One of the notable perks for a journalist covering the security industry is the occasional opportunity to test and review security products and solutions. Over the last couple of weeks, I have had the chance to try three products from Kingston Technology and I am happy to provide Brilliance Security Magazine readers with a review of these devices.
It is important to note that Kingston did not pay for this review and BSM is in no way beholding to them concerning this content.
Kingston sent me a DataTraveler 2000 Encrypted Keypad USB Drive, a DataTraveler Vault Privacy 3.0 USB Drive, and a Nucleum USB-C Hub to review. The following is a summary of my impressions about these devices after having used them for about two weeks.
It should be noted that I primarily use a Chromebook when away from my office Windows desktop machine, so I am providing a review of these devices filtered through that lens. Also, for the technophiles in the audience, prepare yourself to be disappointed. This is not a technical review. I did not dissect these devices or use any diagnostic equipment in my assessment. What’s presented here is simply my opinion of what I like and what I don’t like about these devices from a user’s perspective.
In general terms, I like the concept behind encrypted flash drives. The very best way to protect sensitive information is to isolate it from machines that are connected to networks, and specifically the internet. You may recall the months and even years after the Stuxnet virus became widely known, there was a cry for an all-out ban on flash drives. The US Military tried that and, well, it didn’t work too well. There are too many legitimate reasons why people need to take their data with them or move it around, all the while keeping their sensitive information off the internet. Encrypted flash drives allow people to do just that.
Kingston DataTraveler 2000 Encrypted Keypad USB Drive
Kingston’s promotional material claims that the “DataTraveler® 2000 (DT2000) is designed to be secure, with an alphanumeric keypad that locks the drive with a word or number combination, for easy-to-use PIN protection. DT2000 features hardware-based, full-disk AES 256-bit data encryption in XTS mode. Encryption is done on the drive and no trace of the PIN is left on the system. It’s FIPS 140-2 Level 3 certified, to meet a frequently requested corporate IT requirement.”
As I see it, the DT2000 is a particularly nifty device for anyone that wants a safe, encrypted, password-protected place to store some important files. It requires no special software or application to use. It even worked with my Chromebook, which is a massive plus in my estimation.
The drive locks down and reformats after ten intrusion attempts. When it does that, say goodbye to your data. The moral of that story is, if you don’t remember your password, don’t keep guessing. Oh! And don’t forget your password. There is no way to recover your password or to reset to the default without erasing the data on the drive, so use a password management app, which you should be doing anyway.
In most of our minds, there is a considerable prohibition against using a common area or shared computer – think of the antiquated machine in the guest business office of your favorite hotel or at the library. Consequently, we lug around our laptops, even for a quick overnight meeting in another city. Using the DT2000, you may not need to do that.
Imagine being able to load the sensitive files you will need for tomorrow’s meeting on an encrypted flash drive, throw it in your pocket, and jet off to the meeting city. When you need to access your files, either at the hotel or the meeting, just access the secure flash drive from whatever machine is available.
Barring that much confidence in shared computers, or considering that you are going to lug your laptop with you anyway because there is, after all, Netflix to be watched – think of the encrypted drive as a safe backup that you can take with you when you travel allowing you to avoid exposing sensitive data to the cloud or the internet.
The only real downside I could think of is the size. It’s small, which is cool, but I could see this thing getting lost easily. If lost, the data would be safe, but unless you make a back up of what’s on the drive, you run the risk of losing it. If you do make a backup, but the backup is not in a secure location, you’ve lost the benefit of the protected drive.
So, in the end, the best use of the DT2000 may be as a tool to transport sensitive information securely. It’s not likely to be used as the primary repository for critical data but makes for a good mobile secondary location.
Another, more of an annoyance than a downside, is the setup procedure. There are several steps needed to set up your personal password, such as push this key, then that key and repeat, etc. The instructions are printed in tiny print on the packaging – although there is an unencrypted copy of the manual on the drive itself. It took me a few tries to get it right, but honestly, I don’t know how the process could be improved upon. It just is what it is, but it isn’t as easy as I had hoped it would be.
Overall I really like the Kingston DataTraveler® 2000. I can immediately see many use cases where this device could make my life easier and reduce any concerns I might have about sensitive information getting into the wrong hands. If you’re going to use a flash drive, it should be an encrypted flash drive. If you’re going to use an encrypted flash drive, take a good look at the DT2000 – it may be just what you need.
Kingston DataTraveler Vault Privacy 3.0 USB Drive
Kingston’s DataTraveler® Vault Privacy 3.0 (DTVP30) USB Flash Drive is more full-featured but arguably less versatile than the DT2000 device. Like the DT2000, it also provides security with 256-bit AES hardware-based encryption in XTS mode but is accessed and managed via software. The software needed to access and use the drive comes installed on it. An additional management console software allows team-wide management features.
I say it is less versatile because it doesn’t work with my Chromebook. As I declared at the outset, Chromebook is my preferred device for when traveling, or when working anywhere outside of my office. You may not have the same propensity, so know that the DTVP30 is compatible with Windows® 10, 8.1, 8, 7(SP1), Mac OS X v.11 – 10.14.x, and Linux v.2.6.x.
The DTVP30 is designed to be a powerful tool when used in a corporate team environment. When used in that context, IT administrators can centrally manage the secure USB drives to meet compliance requirements and provide a higher level of support. Activation is a simple process and allows IT professionals to remotely set passwords, configure password and device policies, activate audit for compliance and more.
Software installation and setup for the DTVP30 was painless and intuitive. It took me only a few minutes to be up and running. It works great in a single user environment and I didn’t use the Safeconsole management software to create a team environment, so I can’t speak to that.
If you are looking for an encrypted flash drive that will allow your entire team to store and move data about securely, the Kingston DataTraveler® Vault Privacy 3.0 USB Flash Drive is just the ticket.
Kingston Nucleum USB-C Hub
Lastly, I took a look at the Kingston Nucleum USB-C Hub. This useful device simply turns a USB-C port into a plethora of other connection types. With a single USB-C port on your notebook or tablet, you can connect up to 7 devices at once. Especially while traveling, this crafty little addition to your bag can help you stay productive.
It connects using USB-C and provides:
- USB-C (power input)
- USB-C (data)
- (x2) USB-A
It even worked with my Chromebook, once I bought a USB-A to USB-C converter. My specific Chromebook doesn’t have a USB-C port.
The bottom line here is that if you need more connectivity in the way of additional ports of various types to keep you humming along, definitely check out the Kingston Nucleum USB-C Hub.
Steven Bowcut, CPP, PSP is an award-winning journalist covering cyber and physical security. He is an editor and writer for Brilliance Security Magazine as well as other security and non-security online publications. Follow and connect with Steve on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.