Review: Kingston DataTraveler Vault Privacy

Forget about probing eyes -- some organizations might have more to worry about from mindless executives losing USB drives that carry sensitive corporate data. For either scenario, Kingston offers the DataTraveler Vault Privacy, a series of secure USB sticks. Ranging in capacity from 4 GB to 64 GB, the devices protect data with AES-256 hardware encryption in a two-layer system with no unencrypted zone. That means that protected data is never visible without first passing the authentication layer.

For the enterprise, a management option links with a browser-based central console to handle keys and passwords and setting password policies for age, complexity and failure lockout. The console also can perform remote password reset and generate reports for security auditing purposes.

Upon first inserting the DataTraveler, it's mounted as a read-only ISO that contains a setup utility for Mac OS X and Windows. Running the tool presents identical user interfaces across platforms, and formatting the device on either platform makes it ready for the other. For testing, Kingston sent the CRN Test Center a 4-GB DataTraveler Vault Privacy, which is locally managed. We formatted it on a Windows PC and used the same password to open it on our test MacBook Pro.

Once set up, inserting the drive in a Mac or Windows PC is supposed to launch an autorun routine for entering a password. In tests, this worked about half the time. For the other half, we got in by launching the authentication tool manually. After entering a password, a read-write drive mounts on the desktop with about 3.6 GB of 4 GB available for storage. The secured drive also contains a folder with ESET antivirus tools for Windows that occupies about 50 MB. Upon password failure, the encrypted data is never visible. Depending on an organization's security policies, authentication can be granted locally or challenged by a central server.

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USB sticks are great for moving files around, but careless individuals can end up with files of all kinds scattered hither and yon. DataTraveler drives are about the size of an oval-shaped lipstick -- larger than most. It is protected by a cap that attaches to either end but has no tethering hole, as does the main unit. The devices are waterproof and guaranteed for five years. Street pricing starts at around $33 for 8 GB. For security-conscious organizations, the CRN Test Center recommends Kingston's DataTraveler Vault Privacy series.