Kingston Data Traveler “Black Box” - Product Review

Complete hardware encrypted USB drive

Review by Michael Smith

Protect your organization's or even your own personal portable data and comply with data-at-rest agency directives by choosing Kingston's new, ultra-secure DataTraveler® BlackBox USB Flash drive. It's FIPS 140-2 Level 2 certified and features 256-bit, hardware-based AES encryption, enforced complex password protection and device lockdown after a specified number of invalid attempts, to prevent brute force attacks.

DataTraveler BlackBox is rugged and waterproof (up to 4 feet), with a titanium-coated, stainless steel casing for added data protection. And it's easy to set up and use, with no administrative rights or application installation required.

DataTraveler BlackBox is backed by a five-year warranty, free tech support and legendary Kingston® reliability.

The DataTraveler BlackBox features full privacy. All of the stored data is automaticall protected by 256-bit Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) hardware-based encryption.

It is fast with data transfer rates of up to 24 MB/sec. read and up to 20 MB/sec. Write, depending on computer specifications.

The DTBB is secure in that the drive locks down and reformats after 10 intrusion attempts, has an enforced complex password protection. The password is user set with minimum characteristics to prevent unauthorized access.

The Black Box is easy to use and no admin rights or application installationis required.

It is also customizable. Content can be pre-loaded, as well as password length, maximum number of password attempts, can be preset.

It features a tamper-evident coating and seal for physical security and is also protected against water damage. The casing is titanium-coated stainless steel.

There are problems encountered – unfortunately – with this device on some PCs running Windows XP (Pro) and in some cases, as in the case of mine, the problems persist even with the Hotfix, that is available from the Windows website, applied.

It would appear that the problems only occurred after the download of some Windows Updates somewhere between Jan 08 and June 08 and it would appear that this might be one of them that is non-removable. Another reason, I would say, to stay way from Windows Updates and rather have the PC secured in some other ways. Having tested it on other systems, e.g. XP, Win 2000 and even Vista, I know it has an issue only with the general desktop with XP Pro that I generally use. There are no issues, as far as I can see, in the use in Windows Vista (tested on a Vista Home Premium).

Having initially no other Windows PC to hand for set up bar the XP it refused to work on, even with the Hotfix installed, I resorted to the old Windows 2000 that is on my dual-boot Ubuntu/Windows PC and the set up was extremely fast even though the connectors are USB 1.1 and not even USB 2. Once it has been set up the reaction time of the DTBB is very fast and responds very well.

While the DT Black Box and its “cousin”, the DT Vault, are considerably thicker than, say, another device by another maker that I have positively reviewed within these pages, I do particularly like the design that allows and enables the cap to be put onto the end of the stick – or should one say “pen” - like it would be done, say, on a highlighter pen. In fact when assembled thus the DTBB and its previously mentioned “cousin”, the DT Vault, both do have the appearance of just such a pen. Please note that we shall be looking at the DT Vault in a separate review.

The case of the DTBB appears a great deal stronger than that of its cousin and the device is also somewhat heavier.

The DTBB comes in a number of capacities, from 2GB to 8GB and the range of prices varies hence as well.

The technical details, by way of a short run down, are as follows:

Dimensions – 3.06" x 0.9" x 0.47" (77.9mm x 22mm x 12.05mm)
Compatibility – designed to USB 2.0 specifications
Operating Temperatures – 32° F to 140° F (0° C to 60° C)
Storage Temperatures – -4° F to 185° F (-20° C to 85° C)
Minimum System Requirements are USB 2.0 compliant and 1.1 compatible and two (2) free consecutive drive letters required for use.

Systems requirement: Windows Vista (32-bit only) as well as Windows 2000 (SP3, SP4) and Windows XP (SP1, SP2). Presently the DTBB does not work on Mac or Linux (see below).

The one thing that might do with improving is the little strap that comes with it with which to attach the device to a lanyard. The inclusion of a lanyard with a means of separating the device from the strap might be an idea.

The one thing that, alas, is still lacking with the DTBB is Linux support but I have been told by members of the technical team that they are working on one that can work across all the platforms.

Seeing that more and more business are migrating to Linux in one shape or form or the other devices such as this must be made to work automatically on all platforms and the sooner we see a DTBB and a DT Vault to do just that the better and not just for the users.

Please note that DT stands for Data Traveler within the context of this review and BB refers to Black Box.

© M Smith (Veshengro), October 2008