Flash drives are so convenient and easy to use that some people opt to use them rather than transport their notebooks. Often these keys contain sensitive material—proposals, financial spreadsheets, presentations. But what happens if the flash drive is lost or stolen?
In the wrong hands, the devices data could spell trouble, either for an individual or for a company. The Memory Experts ClipDrive Bio provides an elegant solution to this security problem. It combines a conventional flash drive with a 128- by 128-pixel, 500-dpi Authentec fingerprint sensor.
The ClipDrive Bios memory capacity is divided into two partitions: public and secure. When you plug in the ClipDrive, only the public partition mounts as an available drive. The secure partition mounts only after you authenticate yourself with either your fingerprint or your fingerprint and a password.
The device encrypts data stored in the secure partition using AES (Advanced Encryption Standard), with a 128-bit key; the password can be up to 32 characters long. The database for biometrics and passwords resides on a secure, inaccessible partition on the device, so that PCs never see or compromise the information.
For the sake of convenience, you can store the ClipDrive Bios authentication software on the public partition, or for even more security, store it only on the systems where you intend to use it. The software, though adequate for registering fingerprints and passwords, could use an update. Currently, the administrator has no way of determining which users and fingerprints are registered. Memory Experts acknowledges that this is a popular feature request and says it will be added in a future release.
When logged in as administrator, you can resize the public and secure partitions. If you want to secure the bulk of the device, you can minimize the public partition. But beware: All data in both partitions is lost when you resize them. The software does warn you, however, and it gives you an option to cancel so that you can save your data before resizing.
You do pay a premium for security. The street price for a generic 128MB flash drive is around $60; the 128MB ClipDrive Bio sells for $145 in the USB 2.0 version. The ClipDrive Bio is also available in sizes up to 2GB (for a whopping $720). But if the security of your data is important to you or your company, this may be a small price to pay.