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At our school we have had a few concerns over the possibility of losing USB Pen Drives, and obviously the important of Data Protection is top priority, especially with myself in the ICT Dept. We have commented numerous times to our IT Technician about authorising Encryption Software on the network. As the Network Technician has done nothing over the last year I thought I needed to look into things more myself, on how I can cut out this technician from the equation of solving the problem. Finally after looking around I came across the Corsair Flash Padlock 2 USB Pen Drive.
This Pen Drive was supposed to be quick, in a protective rubber case, have pin entry on the device which locked the drive, so that nothing could read it, need no software to run, thus be able to work securely on all computers and Operating systems, and finally make sure data was not accessible to un-authorised users.
I decided to buy one and this weekend to test it out. I got it home in a lovely tightly sealed plastic packaging, not much wasted there. I opened it up and it comes with a quick start guide and a web address to the full guide, nice idea, I am liking how a lot of manuals are coming with PDF versions for the full manual, it is ideal to store on an E-Reader or just computer, no waste of paper, and with things like the iPad can be read easily and anywhere, including the ability to make notes as you go along.
The drive also comes with a half meter extension cable to ensure the drive can be plugged into any USB slot (I know some of the USB ports on the school computers are set back inside a plastic covering of the case making anything other than the standard Kinston sized pen drives awkward to fit in. However this drive is pretty normally sized, maybe just a bit wider.
The drive also comes with a good quality Corsair branded lanyard. I am not normally a fan of lanyards however this one I am considering wearing on Monday, it is just nicely built of what is clearly good quality.
Finally the drive. It is completely covered in rubber, which makes it very durable, i.e. being dropped etc. and very comfortable to hold. The drive USB plug has a rubber cap too, unfortunately this means that when the drive is in use the cap is loose and could be lost (I have always preferred the extendable drives that don't need a cap, however for this stylish design I will overlook this, mostly) On the top of this drive there is at the base a blue light that lights up when you plug it in to show it is plugged in and working. At the top are two lights one on an open padlock (green) and one on a closed padlock (red). These indicate if the device is locked or unlocked. Obviously they are not lit up permanently but when you come to use it (so there must be a small battery inside for power). There is also on the device 6 plastic buttons. 1 is a key symbol that you press to type in the pin and unlock the device, and again pressed to show you have entered the pin. The Pin can be between 4 and 10 numbers long using numbers between 0 and 9. However the 5 number buttons are doubled up, 0&1, 2&3, 4&5, 6&7, 8&9. This technically means the combination of 259 is the same as 348 and 349 and 359 etc. The drive comes completely unlocked with no code set, the instructions guide you through setting up a pin, and tells you how to unlock for use. I tested this out. When the drive comes first it is just like a normal drive, I added a copy of some data. I then proceeded to set the pin. Then when I plugged the drive in, nothing happened. So I then typed in the pin as per the instructions which can be done while the drive is plugged in or out of the socket. The drive was suddenly then accessible, fantastic, just what was needed. The pin actually allows the internal connection to the data, no software at all was needed for this entire process. As soon as I pulled the drive out it was locked.
My final test was to try entering the pin in incorrectly, it did not unlock, in fact it stopped me attempting again for 2 minutes, this certainly helps deter brute force hackers.
Finally from reading the instructions there is a guide on how if you forget your pin you can gain access to the drive again, however this will delete all of the data. I have not done this yet, but I have no reason to think it will not work. Luckily it will mean I can use the drive again should I forget my PIN (which is unlikely to happen). This does mean however if someone does steal it they may be able to use the drive, however they will erase all data, and clearly the data on this kind of drive is more important to be erased on the incident of theft than the concern of a stolen drive.
The drive quickly can be read from and written to quickly, I certainly noticed it had a good throughput of the sample data I tried.
The pin certainly locks the drive, however it is also supposed to encrypt the data with 256bit encryption through hardware. I assume it does this as there is really no way to check. There is nothing about having to manually activate this or not, so I assume this is done, clearly you have to sometimes have faith that it is doing what it says on the tin.
When I went online to check out the manual I was put on a page for registering your pin. Corsair provide a service where you can register PINs against an e-mail address and password. You can register multiple, i.e. if you have more than 1 of these. You can also designate a descriptive name in order to identify the device for the pin. This is very useful in case you do risk forgetting your pin, and of cause all of us have passwords which we remember, so we can access it that way and be reminded.
When I read through the manual I found there were a couple of extra things you could do PIN wise with the device. You can set up a secondary pin which will allow you to reset the password. If the battery dies you can still of cause unlock it when it is powered by the PC. Another interesting function was the ability to keep it unlocked for a while, until you manually lock it without having to remove the PIN. i.e. in case you are moving data between multiple PC's and need quick plug and swap access.
Overall I am very pleased with this drive, and it clearly cuts out any software limitations that can be given by network technicians or by using different operating systems. It clearly provides a very secure way to store your data, and not only that it is reasonably priced at around £35 for 8GB (which for a good quality pen drive alone is a typical retail cost, let alone with 256bit encryption)