Having now reviewed two flash drives with security features, I’ve yet to come up with any real-world applications for them because — well, let’s face it — I’m not that big of a deal.
Sure, it’s nice to know that my files — be they MP3s, client photos, or lesson plans — are safe and secure from prying eyes. But does anyone really care what I’m carrying in my pocket or hanging from my keychain?
I imagine anyone finding one of my non-secure flash drives would be happy just knowing they’ve received a free flash drive that needs a quick formatting. No one, after having gone through my files, will feel like they’ve stumbled across something huge. I don’t carry anything so sensitive that I’d be the ideal target for blackmail, and anything I have that’s actually confidential is better served being stored in the cloud behind passwords.
Now, there are some who would love to have the kind of security SecureDrive offers on its BT flash drives. Contracts, sensitive for-your-eyes-only documents, and unique files that could lead to lawsuits or controversy if leaked would be well protected by any of SecureDrive’s products so long as they work as intended.
For people like me, the cloak and dagger feel I get from plugging in a flash drive and pressing a combination of keys on the drive or on the app in my phone — it’s Mission Impossible on the surface, but it’s not a matter of life or death and exploding contents. I’m already conditioned to keep important documents and files off of flash drives because I view them as disposable. They’re too easy to lose, don’t hold a lot of files, and no one I know really uses them anymore.
Sharing content is too easy now with social media, email, and cloud drives.
But I just got my hands on something I had to put in my EDC pack. It’s the SecureDrive KP, an enclosed solid-state drive with a keypad that’s more than just your average gig-stick.
This new drive is my new digital briefcase. This is a hard drive I can carry to and from school, the studio, and meetings with clients with the added bonus of security.
And encased in a weighty metal enclosure, this isn’t a disposable keychain fob encrusted with pocket lint.
This is the sweet spot — where form and function meet.
Practical makes perfect
If you’re like me, and you’re not a flash drive kind of guy (or gal), you want something efficient and practical. There’s only so much space in my EDC kit, and a tiny drive with limited space that I haven’t had any use for in the last few months doesn’t make the cut.
But I carry solid-state drives.
I currently work as a high-school teacher (Media and Computer Science pathways) by day, and I moonlight as a freelance photographer, videographer, and visual content creator. When it comes to media and large files, email and cloud-sharing aren’t always the best options — if they’re any option at all. File-size limits keep me from sending videos through Gmail, and YouTube was never intended as a file-sharing service.
And that’s if I have access to the kind of bandwidth that allows me to send a few hundred gigabytes of data and receive it within a convenient time frame.
If I need to go over media with a client or pass off video to an editor, it would be much faster in many instances to just drive over to the editing bay, plug in the drive, and copy the files over. That’s the benefit of having a solid-state drive that can carry more than a few minutes worth of 4K footage.
And anyone working with raw footage or RAW photos will tell you — they don’t want unfinished work out in the wild. That’s where the SecureDrive’s security features become an attractive selling point. It’s not just about keeping a few documents safe as I go from point-A to point-B. When you’re working with a large clump of data because you’ve got 500GB in your pocket, you’re probably loading it up with any and everything, especially when the drive’s got the same physical footprint in your pocket as a wallet.
If you like carrying your digital portfolio, digital documents with customer information, and electronic receipts — because your entire small business fits on a hard drive — it’s not hard to come up with use-case scenarios for one that comes with a combination lock.
The SecureDrive KP works with Windows, MacOS, Linux, Chrome, Android, and Citrix. It’s just like any drive that can be formatted for NTFS or exFAT — it just also happens to have a keypad and some serious AES256-bit hardware encryption.
After plugging in the drive, the status LED will show a red lock. Press the key-button, and you have a few seconds to input your user PIN. Confirm your entry by pressing the key-button again. and if your input is successful, the LED status will change to an unlocked green version of the red lock.
Any brute-force attempt will fail automatically after 10 wrong guesses at the PIN because the drive will wipe itself. And thanks to the wear-resistant keypad, it’s going to be a while before anyone will be able to deduce your code just by looking at it. JStay clear of fingerprint dust, and you’ll be fine.
But what if someone pulls the case apart and pulls the drive out?
Unfortunately for hackers — but awesome for you — the interior drive is encased in epoxy and can’t be separated from the case without damaging the electronics.
Putting the drive into read-only mode keeps your drive from loading up a virus or digital workaround, and the one-year license for the DriveSecurity Antivirus powered by ESET keeps you further protected.
If you’re lending the drive out to an employee or collaborator, you can load up an admin password which frees you to give out your user password. The admin password overrides any other passwords on the drive and can be used as an extra layer of security in case your user password becomes compromised and changed.
Another benefit for having an admin password: If a brute-force hack is attempted, only the user PIN is deleted. The admin PIN can be used to unlock the contents of the drive.
The admin can also delete all files from the drive without unlocking the drive and without losing the admin password. Admins can also set the drive to read-only mode for all users.
For all users, the drive can also be set to lock itself after a certain amount of idle time if it’s still plugged into your computer.
The drive comes in various forms — SSD or traditional HDD — though I wouldn’t recommend anyone go with anything less than solid-state unless you’re absolutely strapped for cash because of the fragile nature of HDDs. One hard bump or unfortunate drop onto the floor could instantly make the drive useless even if you’ve got an admin password.
If you have to get the HDD version, get yourself an EVA shockproof splash-resistant carrying case. In fact, get the case even if you’re getting the SSD version because it will keep your cables and a SecureDrive BT — if you have one — all in one convenient little pouch.
The smallest solid-state version is the 250GB KP that sells on SecureDrive’s website for $309. The most expensive is the 8TB, which sells for $3,629. In comparison, the smallest HDD is the 1TB KP that sells for $275. A 5TB KP in HDD form sells for $549.
At $385 for the 500GB SSD version, the SecureDrive KP might be a little pricey compared to a Samsung EVO 860 1TB drive that’s selling for $99.99 on Best Buy’s website. With an Insignia hard drive enclosure priced at $29.99, you’re getting twice the size with the Samsung drive for almost a third of the price if you’re looking strictly at gigabytes per dollar.
And that’s if you’re assuming the hard drive inside the SecureDrive KP is comparable in terms of speed when it comes to writing and reading. To test the KP’s write speed, I copied a 3.34GB video file to the SecureDrive KP and to a Samsung 850 EVO set in an external hard drive dock. To make the data race fair, I used the same USB 3.0 port in the back of my computer for each of the drives.
The SecureDrive KP took a little over 27 seconds to complete the operation. The Samsung 850 EVO beat it by just a couple of seconds.
I then copied the same file from each of the drives back to my computer’s internal hard drive. The Samsung took 12.47 seconds. The KP took 24.4 seconds.
This was by no means a dealbreaker for the KP. Assuming the data security features might be a factor in hampering the speed just a little, I’m actually a bit surprised the KP wasn’t that much slower in terms of write speed. As for read speed, the Samsung 850 EVO was in the 300s for MBs per second while the KP read pretty much as fast it wrote data.
So with that in mind, is the extra $200+ worth it for a permanently portable hard drive with beefy security features? At this price point, I’d have to say it depends on what you’re loading onto the drive.
For professional artists and content creators, store owners, accountants, lawyers, and etc. I would say it is. If you’re the type to carry a solid-state drive, you’re probably carrying a lot of files and some of them might be worth protecting. While the price won’t protect you from losing the drive, you’ll feel safer knowing the drive’s contents won’t see the light of day even if the thief will score a used drive they can repurpose.
If the price were considerably lower, I would recommend it to a broader audience. But at a price point worth several of Samsung’s top solid-state drives at double the size, I can see people choosing value over security.
Again, it will ultimately depend on your use-case scenarios. If you’re loading up some Xbox video games to take over to a friend’s place, you’d be better served getting more gigabytes per dollar.
But if you’re a professional with a budget for technology, this is a should-have because it’s better to be safe and secure than sorry.
This review is based on an review-sample 500GB drive sent to us from the company.