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GuardKey USB Encryption Dongle
Gadget Reviews

GuardKey USB Encryption Dongle

Even if it is a bit overkill for normal people, this USB drive is vault-like.

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Digital security is not just for business anymore. Enter the GuardKey USB Encryption Dongle, a flash drive that’s more than what it seems, and a little more robust than other protected drives in its class. All of is great but does the average joe really need all this fortification, join us won’t you?

It’s USB drive. Yes, a really spiffy one machined from aluminum made, in fact it so discreet that the only defining feature is the name “GuardKey” stamped on top. The shape is also streamlined and somewhat easy to misplace if your careless, what is worth mentioning though is how difficult it is removing this from any USB drive, largely because there nothing to grip on to. It’s sleek for sure, but boy is it ever a pain in the ass to pull out of a port.

If you (I reckon 99% of the population) have ever used a USB drive then you’ll probably know they operate, except with the GuardKey there are few more steps involved. Plug it in and you’re treated to an empty flash drive is about 7.93GB, and some preloaded software and pdf manuals for the actual secure bits. In order to use the GuardKey properly though, installing the software is a must and has to be done on every PC you use. Unfortunately for Mac users, this experience is a Windows-only affair (Android and iOS 5.1.1 are also supported).

OS X exclusions aside, you indeed get the necessary security as advertised. Once installed you be asked to create a master password and the option to use the file “safebox” which can be assigned a drive letter and put on the GuardKey, or any hard drive or cloud platform (Google Drive, Dropbox, OneDrive) you choose. There’s even smartphone binding which provides secure access to specific files over cloud platforms too.

The safebox and all the files you put in it are virtually hidden, undetectable, and accessible only when the GuardKey is plugged in. A lot of the magic is thanks to heavy compression and a 256-bit AES encryption method which is considered to be “enterprise-grade” at present, and potentially limitless in storage size.

The GuardKey software is required to link everything together. Acting as a console more than anything else, you can manage the number the safeboxes you’ve created and change other options when needed. It’s a somewhat rudimentary approach of monitoring the inner workings, but unobtrusive as a whole.

But how good is it? Well, it actually works and is relatively user-friendly. The GuardKey itself is basically a USB flash drive just like the dozens you probably have scattered over your desk, only with the added benefit of file protection. Speaking of which, the initial setup requires you create a password but isn’t enabled by default, which makes some sense in case yourself blinding playing with options you probably shouldn’t have the first time through.

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Of course, you’ll want the security and the GuardKey is pretty straightforward. When the separate safebox feature is put into lockdown all the data within will either be closed off or appear in a non-readable format, whether they be folders or the files, and regardless if they’re copied outside of the drive while encrypted.

The latter scenario occasionally happens on computers that don’t have the GuardKey software installed, where they’re viewable externally but as indecipherable gibberish. If absolute stealth is what you’re after, then you might be a little dissatisfied by the execution — it’s still protected all the same though.

As stated before, the safebox can used over the cloud as well, but here you’ll have the advantage of binding your smartphone. The results are similar but merely adequate for retrieving documents and photos, with virtual space being the limiting factor to the whole approach.

The GuardKey USB Encryption Dongle will be the real deal to regular consumers. Somebody who’s dreamed of keeping their precious files out of reach from sinister individuals, and still be an idiot-proof solution. Despite the fact this will likely be used to hide unorganized vacation photos, or random snippets of porn from Megaupload.

But who are we to judge what the secure tool will be employed for? It’s about keeping your assets tight like Knox itself, and many won’t go wanting here, arbitrary or otherwise.

About the Author: Herman Exum