Kingston Data Traveler “Vault” - Product Review

The only(?) USB stick that offers public and private hardware encrypted partitions

Review by Michael Smith

The Kingston DataTraveler Vault USB Flash drive protects even the most sensitive data with 256-bit AES hardware encryption and a durable, aluminum casing and features data transfer rates up to 24MB/sec. read and 10MB/sec. write plus a five-year warranty and free tech support.

The DataTraveler Vault USB Flash drive is assembled in the U.S. for organizations that require a secure way to store and transfer portable data. It features hardware-based, 256-bit AES encryption and two zones, public or encrypted, to safeguard even the most sensitive data in case the drive is lost or stolen. Its durable, aluminium casing provides added protection.

The DT Vault offer two partitions. On is a public zone which is unencrypted and the other is a 256-bit AES encrypted zone that is accessed via DTVaultLock security software for Windows (currently the software does not work on other operating systems). The zone size is user customizable and in my case I basically created a 2GB secure and and 2GB pubic zone on a 4GB stick.

The set-up for this was very fast and easy and the same goes for accessing the Vault as and when needed.

The secure partition, as already mentioned, utilizes 256-bit Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) hardware-based encryption (N.B. that this is for the encrypted zone only – there is no encryption on the public partition) and it locks down and reformats after 10 intrusion attempts.

Kingston's DT Vault and DTBB both lock down and reformat after the set intrusion attempts unlike some sticks that destroy their chips instead of reformatting.

As a user who has just paid out a fair amount of money for such sticks the destruction of a stick is a little high, I would think, and hence Kingston's drives and those that do not “burn” their chips would be my choice every time.

Unless someone wants to use the most sophisticated methods of computer forensic reformatting the drives, as done by Kingston and some others, is, in my opinion, more than enough.

The DT Vault , aka DTV, is available in the following sizes of 1GB, 2GB, 4GB, 8GB, 16GB.

The DTV USB drive is easy to use and does not require any administrative rights nor does it need to have applications installed on the PC.

The use is as simple as using an ordinary USB drive and initially no password is required. Only for the secure partition, the “Vault”, a password is required and the interesting part of the DTV is that is only uses the one drive. It does not need to mount two drives, as other sticks that are automatically encrypted from start.

In addition to this the public partition can also be used to transfer data between Windows, Linux and Mac, for instance, even though the private partition will not launch on the other operating systems.

Maybe the friendly engineers at Kingston might also find a way of making the DTV entirely cross-platform operable, which is to say making the Vault program in such a way that it can work equally on Linux, Mac and Windows.

I have been told that they are working on doing that for the Black Box and, hopefully, I would say, though I do not know as yet, for the DTV.

While the case may not be as rugged as that of the DTBB, as the DTBB used steel instead of aluminium for the casing, the DTV is still a rugged device and will give a long and faithful service, I should assume.

From the cost point Kingston's drives are not cheap but then you get what you pay for,in most cases, and I believe the chips to be some of the best on the market and their reliability being second to none, and reliability is, in my opinion, what counts.

The Kingston DataTraveler Vault is, to my knowledge, the only USB stick that offers a public are and private hardware encrypted partition on the same stick, and especially one where the parameters can be entirely configured by the user.

Highly recommenced.

© M Smith (Veshengro), November 2008