Vendors just won't give up on encrypted USB drives. The cloud should have rendered them obsolete but somehow it hasn't worked out that way. Despite some obvious drawbacks, many organisations still prefer to hand employees physical USB sticks rather than adopt cloud services that some (rightly or wrongly) believe come with insecurities of their own.
However, this corner of storage still requires lots of investment on tight margins which might explain why struggling Imation sold its IronKey division to Kingston Technology in February 2016 for an undisclosed sum. This came after Imation itself bought struggling IronKey in September 2011 in a bid to diversify away from what it believed were less exciting storage sectors.
Imation also bought out other firms in this space during that year, including McAfee, Encryptx and MXI Security. Given Imation's current terrible state, the strategy clearly failed. The recent sale sounded desperate enough that IronKey was described in the press release as an "asset," which has a whiff of distress about it.
We mention this in a review of Kingston's latest DataTraveler 2000 encrypted USB stick because the acquisition of IronKey will almost certainly affect the future direction of this product line. Adding to the confusion, Kingston's drive has an iStorage logo printed on one end which makes clear that it is a re-badging of the UK company's datAshur line. If that is the case (we were unable to confirm it but assume this to be the case) then Imation's lineup might replace this product in time.
In effect, the DataTraveler 2000 is a rebadged iStorage drive that might at some point be ditched for whatever the purchase of IronKey from imaiton turns into - or perhaps not and it will be sold in parallel. We will amend this review when we have confirmation one way or the other.
The latest Kingston product uses XTS-AES 256-bit encryption in a PIN keypad design (licensed from a company called ClevX), the pros and cos of which we discuss throughout this review. The first advantage is that it can be plugged into any computer without the need for drivers. Rival designs based on drivers will work with Windows and Mac but the Kingston can in addition cope with Linux, Android and even Google's Chromebooks.
The downside is the keypad itself. On sister title Techworld, we reviewed a cheaper version of the same iStorage DatAshur design and found it incredibly fiddly to use. Anyone with larger than average hands would struggle to enter a PIN let alone reset it, a major drawback. A reference customer for this drive is London Underground which started using 250 drives in 2015.
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