Thumb Drive Security: Encryption, Tracking ... and Epoxy

Carl Weinschenk

Thumb drives are cheap, high capacity and everywhere. That's great for getting work done, but crummy for the nervous systems of security personnel.

 

Computerworld says Washington state's Division of Child Support is proactively addressing security challenges related to the proliferation of these devices by issuing Cruzer Enterprise thumb drives to unit supervisors. The Cruzer drives, which had been distributed to 150 of 200 supervisors when the article was written, can be far more tightly managed by IT.

 

The devices offer 256-bit Advanced Encryption Standard encryption and are linked to SanDisk's Central Management & Control server software. This enables IT to know where each device is at any point in time. The drives can be remotely wiped and are programmed to delete all data if 10 incorrect passwords are attempted.

 

Cruzer is one of many innovative answers to the security challenge. Late last month, CoSoSys unveiled version 1.2 of Secure it Easy. The family of products features file tracking and only allows devices authorized by the organization to link to the host PC. The new version allows administrators to trace files that moved from the PC to the storage device or vice versa. This file tracing can prevent breaches or theft.

 

For the security-conscious employee who has everything, there is IronKey. This device clearly takes security to the max. IronKey, which is in use with the military in Afghanistan, locks passwords in a manager that is protected by a military-grade 256-bit AES block cipher. The cipher uses randomly generated keys from a Secure High Standard-256 hash function written by the National Security Agency. The data, according to Neoseeker, is protected by a double layer of 128-bit encryption; 10 incorrect passwords attempts fry the machine. If IronKey is opened, epoxy engulfs the device and makes it into a sticky paperweight.


 

Big-name security companies also are in the mix. Byte and Switch reports that Symantec's Endpoint Encryption, which is available in full disk, removable media and combined versions, offers drive- and bit-level encryption. InformationWeek looks at various USB thumb drives from a security perspective. Three key security-related elements: authentication, encryption, and whether the security platform in the drive prevents it from running on remote computers. If so, the drive may be useless on the road.

 

The devices assessed are the Kingston DataTraveler Elite Privacy; the Kanguru Bio AES; the Transcend JetFlash 220; the SanDisk Cruzer Enterprise; the Lexar SAFE PSD S1100; the Lexar JumpDrive Secure II Plus; the EDGE Tech DiskGO Secure Flash Drive Enhanced for ReadyBoost; the ACP-EP Memory USB 2.0 Privacy Flash Drive; the Imation Pivot Plus; the IronKey Enterprise Special Edition; Roll-Your-Own Encryption and the Corsair Flash Padlock.



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