFS but you can reformat it to FAT, FAT32 or Mac OS compatible. While unlocked, it functions no differently to any other USB flash device, and we noted that whenever the 3z was removed from its USB port it automatically locked itself for added safety.

The 3z has a high-speed USB 3.1 interface with Apricorn claiming top read and write speeds of 190MB/sec and 80MB/sec. The majority of users will probably have slower USB 3 ports, where our copy tests of a 5GB file returned read and write speeds of 135MB/sec and 29MB/sec.

Support staff managing large numbers of flash drives and PINs will love the Configurator. Costing around £80, it teams up a 10-port USB docking station with the Apricorn Aegis Configuration software.

From the intuitive interface, we created a master profile with admin, user, recovery and self-destruct PINs along with permitted number of brute-force attempts and the auto-format file system. The profile could then be applied in seconds to all devices inserted in the docking station. Being software free there is nothing to install and the encryption and authentication functionality resides on the device.

With Apricorn businesses no longer have an excuse for failing to protect personal data in transit. The Aegis Secure Key 3z teams up the toughest encryption with plenty of security measures and is one of the best value solutions we've yet seen.

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