Back to the future: Toshiba touts a USB flash drive with keypad passkey

Toshiba this week announced a secure USB flash stick that uses a 10-number mini-keypad to authenticate access to data stored on the device.

Toshiba's new Encrypted USB Flash Drive uses a similar style numeric keypad to Corsair's Flash Padlock.

Like earlier model USB drives, Toshiba's new device uses USB 2.0 (480Mbps), not the latest USB 3.0 (4.8Gbps) interface.

Users simply enter a PIN and plug the drive into any USB 2.0 port on a compatible device. Once access is granted, the drive "unlocks" the media, permitting clearance to all of the content stored on the drive. When the drive is removed from a USB port, the drive automatically re-locks and encrypts the stored media.

"There is a heightened sense of awareness that confidential content is at risk," said Maciek Brzeski, vice president of Branded Storage Products, Toshiba Digital Products Division. "Toshiba developed the Encrypted USB Flash Drive as a new way to provide portable data security with one of the highest encryption standards available on the market."

Like Corsair's Padlock, the Toshiba uses a 256-bit data encryption algorithm to protect information stored in the device's multi-level cell (MLC) flash memory. Corsair has been making the Padlock USB flash drive since at least 2008.

At that time, a company called Iron Key (now part of Imation) led the industry with high performance USB flash drives that offered government-grade security. The drives initially used AES 128-bit and then AES 256-bit encryption. They came in a seamless stainless steel, waterproof case to protect the internal chipset. The Iron Key drives also contained a tamperproof chip, so that if the cases were cracked open somehow, the data would be unrecoverable.

Back then, a 4GB IronKey Secure Flash Drive had a retail price of $149, well above other USB flash drive prices. The prices reflected the use of longer-lasting single-level cell (SLC) NAND memory, as opposed to the MLC memory of typical flash drives.

Toshiba's Encrypted USB Flash Drive retails for $95 for the 4GB model, $112 for the 8GB version, $140 for the 16GB and $200 for 32GB of storage. Each comes with a three-year limited warranty.

Like the Corsair Padlock, Toshiba's Encrypted USB Flash Drive is equipped with a brute force hack defense mechanism that will render all stored information irrecoverable after 10 consecutive unsuccessful attempts to enter a PIN. The Corsair Padlock brute force defense locks the device for two minutes after fiveailed attempts, at which point a user may try again.

The Toshiba Encrypted USB Flash Drive also carries a FIPS (Federal Information Processing Standards) Publication 140-2 Level 3 certification, issued by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). That certification is often required by government agencies and other data security sensitive industries, such as healthcare and finance.


Lucas Mearian

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