Ever lose a flash drive? Ever have important data stolen from you? Are you a victim of identity theft? Virtual thieves are out there, and the amount of data they steal per year is absurd; don’t let them steal yours!

According to TransUnion, a worldwide credit management service, every minute nineteen people fall victim to identity theft. Identity thieves gather YOUR personal information such as your address, banking information, birth date, name, etc. so that your life becomes theirs. Unfortunately for victims of identity theft, their lives can become ruined as their credit score can rise, loans can be taken out in their name, and it puts people in a really bad financial situation.

As it is a real and frightening situation, an even similar situation is the thought of personal files being lost or stolen from a flash drive. Corporations understand this all too well as they have a high risk of confidential data going missing by a worker accidentally misplacing a flash drive.

Flash drives offer a quick and easy service that allows any user to transfer files to another location or to store files for a long period of time. Typically, flash drives are all the same in that they use flash technology to store data on a flash chip; similar to how solid state drives work. Where they differ is in their capacities, shape, size, and transfer protocol.

Even though they offer a convenient way of transferring files to a new location, this mobile functionality increases the possibility of them becoming lost or stolen. As we all know, flash drives can be read, edited, and copied freely with no restrictions on the user in possession.

Therefore, it may be time to become proactive and protect your sensitive data. Your data is important to you, so keep it safe! Most common flash drives are sold without any security measures installed, leaving the drive open to any user. It’s time to fight back against hackers and thieves by using an encrypted flash drive that allows only you to access the files.

Welcome to my review of the Kingston DataTraveler Vault Privacy 3.0 flash drive. Throughout this review, I will be covering the following topics: the setup and design, encryption, and my final thoughts. I would like to thank Kingston for providing me with the unit for this review.



The Setup and Design

When setting up the DataTraveler Vault, the process is quick and simple. By not requiring any PC admin rights, connect the drive to any Windows or Macintosh computer and the auto run encryption installer will appear.

At this stage, you can opt to start encrypting your drive or wait and use the drive as any normal unlocked flash drive. To begin the encryption, follow the onscreen wizard which has four easy steps.

Eventually, you will arrive at the password setup where you will be asked to enter a six to sixteen character password. The password will require you include three of the following: uppercase, lowercase, numbers, and/or special characters. As I am not a fan of password requirements, the limitations forced me into using a password that I do not use for anything else, minimising the chance of somebody guessing my password.

Next, you will be asked for some contact information in case the drive should ever be lost. Any information entered into these fields will be displayed under the contact information link on the password window; more on this below. The wizard will ask for your name, phone number, and company name; none of which are required for you to enter.

Finally, on the last step, the setup wizard will begin the encryption process. After a minute or two, the drive will become fully encrypted and your data will forever be safe.

When the flash drive is connected to Windows, the software will automatically hide in the task bar where users have many different options. Here, you can change the password, contact information, hint, as well as perform a complete format or shut down the drive.

Additionally, Kingston offers an optional antivirus edition of the DataTraveler Vault. Provided by ESET, NOD32 is installed on the drive and there is an extra setup wizard for controlling the antivirus.

Moving on to design, the DataTraveler Vault has an all-aluminum housing that is coated in an ocean blue paint that is very pleasing to the eye. The aluminum housing protects the drive from scratches, drops, and even adds a crush resistance. In addition, with the cap mounted, the drive has a slight water-resistance to it if it happens to get damp.

More on the housing, users will find Kingston and model name branding screen printed on both sides of the flash drive. Something that I was extremely happy to see was the fact that the DataTraveler Vault is assembled in the USA, meaning high quality plastics, machinery, and metals were all used in the process of assembly.

Finally, users will find a key ring lanyard for portability and a blue status LED on top of the housing. If you are a business that would like to personalize your flash drive, Kingston offers full logo customization when purchasing in bulk.



The Encryption

When shopping for encrypted flash drives, you are really purchasing the software that is preinstalled. The DataTraveler is no different than any other USB 3.0 flash drive, offering incredible data transfer speeds along with backwards capability to USB 2.0.

The DataTraveler Vault is encrypted using a 256-bit Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) in a XTS-based mode. As outlined in the image below, the XTS mode provides support for sectors to be protected by a block size. You can read more about the XTS mode here .


Credit: Wikipedia Page: Disk Encryption Theory

Once your DataTraveler Vault is fully encrypted, your flash drive is secured and protected against any hacker that may get their hands on it; bypassing a 256-bit AES encryption would be quite a challenge. When data is written to the drive, the software converts the file integrity to an encrypted code that only the software can read and display. Then, when moving a file off the drive, the file is decrypted.

You may think that this process weakens the USB 3.0 speeds, however, that is not the case. When moving a 300MB file from one PC to another, normal USB 3.0 speeds were averaging around 100 MBps.

Since the flash drive is encrypted, Windows does not have immediate access to your files, therefore, you need to go to Computer and open the Kingston Encryption Manager. Each time the flash drive is connected to a PC, you will be prompted for a password to be entered. Users receive ten entries before the drive will initiate a complete drive format and the ten entries are remembered even if the drive is removed and reconnected.

Likewise, when the Kingston Encryption Manager is open and asking for a password, any user will have access to select both forgot password and view your contact information card. Clicking the contact information link will show the fields you entered back in the initial setup wizard.

When clicking on forgot password, a popup window will appear asking if you wish to choose a new password and format all current data.

Another thing that Kingston has done well on, is the formatting process of the Vault. If the password is entered incorrectly ten times, or if you choose to do a manual format, the drive will begin a ten phase wipe of the drive, making it virtually impossible to read the old data.

Additionally, the DataTraveler Vault is a flash drive that is trusted by the United States Government. Having a certification from the United States Federal Information processing Standards (FIPS), Kingston has proven to both the US Government and their users that the AES encryption used is verified to stop hackers and thieves in their tracks.

Finally, we arrive at one of my favorite features of the DataTraveler Vault. To protect against spyware and other malware, the Kingston Encryption Manager has an option to boot the flash drive in a Read-Only mode. When running in this mode, files can only be read, but not edited or copied. This is just another prevention measure in keeping your data safe and secure.



My Final Thoughts

Backed by a five year warranty, the Kingston DataTraveler Vault is an excellent and secure flash drive. Matched with the super-speed USB 3.0 the drive can easily outperform its competitors at a similar price of $104 ($69.99 on Amazon). Additional options are available like the ESET antivirus and easy IT management option with Blockmaster, but I find the standard model to be just as good as any. Ranging from a 4GB to 64GB capacity model, users should have no problem finding a drive that fits their requirements.

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