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Don't make this USB mistake! Protect your data with this encrypted gadget instead

From a military-standardized build to a complex passphrase mode, Kingston's IronKey is one of the most secure USBs you can buy.
Written by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, Senior Contributing Editor
Kingston IronKey D500S

Kingston IronKey D500S.

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

Carrying around unencrypted data on flash drives is asking for trouble. Losing a flash drive is bad enough, but having that data fall into the wrong hands could be an absolute disaster.

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It therefore makes sense to not only encrypt your data, but to use flash drives that do more than just allow you to store unencrypted data on them.

And that's where we can turn to the Kingston IronKey D500S, which is a robust, military-grade flash drive that offers the best possible protection for your data to help keep it safe from prying eyes. 

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Kingston IronKey D500S specs

  • 8 – 512GB capacities
  • USB-A USB 3.2 Gen 1 interface
  • XTS-AES 256-bit encryption
  • FIPS 140-3 Level 3 (pending) certified
  • Brute force and BadUSB attack protection
  • Rugged zinc casing built to toughest standards
  • Multi-password option with complex/passphrase modes
  • Industry-first Dual Hidden Partition option
  • Crypto-erase password
  • Waterproof up to 1.2 meters 

Externally, the IronKey D500S looks like a rather bulky flash drive. Built with a ruggedized zinc casing, it's designed to take knocks and even immersion in water. The case is also the first line of defense against data being accessed. The internals of the drive are encased in epoxy, which provides a physical barrier against tampering.  

A serial number and barcode are laser-etched into the casing of the drive, which means the device can't be surreptitiously swapped for another drive in the event of loss or in a situation where someone tries to infiltrate an organization with a rogue storage device.

Laser etched casing with serial number is another security feature

Laser-etched casing with serial number is another security feature.

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

On the inside, the IronKey D500S is just as well engineered for security. On boot-up, the drive scans for over-temperature or voltage conditions that will lead to drive shutdown, and it has digitally signed firmware, which makes it immune to BadUSB malware and brute force attacks. Brute force, password-attack protection is always enabled to prevent password-guessing techniques. Too many failed attempts will result in the drive being crypto-erased. 

Losing the password means data is locked away for good, so the IronKey D500S supports up to three passwords: an admin, user, and one-time recovery. The admin can reset a user password, and also enable a one-time recovery password to restore access to data if the user password is forgotten. That's a nice touch.

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On the password front, the IronKey D500S supports a traditional, complex password and a passphrase mode. Traditional, complex passwords can be between eight and 16 characters, using three out of four character sets. while passphrases can be ten to 128 characters. 

There's also an industry-first feature on the IronKey D500S in the form of a Dual Hidden Partition option. This feature allows an admin to create two, custom-sized secure partitions for the admin and user, allowing for a Hidden File Store that can be accessed by both admin and user. 

Kingston IronKey D500S

Kingston IronKey D500S.

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

The IronKey D500S also supports two read-only/write-protected modes. These modes can be set per session to protect the drive from malware on untrusted systems, or the admin can set a global read-only mode that sets the drive to read-only mode until it is reset.

Logging into the IronKey D500S

Logging in to the IronKey D500S.

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

On the performance front, Kingston says you can expect the following speeds (which vary depending on interface and model):

USB 3.2 Gen 1

  • 8GB – 128GB: 260MB/s read, 190MB/s write
  • 256GB: 240MB/s read, 170MB/s write
  • 512GB: 310MB/s read, 250MB/s write

USB 2.0

  • 8GB – 512GB: 30MB/s read, 20MB/s write

I tested the 128GB drive using MiniTool Partition Wizard and got very good performance. These are fast drives.

128GB IronKey D500S benchmark using MiniTool Partition Wizard

128GB IronKey D500S benchmark using MiniTool Partition Wizard.

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

The Kingston IronKey D500S is offered in capacities that range from 8GB to 512GB, and prices start from $75. The IronKey D500S is a solid, reliable, and robust drive that's easy to set up and configure. Once you're up and running, all you need is the password and you can be sure that no one else is accessing your data.  

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