Taking inspiration from Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code, a US startup has fused a USB flash drive with a ‘Cryptex’ device, a metal cylinder that can only be opened by setting the correct combination on a rotating barrel.

The latest Crypteks (notice the different spelling) is not the first device of its kind – designs have been circulating on the Internet since the Da Vinci code resurrected what is probably an older idea – but it does look like the most interesting to date.

The external 8cm barrel comprises five aluminium alloy rotating rings on which each has printed the 26 letters of the English alphabet. Removing the USB flash drive from within the cylinder involves entering the correct combination of which there are 14,348,907 possible combinations thanks to the decision to adopt letters on each ring rather than numbers.

The USB drive contained within the barrel uses 256-bit AES encryption, adding another layer of security to the physical design, with a customisable auto-format option for incorrectly-entered passwords.

If you like the Crypteks is really a sophisticated version of the common barrel combination lock which happens to contain a secure USB drive.

Some might see it as over-engineered. Secure USB keys employing AES encryption can nowadays be bought fairly cheaply and offer good levels of security for the money. The barrel device added by the Crypteks doesn’t appear to offer much added security for what is a considerable price premium. It is not clear whether the concealed USB drive is also tamper proof.

The Michigan-based designers claim they have enough money via the online Kickstarter incubator to start manufacturing the drives “in time for the holidays.”

The development model requires seed backers to pledge money in return for drives. Capacities will be 4GB, 8GB, 16GB. The price has yet to be announced by works out at around $150 for the 16GB drive for every sponsor backing the project.