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Portable Password Protector Locks Your Secrets Tight

By Jack M. Germain
Jan 15, 2009 4:00 AM PT

Creating strong passwords with letters and numbers is vital to keeping secure access to computers and online accounts. Remembering them and easily retrieving them are equally vital. A password is only as good as the user's ability to remember it.

Portable Password Protector Locks Your Secrets Tight

In today's world of mobile access and multiple accounts, that can be a very big problem. Until now, the available solutions were risky at best.

For instance, carrying around a list of passwords in a wallet or cubbyhole in a briefcase just invites discovery. Sooner or later, the account holder loses the paper or the bad guy bent on ID theft finds it.

Usually no better is ferreting away passwords into a computer file or smartphone folder. Encrypting the stored file in these mobile devices may deter common thieves, but less so the hacker pro.

Atekhas a high-tech yet simple and cost-effective solution. The Logio Secure Password Organizer provides a credit-card size device that stores different, hard-to-guess passwords simply by memorizing one master passcode to access the encrypted data.

Lightweight Memory Card

The Secure Password Organizer is wafer sized at 1/8 of an inch, making it easy to carry in a wallet, purse or pocket. A leather carrying case and color-coded lanyard gives users other mobility options.

At first blush, Atek's Passwork Organizer seems little more than a duplicator of features already available in Personal Data Assistants (PDAs) and smartphones. But these mobile digital data vaults are much less secure. Atek's device can hold over 200 records. Each record contains one line each for storing site name, username and password. Depending on whether passwords are typical eight-character length or longer, even more record storage is possible.

In addition, the user can have the Password Organizer generate random passwords automatically or he or she can manually enter numbers, uppercase and lowercase letters, symbols and punctuation marks. More than just a password keeper, the Password Organizer can also store desktop logins, ATM and debit card PIN codes, credit card numbers, frequent flyer program numbers and driver's license numbers.

Secrecy Intact

Atek stores all data behind a master password and protects every record with sophisticated AES encryption. A built-in security provision temporarily times out access after three wrong entry attempts of the master password. The device denies the access prompt for increasingly longer time intervals. Once the user enters the correct master password, the delay factor resets to normal.

For added security, removing the battery does not erase the nonvolatile memory. In addition, the legitimate device owner cannot reset the password. So write down the master password and lock it up.

In fact, even Atek cannot retrieve the master password or reset it for the owner. The device has no backdoor and does not interface with a computer. It is strictly an isolated, handheld memory card.

Safe or Sorry

The Secure Password Organizer, available in white or black for US$29.95, is easy to use. I had no trouble installing the included battery and creating a master password, along with creating several records using the cell phone style keypad. I did this without benefit of the directions.

It took me a bit more effort, though, to learn some of the more sophisticated features for recalling records and displaying certain records quickly. Learning these functions, however, required viewing the user's manual.

Designed as the ultimate safety feature, the Secure Password Organizer has no backup capability. This is small solace to users who suffer a device malfunction or simply lose the device itself. Atek recommends purchasing two devices and creating duplicate entries just in case disaster strikes.

Despite the designed weakness preventing data backup or master password recovery, Atek's Secure Password Organizer is useful gadget, especially for business users. Its $29.95 price is realistic for what it provides, even if you decide to buy the second unit for backup purposes. Given the alternative of stolen passwords and ID theft, the cost of not having the Password Organizer could be considerably greater.

OnBoard Travel Keyboard

Atek also makes the OnBoard Travel Keyboard, a device designed to solve another major problem computer users on the go often face. It gives users of tiny laptops and netbooks a full keyboard landscape.

What if you could have a slice of just the standard typing rows lifted from your desktop's full-size keyboard to take with you? Ideally, this pie slice of just the QWERTY rows would be small enough to stow away in the laptop carry case. Of course, this keyboard slice would still be about half a length longer than the entire netbook, but the keyboard would still be easy to carry.

That is the solution Atek's keyboard provides. Atek takes a different approach to fold-up, roll-up or flimsy miniature keyboards. The OnBoard Travel Keyboard has a solid structure with full-size keys and a dedicated numeric keypad. The numeric keypad is something that is usually eliminated from today's typically cramped keyboards on small form-factor netbooks and notebook computers

Forgives Trade-Off

One of the things I most dislike on smaller laptops is the keyboard design. Several years ago I selected an HP Pavilion wide-screen laptop with a keyboard length of 14 inches. The key span is still slightly compacted compared to my full-size dekstop keyboard. That was my trade-off to portability and work efficiency.

A more recent purchase of an Acer laptop has a keyboard shorter by some two inches. And to make up for the layout weakness caused by the cramped landscape, the keys form a fanned-out pattern rather than linear rows. This requires too much of an adjustment, especially when switching from a standard desktop computer to the smaller laptop.

The keyboard size -- or rather the lack of size -- is an even bigger issue with the netbook I recently bought for ultimate portability. Forget doing anything other than two-fingered key swipes on that 7 3/4-inch long keyboard configuration.

The OnBoard Travel Keyboard solves these problems. At 14 3/4 inches from end-to-end and weighing under 1.4 lbs., it has the typing touch and feel of my standard desktop keyboard.

Design Makeover

Atek's keyboard is not a wobbly, fold-up gizmo. Rather, it has solid base with standard key spacing and normal key travel. It has a USB cord management system for travel storage and a hard protective cover. Turn this cover over and insert the keyboard into the recess to get a comfortable typing angle. For added comfort, an inflatable palm rest is included.

A standard desktop keyboard has 104 keys. Atek's portable keyboard has 99 keys, including the numeric keys at the right side. The missing five keys are Print Screen, Scroll Lock, Pause Break and the right side Ctrl and Windows keys. Of course, these functions still exist on the laptop's resident keyboard.

The OnBoard Travel Keyboard works with Windows Vista, XP, 2000 and Mac OS X, though not all of the keys are functional on a Mac. Although not specified by Atek, the keyboard also works with Linux. It was a perfect fit for the Linux OS that runs my netbook.

At $29.95, this keyboard is a real bargain.

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