Mobile Data Security Blog


Introducing IronKey Workspace W200 – Affordable and Secure Windows To Go


W200 – The Basics

This morning we introduced the IronKey™ Workspace W200 – our most affordable Windows To Go device to date. The W200 is a USB 3.0 SuperSpeed Windows To Go device in a new lightweight ruggedized design. The device comes in black, includes the always present IronKey LED that signals when your device is running, and provides a loop so you can add to your keyring or a lanyard. Like all IronKey devices the W200 is waterproof, shockproof and meets MIL-STD-810G test specifications like its siblings. The W200 has excellent performance clocking Max Read speeds of 310MB/second and Max Write of 159MB/second.  I’ve compared this to my everyday W500 and don’t see any noticeable lag. Like all IronKey Windows To Go devices the W200 is Microsoft Certified and Windows 10 Ready and can be used with all IronKey deployment tools including our mass Provisioning Tool or scriptable Command Line Utility. The W200 allows for usage of Bitlocker To Go encryption so you make use of all your Microsoft skills in creating and protecting your mobile workforce.  The IronKey Workspace W200 devices are available now through our partners, starting at $96 for a 32GB device.

Top Use Cases

Where is the volume? The largest deployments of IronKey Windows To Go are coming from two types of customers. The first are those who have been saving money over deploying new hardware to employees and contractors. Telefónica Deutschland recently noted a savings of 2,500 Euros (USD approx. $2800) on hardware over a three-year period – and they’re not alone. We’re seen many organizations find they can buy 10-20 W200 devices for the price of a single laptop.

The second use case we’re seeing in volume is the “secure container” where IT is leveraging Windows To Go for consistency and security. Here how it works with VDI/VPN and Remote Workers – IT creates a Windows image that contains Windows OS, all the software to VPN in, the Citrix Receiver or VMWare Player and any security software they might need and hand those out to employees and contractors. Why? Well, the biggest answer is saving time and money for IT as it reduces support calls from users who have trouble and call in from home machines. In addition employees like it too – no longer are there the hassles of security scans and the perception of IT invading the home machine – just plug-in, boot and go.

What’s Next?

Keep an eye out on our website for some updates that I think you’ll really like.




Windows To Go Devices: Upgrading Your Windows OS and Windows as a Service


Wipe and Replace to Update Your Devices

With the release of Windows 10, many IronKey Windows To Go customers are upgrading their Workspace devices to the latest Windows 10 Enterprise build.  The reasons why?  Many are doing it for their main Windows To Go devices— like me— and many others are doing it for the ability to do trial deployments of Windows To Go in their offices. Here at IronKey, we wipe and replace to update our devices. To do this, back up your Windows data and any information you require to rebuild your device, replace the Windows OS using either Microsoft’s Windows To Go Creator or IronKey’s Provisioning Tool or Scripts (if you are mass provisioning), and simply recreate. To the best of our knowledge no Microsoft upgrade tools will permit an in-place upgrade of Windows To Go devices from Windows 8 or Windows 8.1 so this is the best option.


Windows as a Service: When in-place upgrades may be important for Windows To Go

As Microsoft moves to a Windows as a Service model, they’ve introduced new update rings – Current Branch, Current Branch for Business (CBB), and the Long Term Servicing Branch (LTSB). I won’t go in to what license model allows you access to which path, but instead focus on the philosophy. Microsoft’s intention of a single Windows as a Service model with on-going updates is to build an OS ecosystem in which most customers will, by following along, be on an identical or very recent version of Windows 10. So here’s the advantage.  If you have a Windows app or application, compatibility will be improved because a majority of PCs (WTG, desktops and laptops) will be on a recent Windows 10 version. This is a huge benefit to development and should alleviate a major headache for the deployment of apps and applications as you can expect a much more homogenous set of OS versions in the field.


The Challenges of Windows as a Service

As with anything new, there are challenges. The first is deciding on which branch is right for you and/or your organization. The Current Branch is the one consumers will use and is available for Home, Pro, Enterprise, and Education W10 editions. In this branch you get all the updates through Windows Update and receive all security and feature updates. The next ring out is Current Branch for Business (CBB) which allows for organizations on Pro, Enterprise or Education Editions to (1) delay feature update until testing is completed, and (2) use a wider variety of delivery options (adding Windows Update for Business and Windows Server Update Services (WSUS)). The delay allows for testing, and includes a bit of a stick that Microsoft will stop support if you delay too long and do not update Windows. Mary Jo Foley notes in an article that “Business customers on the Current Business Branch are going to have 12 months before they are required to deploy fixes and new features,” so Microsoft is providing a fair amount of lag time before nagging customers.  Long-term Servicing Branch (LTSB) (available to Enterprise Edition only) allows for more stability for a longer time period (think ATM), but may require some IT calculus around decisions to take if there are features that look attractive.  IT must then decide to move to a different update branch, like CBB, or wait for a newer LTSB.


Here is a table that shows the different servicing options, the supported OS editions, and delivery options:



The In-Place Upgrade Dilemma

The catch is that some updates will require not just a patch, but an in-place upgrade! It is unclear what features or functions, and on what cadence, an in-place upgrade will be required. But until Microsoft deploys an updater to work with Windows To Go devices, you may need to hold updates or be prepared to wipe and replace when Microsoft pushes an update that requires an in-place upgrade (something larger than a security patch). For IronKey Windows To Go customers who are leveraging WTG as a secure endpoint—  for example by providing a VDI Citrix or VMWare client on a secure workspace to bypass potential host PC malware issues— this may not be a big issue. In these cases minimal OS functionality may be required, or a very locked down OS is sufficient and IT does not expect to adopt many new Windows 10 features. On the other side, for organizations leveraging Windows To Go for broader OS deployments (like IronKey!) where many of us are interested in the latest OS features for testing, security and convenience; any time an in-place upgrade is required, we will need to recreate our Windows image and wipe and replace our devices.

And there is the dilemma:  As we wait for Microsoft to update their tools we’ll be in a pinch whenever an in-place update of the OS is required for new functionality.

We’re looking at some other options on how to do this— PowerShell scripts is one thing we’re investigating— so we’ll keep you informed as we learn new information from Microsoft and any insights our team discovers.



Microsoft Licensing for Windows To Go – You Can Deploy It Now!



In my last blog post Ready for Windows 10? IronKey Windows To Go is Windows 10 Ready, I mentioned that I would cover Windows To Go licensing.  In this blog post, I’ll review three key points that I often cover for our customers when asked about Microsoft Licensing.

The key takeaway is that if you have a Volume License, you probably are already able to deploy Windows To Go today.  Now lets’ review those three key points: 


1.   Windows To Go is a “benefit” of Software Assurance

When you purchase a Microsoft Volume License, which most companies do for the cost savings over time, you either receive Software Assurance by default with all Enterprise Agreements (EA) or may purchase it as an addition. What I’ve learned after many conversations is that most SMBs and Enterprises already have a Volume License and more often than not have Software Assurance associated with it.

If you fall in to this category, then you’re all set. You can use the Windows To Go Creator included with your Enterprise Windows 10 or Windows 8 OS, or take advantage of IronKey’s mass provisioning tool or scripting capabilities for provisioning many devices.


2.   Not sure if you have a Volume License? It is easy to check.

You may be part of a company where you do not purchase your Microsoft licenses so here is what you can do. The first stop is to just check the operating system on your current PC by going to Control Panel, System and Security, and looking at the System details. If you have Windows 8/8.1 Enterprise, Windows 7 Enterprise, or Windows Vista Enterprise your company probably has an EA and therefore Software Assurance so you can go ahead and create IronKey Windows To Go devices today.

If you have other OS types like Pro, Professional, Ultimate or Business you may have a Volume License that allows it but you’ll want to ask. Your first stop is to ask your IT folks if they know, and if not, you can always track back to your reseller and ask for your companies Microsoft Licensing Agreement which will include what you need to know.


3.   Did anything change in Windows 10?

In terms of Windows To Go as a benefit of Software Assurance (and EAs)—  no change. The change that is coming with Windows 10 and Enterprise agreements is that Microsoft is making a new selection of features available only to purchasers of EAs and so I expect that we’ll see more people purchasing it over time. Some of the new Enterprise features will be fairly desirable—such as Long Term Servicing Branch will allow some PCs to remain on a stable OS for long periods of time (think kiosk) as is covered in Windows 10 for Enterprise blog post by Jim Alkove. Additionally there are a lot of new benefits to Software Assurance (as covered well by ZDNet here) such as the inclusion of Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack (MDOP) and the of App-V functionality. As you’d expect, more features equal a higher price (making up for all the free Windows 10 upgrades Microsoft is providing to consumers) so we’ll see how it all shakes out.


IronKey’s Windows To Licensing Guide

I made a  WTG licensing reference guide that our team has found useful in addressing the many questions that arise out in the field.  Check out the licensing guide and feel free to email me with any questions you might have or alternatively you can reach out to your local Microsoft reseller for details specific to your situation.


In summary – you’re Windows To Go ready!

You’ve probably have the license you need so there is no reason to not try it out today. We’ve got a large number of customers providing Windows 10 to a portion of their workforce today using IronKey’s Microsoft Certified Windows To Go devices.




Hillary’s Lawyer’s “Thumb Drive is Secure” – Really?


So says Politico and others about the thumb drive, that Hillary Clinton’s lawyer has, containing 30,000 files off of her private email server.

By “secure”, they probably mean encrypted. That and $4 buys a latte at Starbucks.

To be secure, the drive must not only be encrypted, but have signed firmware. Most encrypted drives don’t.

Why does it matter? Malware like that created by Equation Group and others, can enter via a USB port, take up residence in a laptop or PC and phone home anything of interest to whomever put it there – ISIS, Russia, China, Kim DotCom….pick your poison.

How to be sure it’s really secure? You don’t need to ask the FBI, like Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) is doing.

Just ask the simple question of the manufacturer: Is your firmware signed? If it’s an IronKey™ drive, it is. And if it’s signed, it’s secure. For most other manufacturers’ drives, they will not have signed firmware. But ask, a few will.

If the answer is no, then the information is as public as tweets from Kim Kardashian.


Ready for Windows 10? IronKey Windows To Go is Windows 10 Ready


Windows 10 is just around the corner— with Terry Myerson announcing on Blogging Windows that Windows 10 Enterprise will be available to Volume Licensing customers beginning August 1st. The release of Windows 10 appears to be one of the most exciting releases for enterprise customers with a long list of compelling new features for security, update, and management flexibility. There are lots of good posts out there detailing predictions on what will be delivered in Windows 10 Enterprise, but in tandem with end user experience updates like the return of the Start Menu, this is the version of Windows we’ll all standardize on over time.

Windows 10: Go Ahead and Give it a Try!

Windows To Go remains a bright spot and as a key benefit of Software Assurance (and VDA licenses), the momentum will continue. As we announced at Microsoft Ignite, IronKey Windows To Go devices are now fully ready for Windows 10!  So what exactly does that mean?  If you have an IronKey Windows To Go device, you can install Windows 10 now.  Whether you’re testing builds from the Windows Insider Program or waiting for the first releases on August 1, IronKey’s Windows To Go devices can be deployed straightaway. We’re using our IronKey W300 and W500 devices to explore and test Windows 10 functionality for ourselves so feel free to give it a try.


If you’ve purchased our Mass Provisioning Tool and our scriptable Command Line Utility to produce many devices simultaneously, we are currently testing in this environment and will provide more information as we learn more. To date, the only restriction we’re seeing is that you’ll need to build Windows 8.1 devices from a Windows 8.1 PC, and Windows 10 devices from a Windows 10 PC.   From our testing efforts, and as we make use of the Windows DISM for some operations, we are seeing a need for version consistency with the current version of our tools. We’ll continue to investigate in order to make any updates as our testing proceeds. 

In short, IronKey Windows To Go is ready for Windows 10.

Haven’t Experienced Windows To Go? 

For those who haven’t yet experienced Windows To Go and want to give it a try, we’re offering a Windows To Go Intro Kit on our eStore.   Each Windows To Go Intro Kit features a 32GB IronKey Workspace W300 device with a 90-day trial version of Windows 8.1 pre-loaded, a right-angle USB adapter, and an IronKey lanyard for $89.00.  To purchase, visit IronKey eStore.  The kits will soon be available with Windows 10. 

Need to Learn More About Microsoft Licensing?

On an additional note, I’m often asked about licensing Windows for Windows To Go so I will be covering that in my next blog post. Here’s the simple summary— most Volume License holders have Software Assurance so they’re ready to deploy. If you’re not sure, I’ll be covering licensing in detail next month so please check back with us.  


IronKey Enterprise Management Server v6: Able to Run on vSphere ESXi

IronKey™ releases a long-time requested feature for our on-premises Enterprise Management Server, the ability to deploy virtually to VMware’s vSphere ESXi environments.

IronKey’s Enterprise Management, both on-premises and cloud hosted versions, remain the preferred method for organizations to manage their Windows To Go Workspace devices and secure storage devices from the same console. The release of IronKey Enterprise Management Server v6 increases deployment flexibility by removing the requirement for dedicated hardware (and the associated OS license) and supporting VMware’s popular ESXi platform. Specific host environment information is included on the IronKey Management web page, and you can always send any questions to any time.

If you are unfamiliar with IronKey Enterprise Management, the system is a highly scalable solution that provides IronKey customers the ability to manage devices securely – keep track of users, their devices, create and apply password policies as well as assist with password recovery. Some of the more popular functionality beyond the basics of user administration include the ability to reset devices, unlock Windows To Go devices for repair and updates remotely, and wipe or even render a device completely unrecoverable (detonation) remotely via our Silver Bullet command protocol.

Some additional features included with the Server v6release include support for new IronKey devices including the Enterprise S1000 ultra-fast USB 3.0 secure storage devices, our new Enterprise H350 FIPS 140-2 Level 3 certified or Enterprise H300 secure hard drives, and Smart Card access enabled W700SC Workspace devices. There are also a number of minor improvements for usability and performance.  And if preferred, the on-premises server management platform v6 can still run on your own dedicated hardware.




Our special guest blogger is Tav Venia, an IronKey sales engineer, who is based in the Washington DC area and serves our Federal and Enterprise clients. 

Unfortunately, we’ve all heard about the hack on the personnel records and social security numbers for more than 4 Million+ Federal Employees at a U.S. Government Agency.  Data lost, stolen, or hacked:  it just represents another failure to protect our federal data.  For this, and many other reasons, now more than ever it’s imperative that all types of data is securely protected— federal, classified, FOUO (For Official Use Only), defense, employee, personal, etc.   Now is the time to get out in front of any and all possible threats and attacks to assure ourselves that our data is safe and secure from what can turn into “Tomorrow’s Headline”.   

Government employees are more mobile— working in the office, in the field and from home— which increases the potential for even more data exposure risks.  The ability to securely store and transport data while on the move is a necessity.  As the Federal Team Sales Engineer, I see how our U.S. Government and Agency customers are using the IronKey™ line of hardware encrypted hard drives to securely store and protect their sensitive information, among many, many other reasons.  But with the release of our newest hard drive, the IronKey H350, government agencies can enjoy the speed and performance advantages of USB 3.0 technology while realizing the benefits of the world’s most secure USB devices including FIPS 140-2 Level 3 certification, AES-XTS 256-bit hardware encryption and centralized management.    

Our customers can now save, backup and move data wherever they may be much more rapidly taking advantage of the USB 3.0 speeds.  As technology advances, data files are exponentially growing in size, the ability to securely store and move data quickly and efficiently from the field back to the government or agency office is of even greater importance.  Forgotten password?  No worries. On managed enterprise hard drives, IronKey provides the only secure password reset mechanism that allows users to recover data without erasing the contents on the drive or using a backdoor to reset the password.  Additionally, when data is not being access or used, the IronKey H350 can protect and secure Data At Rest (DAR), another use case of importance to our U.S. Government and Agency customers.  

Personally, with my job, I am constantly on the move traveling from place to place.  I use the IronKey H350 to back up all of my laptop data because we have all been there when Windows crashes and/or becomes corrupted giving us the Blue Screen of Death (BSOD) rendering our data lost and unrecoverable.  This can be a result of a Windows error or a simple drop of your laptop which damages the hard drive.  I don’t ever want to be caught in a situation where I don’t have a backup of my data.  Thanks to my IronKey H350 USB 3.0 hard drive, it now takes less than an hour to back up all of my data, a process that used to take many hours using a USB 2.0 Hard Drive.


IronKey eUSB for ePO is Now McAfee SIA Certified

Recently I blogged about IronKey’s release of IronKey™ eUSB for McAfee ePolicy Orchestrator (ePO), an extension for ePO that provides administrators the ability to deploy and manage IronKey hardware encrypted devices. Well today we have even better news. The IronKey eUSB for McAfee ePO is now officially certified by McAfee Security Innovation Alliance (SIA). This in-depth certification process involves testing the product and reviewing the underlying code, which provides McAfee ePO managers the piece-of-mind of having a third party validate usability and compatibility for even the largest deployments.

Here at IronKey we are thrilled by this SIA Certification.   As noted by Intel Security Senior Vice President Tom Fountain, “The combination of ePolicy Orchestrator software and IronKey hardware-encrypted USB drives means our joint customers have what we believe is the best secure, managed data-transport solution available.”

So why should you be investing in hardware encrypted storage?  Today, having hardware encrypted devices is the best way to keep your data secure when roaming.  If the device is lost, misplaced or stolen, you have a double layer of security making your device impregnable – not to mention a centralized management control system that can actively destroy data when needed. Also, you can optionally run McAfee anti-virus to validate the fidelity of files stored on IronKey devices providing an additional layer of security.

Some wonder if it is worth the investment in having a hardware encrypted device that can run AV software. The answer is yes – the cost of a high security device easily outweighs the potential cost of a data breach. Ponemon Institute noted that the average cost of a data breach is $5.9M and the associated loss of business was $3.2M. Another recent survey published by SANS showed respondents ranking with the greatest exposure was malware, introduced by unmanaged devices at 13.6% and with unencrypted USB devices closely following at 8.9%.

Health and Human Services also had some shocking data points:

    • Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Tennessee lost 1M+ records due to unencrypted hard drives
    • Alaska Department of Health and Human Social Services paid a nearly $2M settlement due to data lost on an unencrypted USB flash drive
    • A company called Adult & Pediatric Dermatology lost 2,200 patient records due to an unencrypted USB flash drives

So if you’re an ePO administrator, there is good news for you. Don’t risk the cost of a data breach and use the newly certified IronKey eUSB for ePO by Intel Security. You will be thrilled in adding world class hardware encrypted storage devices and having the capability to manage them easily from your ePO console.


Keeping Patient and Hospital Information Safe

In September 2014, Forrester Research published a brief titled “Stolen and Lost Devices Are Putting Personal Healthcare Information at Risk”. Amongst the findings were two important trends:

Healthcare is becoming more mobile – approximately one-third of healthcare employees now work outside the office or clinic at least once a week.

Healthcare records are five times more likely to be lost due to device theft or accidental loss.

Today, personal healthcare information (PHI) records are more accessible than ever before. These PHI records contain important personal information such as social security numbers, medical history, and insurance information. Technological progression in the medical world is giving us advancements such as real time medical data on our smartphones and mobile messaging systems so hospital staff can get to patients faster. Although this progression is exciting, with all of this patient information floating around in technology, it makes it harder to keep our data safe.

With so much mobility, it’s not surprising that data protection has become a big problem. Mobile devices are simple to carry from one workplace to the next, but they can be easy to lose. To protect our data, we need a way to prevent unauthorized people from accessing the content of a lost or stolen device.

The solution is to use encrypted USB or external hard drives, such as the new IronKey™ S1000 3.0 USB. These secure storage devices combine encryption, which encodes data, making it unreadable to all but authorized users, with cloud-based management functionality that enables an organization to remotely wipe data from a device even if it is no longer in their possession.

Healthcare facilities need to address the realities of mobile work practices but they also need to protect the information in their care. The task is made a lot easier with a good device policy and the right tools.


The Age of Hacking

In today’s digital age, teaching children to code seems like a fantastic idea. Children are already spending huge amounts of time using technology, whether it’s a laptop, smartphone or tablet device and these IT skills can be essential in their future careers. However, whilst we must help a new generation of competent workers prepare for the digital world, how can we make sure that children will use their coding and programming skills for good and not evil?

Over the past years we’ve seen a number of technological innovations aimed at equipping children with basic programming and coding skills – from the Raspberry Pi to the recently launched Hackaball, a programmable ball aimed towards 6-10 year-old children. This demographic has been a key target for the UK government who have dominated the primary computing curriculum since September 2014.

However, with these skills being so easily transferrable to illegal activities such as hacking and cybercrime, how can we ensure that the lure of mischief, malice and money won’t sway children to ‘the dark side’? In January of this year, a seven-year-old girl hacked a public Wi-Fi network in just over ten minutes by learning how to set up a rogue access point to activate what is known as a ‘man in the middle’ attack. We know that this is already happening – hackers as young as 16 years old have been arrested for cybercrime, and the Home Office has warned that young video game hackers could be the next generation of cybercriminals.

So how can we tackle this? When it comes to children and young adults, the first place to start is at school and at home. Responsible adults, teachers and parents have a duty to ensure that their children, or pupils, are not engaging in criminal activity, and this is no different in the cyber world.

However, the problem we encounter here is the massive gulf between adults and children when it comes to understanding technology. An Ofcom survey released in August last year found that younger people have a far more advanced understanding of technology devices than adults – with 6 year olds having the same level of knowledge as the average 45 year old. In fact, teenagers aged between 14-19 years old are the most digitally confident in the UK.

If teachers and parents are to monitor and guide young people’s use of technology and make sure they’re not becoming involved in cybercrime, they must first be able to understand the technology themselves.

Secondly, we must consider the types of devices and technology that young people are using and put appropriate security measures in place to limit the possibility of malicious use. Technology like the Windows To Go USB Flash Drive would give young coders a replica desktop, just like the one they have at school, that they can take home and use on any device, without affecting or accessing the data and operating system sitting on that device. With a Windows To Go device it’s very easy to manage activity. The school can control the transfer of information and wipe, delete, monitor actions on the device, this way, the youngsters can hone their coding skills without being able to get in trouble by conducting activities outside the school’s remit.

What is clear is that we must not discourage children from learning these skills – they are absolutely essential for future employment and also play an important role in their everyday socialising with their peers. We must also accept that we cannot stop this evolution. Children are already learning these skills, with or without your knowledge and input, so the best we can do is to help shape that knowledge and put them on a good path.