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I found the most secure way to carry data on your keychain

This encrypted flash drive from iStorage will give you peace of mind when carrying sensitive data.
Written by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, Senior Contributing Editor
iStorage datAshur Pro+C

iStorage datAshur Pro+C.

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

ZDNET's key takeaways

  • iStorage datAshur Pro+C encrypted USB Type-C flash drive, available from Amazon starting at $98.
  • A super-tough, super-secure, easy-to-use keypad.
  • If you're new to encrypted drives, the setup and unlocking process might feel a little daunting initially.

Just like you wouldn't dream of keeping valuable data on your smartphone or computer without setting a passcode, it's equally important to secure sensitive information on a USB flash drive. After all, why take the risk?

Also, if you're navigating the complex world of data regulations -- such as HIPAA, CCPA, or GDPR -- using unencrypted drives could quickly land you in a tricky legal situation. So, let's keep your data safe and your compliance in check.

Also: 10 tiny 'everyday carry' tools and gadgets I keep on my keychain

For the past few weeks, I've been testing the iStorage datAshur Pro+C, the world's first FIPS 140-3 Level 3 PIN-protected hardware encrypted USB Type C flash drive. 

View at Amazon

iStorage datAshur Pro+C features and specs

  • Hardware: USB 3.2 (Gen 1) SuperSpeed USB
  • Interface: USB Type C with Type-A adapter included
  • Data transfer rates: Read speeds of up to 310MB/s | Write speeds up to 246MB/s
  • Battery: 3.7V Lithium-polymer rechargeable battery
  • Capacities: 32, 128, 256, and 512 GB
  • Water/Dustpoof: IP68 (pending)
  • Operating system compatibility: Windows, macOS, Linux, Chrome, Android, thin clients, zero clients, embedded systems, Citrix, and VMware -- if it has a USB port and can access external storage, this drive will work
  • Hardware data encryption: AES–XTS 256-bit full disk hardware encryption
  • Certification: World's first and only USB flash drive, pending the new FIPS 140-3 Level 3
  • Encryption keys: 256-bit Hardware
  • Hashing: 256-bit SHA
  • Warranty: Three-year warranty with free lifetime technical support 

The datAshur Pro+C is a flash drive with a built-in numerical keypad that allows the data stored on the drive to be protected using hardware-based AES–XTS 256-bit full disk encryption. If that feature set sounds a bit technical, don't worry about it. All you need to know is that as long as you keep your eight to 15-digit PIN code safe, the data on the drive is safe.

Also: Beyond passwords: 4 key security steps you're probably forgetting

And if you're worried that someone might access the data by trying to guess the PIN code, fear not. The drive features built-in brute force protection. If the user PIN is entered incorrectly 10 consecutive times, the user PIN will be deleted. All the data is still on the drive, but now it can only be accessed by entering the admin PIN.

One of the most secure USB flash drives money can buy!

One of the most secure USB flash drives money can buy.

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

If someone tries the same trick with the admin PIN and enters that code incorrectly 10 consecutive times, then it's game over because the PIN, encryption key, and all the data contained on the drive will be wiped and gone forever. At this point, the drive will revert to factory default settings and will need to be formatted before use. 

Also: This flash drive will self-destruct (if you want it to)

In short, this is a military-grade drive that's as secure as it gets. But the high level of security doesn't end there.

All the internal workings are covered in a layer of super-tough epoxy resin, which is virtually impossible to remove without damaging the internal components.

And don't worry that the keypad is going to wear. All the pads are coated with a layer of polymer that protects the keys and hides key usage, so the keys you use the most don't show extra wear, potentially tipping someone off as to your PIN code.

Also: How to spot a fake data blocker that could hack your computer

But what about the risk of external damage? Again, that's not a problem.

The datAshur PRO+C is built tough and comes with a rugged extruded aluminum sleeve to protect the keypad. The drive is designed to survive a drop of up to four meters onto a concrete surface, can withstand the weight of a 2.7-ton vehicle, can survive being submerged under 1.5 meters of water for 30 minutes, and will resist dust, dirt, and sand ingress.

The keypad is protected by a rugged extruded aluminum sleeve

The keypad is protected by a rugged extruded aluminum sleeve.

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

This is an incredibly tough drive that's designed to survive more than it's going to encounter in the hands of most users.

And when it comes to performance, it's no slouch either, with read speeds topping out at 310MB/s, and write speeds of up to 246MB/s. I've benchmarked this drive on both Windows and Mac systems and found I got results within 5% of the stated specs, which is more than acceptable.

If you're new to the world of encrypted USB flash drives, be prepared for the initial setup and the first few times you use the device to feel a little daunting. Most people get unnecessarily worried about forgetting their PIN code or accidentally deleting their data. Don't worry -- after you've used the drive a few times, it will feel like second nature.

This encrypted drive is not much bigger than a regular USB flash drive

This encrypted drive is not much bigger than a regular USB flash drive.

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

ZDNET's buying advice

When it comes to encrypted flash drives, the iStorage datAshur PRO+C is one of the very best you can buy. It's built to be super-secure and highly ruggedized, protecting your data both from intrusion and loss through damage to the drive.

With capacities ranging from 32GB all the way up to 512GB, you only need to pay for the storage you need. And with prices starting at a reasonable $98, this drive is hard to beat.  

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