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iTwin remote file access review

Posted on 27-Jul-2011 12:36 by M Freitas | Filed under: Reviews

Some times you want to leave work behind, or sort of. You don't want to carry a laptop with you, but still want access to some files while away. Or your company's policies might prevent you from synchronising files to external, cloud storage. Or you might not be allowed to carry some of those important files on a USB drive or smartphone.

Yes, lot of constraints, and not much can be done around it. So when I was contacted by iTwin for a review I thought it could be a great idea.

It's quite a simple and elegant implementation of an access token, or a two factor authentication (you decide how to use it).

The iTwin is a solution, mediated through a third party server, that connects two similar USB keys, the "twins". They are cool looking metallic devices that plug into each other for "pairing" and then split to be used in different PCs.

Setup is really simple: make sure both USB keys are plugged together and insert into a PC. The software will automatically install and pair the devices. You can now set an optional password, or setup a disable code.

Once this is done you can remove one of the USB keys and take it with you, leaving the computer running with the other key attached to it.

A new icon will be added to My Computer and shows which files and/or folders are being shared from this computer.

On another computer, anywhere in the world, you just plug the second key and the software will show the files available to you. You can then edit the files, copy the files out, or put files in.

Those actions are made on the remote files, almost like having those folders and drives mapped remotely over the Internet. Once you remove the USB key there will be no traces left on the computer you used.

Obviously lots of questions come to mind, so I will try and answer those, although their FAQ is pretty good.

First is the question of security. For enhanced security you will add a password. This will be asked when you plug the USB key and make it all around a secure two factor authentication - you can only access the remote files if you have the key and the password.

Even if you have not setup a password you can create a disable code. This code is unique for each pair and allows you to remotely disable access in case you lose one of the USB twins. If you mistakenly disable the pair, just plug the twins together again, insert into your PC and they will pair again, creating a new disable code for you.

The pairs use a mediation server to authenticate themselves and find if the other device is plugged. I am told that if you have both PCs in the same network a direct connection will be established, otherwise all encrypted traffic will go through the mediation server.

All in all a very clever solution for file portability, without the need of copying the files to a USB key, or to setup file access (which probably require some firewall configuration) or a VPN (which is even more complex).

A Mac OS X version is on the works. Also a multi-user version is planned, where many-to-one relationships will be established, allowing multiple users access to the same host server.

  • Individual creation of secure file access 
  • Easy to disable lost keys
  • Two factor authentication for file access
  • I'd like to see a small loophole to attach it to a lanyard or something to carry
  • It will prevent your PC from shutdown, since it needs a logged in user for remote access to work. 

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