Gadget Zone: Datashur Pro+C encrypted flash driveby
For those looking for a secure, flexible and portable way to transfer or protect sensitive information, can the latest flash drive from iStorage deliver on its promise of ‘military-grade’ standards?
Despite the seemingly relentless rise of cloud computing, sales of USB flash drives remain strong, with research group Vantage valuing the market at more than US$7bn and predicting continued growth until 2030.
Vantage puts this down to a variety of factors, including the high-speed data transfer and storage capacities of a new breed of flash drives, increasing demand for consistent data backup and storage solutions that allow the user access to information without depending on power sources, the simplicity of the technology, and ease of use.
Other factors raised by AccountingWEB members in recent years include the ever-increasing cost of maintaining accounts with cloud vendors, potential downtime and the risk of cyberattacks.
However, whether it’s top secret files from the Ministry of Defence, confidential company details or prisoner records, the elephant-sized security risk in the room with flash drives is their ability to find their way into the wrong hands – in other words, the strength of their portability becomes an inherent weakness.
Enter the Datashur Pro+C Encrypted Flash Drive. This USB 3.2, type-C flash drive can’t be accessed without the user’s unique PIN – an eight to 15-digit PIN that needs to be set on first use.
This PIN is set and entered via an alphanumeric rubber keypad on the drive itself, with feedback given to the user by three LEDs (power on, locked, unlocked).
Its encryption layer of security is hardware-based and on-device is compatible with any operating system and does not require software installation. iStorage also claims that the drive's security credentials are boosted by being the world’s first and only pending accreditation for the new FIPS 140-3 Level 3 validation scheme (a cryptography standard program that's the benchmark in US government data security).
When ejected or removed, the drive automatically locks and also turns off if the operating system does not use the drive for a predetermined period of time.
On top of the user password, the Datashur Pro+C also offers an admin password (again between eight and 15 digits), so the organisation can create and enforce policies (for example the timeout lock time mentioned above or read-only/write protect access) that aligns with their security policies. If the user forgets their PIN, the drive can be unlocked using the admin PIN, and the administrator can then allow the user to set a new password.
The drive is also designed to protect its owner against all forms of ‘brute force’ attacks. If the user PIN is entered incorrectly 10 consecutive times, the user PIN will be deleted. All data will remain on the device but can only be accessed by entering the admin PIN.
However, if the admin PIN is entered incorrectly 10 times, the PIN, encryption key and data will be lost forever, and the device will revert to factory default settings.
In terms of capacity there are several options, starting with the 32GB model and rising to a 512GB version (this review trials the 128GB drive). All solutions are based on the USB 3.0 specification and the product’s marketing materials promise 310Mb/s read and 246Mb/s write speeds.
iStorage has built the Datashur Pro+C with an aluminium body and a ‘tamper-proof and evident’ design, making it obvious to the user if it has been pried open and tampered with. All the drive’s internal components have also been coated with a layer of epoxy resin, which its maker claims is virtually impossible to remove without causing permanent damage.
The manufacturer claims that the drive is ‘rugged, shockproof and crushproof’, able to survive a drop of up to four metres onto a concrete surface and withstand the weight of a 2.7 tonne vehicle.
The drive’s IP68 (pending) accreditation means it has been built to survive being submerged under 1.5m of water for 30 minutes and is deemed fit enough to withstand dust, dirt and sand.
Prices for the iStorage Datashur Pro+C encrypted flash drive start at £99 for the 32GB version, rising to £249 for the 512GB. For full details visit the iStorage website.
So how did I get on?
From memory, the last time I used a flash drive was about five years ago. I must admit, it was odd using one again, particularly as it was the first USB-C version I’d had the chance to use.
However, for an old hand at all things flash drive it was just like riding a bike, with an added hit of tech nostalgia to boot. The setup was relatively straightforward, once I’d read the quick start guide properly, and after that accessing the drive was relatively simple.
I found the read and write speeds to be roughly as advertised, perhaps slightly below but nothing that hindered any task I attempted to perform.
Its size makes it extremely portable, even to attach to a keyring if one was feeling daring, and the aluminium case and overall finish make the drive feel like a premium product.
In terms of reservations, the price when compared to other standard USB drives has to feature highly. To nit-pick, the portable size also felt like the keypad could cause issues for those with larger hands. Some setup details, like configuring admin and user accounts, were also missing from the user guide included (but available via download from the iStorage website or on the drive after setting up a user PIN.
Overall, for those unconvinced by (or unable to access) cloud storage, iStorage’s Datashur Pro+C encrypted flash drive offers a range of top-level security features and intuitive usability.
While this is an independent review and not a paid-for advertorial, a sample of the product was sent to AccountingWEB towers for testing as part of the article.