Securing your data: Encrypted USB flash drives -- part 2

Securing your data: Encrypted USB flash drives -- part 2

Summary: Worried about losing a USB flash drive full of unencrypted data? The Integral Crypto Dual USB flash drive has all the features you need to give you the peace of mind if the worst does happen.


Data loss is bad enough, but having that data fall into someone else's hands -- especially if they happen to be the wrong hands -- can be disastrous. While in an ideal we shouldn't be losing data in the first place, we should always hope for the best but plan for the worst.

While I'm not likely to lose my desktop or notebook systems -- I'm careful with my stuff -- one thing that I'm always worried about losing are USB flash drives. They're small and can easily fall out of a pocket. While the drives themselves are cheap enough to replace, the data on them can be valuable beyond measure, and the last thing you might want to happen is for someone else to get a hold of it.

This is where fully encrypted USB flash drives come in handy. For a few weeks now I've been using the Integral Crypto Dual USB flash drive, which, along with protecting my data with high-grade encryption, is also compatible with both Windows and Mac systems.

The Integral Crypto Dual is a high-quality product packed with high-end features, including:

  • 256-bit AES hardware encryption;
  • Validated to FIPS (Federal Information Processing Standards) 197;
  • All data stored to the Crypto Dual drive is encrypted, there is no option to store unencrypted data on the drive;
  • Brute-force protection means that data is automatically erased after six failed access attempts;
  • The drive also records the failed entry count, so if the drive is removed after two failed attempts and reinserted, the drive will resume with the third attempt;
  • Dual password protection -- both a "Master" password and a separate "User" password -- the "Master" password can be used to unlock a drive if the drive owner has forgotten the "User" password;
  • The electronic components are sealed in tough epoxy resin which is itself protected by a silicone-coated steel inner case;
  • The USB connector is etched with a unique and random 7-digit code to allow a record to be kept of where each drive has gone.
  • The drive works with Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7 and Mac OS X systems without administrative privileges;
  • For enterprise users, the drive is fully compatible with endpoint security software.

I like this drive a great deal. Not only are the encryption and anti-brute-force attack mechanisms perfect for protecting your data, the drive itself is solid and robust, and capable of taking a real pounding and still keep going. I particularly like the fact that everything stored on this drive is protected and that I'm not given an option to bypass the encryption for those times when I'm feeling lazy.

A small point, but I also love the fact that the lanyard hold on the drive is on the actual body of the drive and not the cap -- because I don't really care if I lose the cap! And in case you're wondering what that little tab on the ball chain is for, it holds the rubber cap when the drive is in use.

All in all, the Integral Crypto Dual is an awesome drive and it comes with my personal recommendations.

Topics: Hardware, Mobility, Security

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  • FIPS means Nothing

    There were a slew of flash drives several years ago that were FIPS-140 certified with hardware encryption, but were easily broken by researchers because of a major design flaw. You covered the story here on ZDnet:

    This goes to show you that FIPS-140 certification means nothing. Without extensive peer review over a number of years, I never trust any crypto solution. This is why it's best to stick with proven software solutions like Truecrypt (where source code can be easily verified). Sure, it's a little more inconvenient but if security matters, it's the best route.
    • Software encryption is subject to brute force attacks

      The problem with all software-based solutions is they are subject to brute force attacks. Standard forensic software first locks the drive against writing, then images the drive and assigns a hash number to the image to confirm that later copies are unchanged. Then all decryption and other attacks are done against copies. "Erase after 6 times" built into the hardware takes protection to a whole new level.

      And, of course, there would be nothing to prevent using software encryption on a drive that already has hardware encryption.

      Of course, one thing that could be done would be to deliberately use the wrong password 6 times, let the contents be erased, and then just leave the drive. All of a sudden ALL the data is gone!
    • re: FIPS means Nothing

      Saying that a FIPS-140 certification means nothing just goes to show how little that the author of the message knows about the standard. FIPS-140 is primarily a cryptographic standard, with some part of it being about key management. Having said that, if you place the best locks on your house but put a copy of the key under the Welcome mat does this imply that you have a bad security system ... no it does not, it says that the person in charge of security is a blithering idiot.
  • Ironkey

    This is nothing new, the IronKey USB thumbdrive has been around for years and does exactly the same thing.
    • Integral's Crypto USB v Ironkey

      Full disclosure: I work at Integral's US office

      I agree, these devices are nothing new. Integral have been selling the Crypto USB for years and like Ironkey, have a excellent reputation.

      But there are good reasons for revisiting these devices:

      Firstly, many more people are beginning to understand the importance of USB drive data security. In fact, it's mandatory in many instances. And where it's not, companies are taking it upon themselves to implement secure data policies.

      Secondly, the cost of these devices has dropped significantly since they were first introduced. But comparing the cost of a 2GB Ironkey D200 against the Integral Crypto USB shows the Ironkey to be over twice the price.

      And the difference is just as startling at 32GB. Here the Crypto USB costs $159.73 and the equivalent Ironkey costs an eye watering $329!