• March 23, 2023

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I take a reasonably libertarian approach to life and am not overly keen on too many prescriptive laws, but when protecting our data, I’m pleased to make an exception. Any government department, NGO or corporation that stores and processes sensitive data needs to take the utmost care to ensure that data doesn’t fall into the wrong hands.

Recent data protection laws like GDPR, with massive fines for breaking the law, have forced organizations to take better care of our data. However, we still occasionally hear stories of USB memory sticks or missing CDs containing large amounts of sensitive data. In the age of cloud storage, the need for physical storage devices is reduced. However, when you realize that organizations like Britain’s National Health Service still use faxes for sharing information, it shows how some government departments are behind the curve in IT technology.

If sensitive data must leave a secure site for any reason, it should always be adequately protected. Kingston is a manufacturer of advanced storage solutions focused on the data security of physical devices. The brand’s latest innovation is its IronKey Keypad 200 USB drive. This robust device offers XTS-AES 256-bit hardware-based encryption and is as close to uncrackable as possible.

The IronKey Keypad 200 drive is packed with security features and is OS agnostic. It has an alphanumeric keypad to unlock the drive by entering a PIN without needing any software. Once unlocked, the drive can be plugged into many devices that support USB Type-A Flash storage.

The IronKey KP200 is pending certification for FIPS-140-3 Level 3 military-grade security. The circuitry inside the drive is coated with tamper-evident, tough epoxy material to prevent access to its internal components without damaging them. The drive is also physically resistant to water and dust, with a protection rating of IP57. The keys of the keypad are coated with a special protective polymer layer that prevents the analysis of fingerprints that may be left on the individual keys.

The Kingston IronKey Keypad 200 is available in capacities ranging from 8GB – 128GB and is covered by a limited three-year warranty with free technical support. The drive has no PIN when delivered, so the user is forced to choose a PIN ranging from 7 to 8 digits, with a maximum of 15. An enhanced random number generator is used to strengthen the generation of the drive’s unique encryption key.

While the KP200 is unlocked with a User PIN, it also allows setting a separate Admin PIN. The KP200 locks after ten failed attempts to enter a PIN and, if both the User and Admin PINs are enabled, the Admin PIN can be used to restore a User PIN and access the drive. This requires a suitable protocol for ensuring this is set, but a closely guarded common Admin PIN might be a solution if these drives are widely used. People will always forget PINs, unfortunately.

If the Admin PIN of the KP200 is incorrectly entered ten times in a row, built-in Brute Force attack protection immediately crypto-erases the drive’s data, permanently destroying what’s on it and resetting the device. The KP200 also safeguards against malware from untrusted computer systems by using two different Read-Only modes. These modes enable the drive’s administrator to write-protect the drive during a specific session or globally across all user sessions.

Verdict: With the various levels of security it offers, the chances of cracking open the data stored on an IronKey KP200 are close to impossible without a PIN. For this reason, I think that all organizations handling sensitive data should be compelled by law to store data on devices like the Kingston IronKey KP200 if the data is physically moved from a secure computer, site or server. There’s a slight speed hit with such extensive encryption compared with the fastest drives on the market, but it’s a small price to pay for peace of mind. There’s no excuse for storing data on any unprotected device, especially now that more of us are working between home and the office. Essential.

Pricing & Availability: The Kingston IronKey Keypad 200 is available now and costs from £86.11 to £229.50.

More info: www.kingston.com

Tech Specs:

  • Model: Kingston IronKey Keypad 200.
  • Hardware encryption: FIPS 140-3 Level 3 (Pending) certified.
  • OS and device-Independent.
  • Multi-PIN option for Admin/User mode.
  • Global and session read-only (write protect) modes.
  • Interface: USB 3.2 Gen 1.
  • Connector: Type-A.
  • Speed: USB 3.2 Gen 1.
  • Dimensions (drive with sleeve): 80 x 20 x 10.5mm.
  • Waterproof/dustproof: Certified to IP57 rating.
  • Operating temperature: 0°C to 50°C.
  • Minimum system requirements: USB 3.0 compliant and 2.0 compatible.
  • Warranty/support: 3-year warranty, free technical support.
  • Compatibility: Microsoft Windows, macOS, Linux, Chrome OS, Android4 or any system that supports a USB mass storage device.

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