Crypto AES 256 bit USB drive by Integral – Product Review

Review by Michael Smith

While the Crypto AES 256 is not the first AES 256 hardware encrypted drive by Integral it is the first that has the same kind of casing, as well as look as feel, on the outside at least, as does have the famous Splash drives.

The Crypto Drive from Integral (readers please note that you cannot buy those drives direct from, say, Integral's website) is one of the smallest, if not indeed the smallest, hardware encrypted USB drive.

The setup, once windows had loaded the drivers – we all know how annoying this is in comparison to the ease of using an USB thumb drive on Linux – for this drive, was fast, much faster than I had expected having tested a number of hardware encrypted USB drives by now. Therefore I was rather pleasantly surprised here. Some drives can take so effort to get set up correctly.

The Integral Crypto Drive offers military level security via AES 256 bit hardware encryoption. This is a forced mandatory encryption for all files giving 100% privacy for everything on the drive. This is most important when trying to secure “data in transit”. Shame the British government does not make use of such devices, sat least not on a regular basis.

Data on the drive cannot be accessed or removed without the correct high strength 6-16 character password which must contain, so I understand, uppercase and lowercase letters and numbers at least.

The Crypto Drive also has a “brute force password attack protection”. This means that all data will be automatically erased after 6 failed attempts and the drive is reset.

Unlike Ironkey and SanDisk Cruzer Enterprize – and maybe others too – the Crypto will, however, so I understand, remain a usable drive that can be reinitialized and then used again, though the data that was on the drive will be lost.

The other two mentioned above do not allow for an automatic recycling of the drives when the password attack protection kicks in and the drives in those instances are destroyed, re4ndering them useless.

While this may offer an extra level of protection as, as we all know, there is nearly no way that data can be rendered entirely irretrievable by erasing it, e.g. overwriting,, but... totally destroying the chip on the USB stick also creates unnecessary e-waste and this must be something that we should try to avoid.

The Integral Crypto USB Drive also has an optional – and this means that you do not have to fill it in – personal ID function. Here contact details can be added so that the drive can be returned, whilst confidential data remains secure.

As there is no software that needs to be installed on the host computer there is hence a zero footprint and neither does the user have to initiate any encryption program on the drive, as indicated before, meaning all data is automatically locked down secure.

The Crypto Drive is probably also the lightest AES 256 bit hardware encrypted USB Drive that I have so far seen and it is also the smallest – as in length – and shorter even than the Integral Splash Drives.

The device is available in 1GB, 2GB, 4GB, 8GB and 16GB capacities. The 1GB, which I had for review, should sell at about 10 GBP or less retail.

Integral drives cannot be purchased from their website but only via retail outlets, whether such as Insight (for businesses) or generally in stores.

The Integral Crypto Drives are NOT Mac OS compatible and neither can they be used with Linux. Shame in both cases. This is, yet again, the one drawback with such drives, and we still have not got any that can actually perform on Linux unless virtual machine software is used. Other drives though can be used – well one or two at least – on both Windows and Mac OS.

Therefore the score can only be 8 out of 10 even though it does openly state that it is Windows PC only.

With all he Linux PCs out there now and also being used by governments and government agencies Linux compatible hardware encrypted USB drives are becoming a must and it is time something be done.

© M Smith (Veshengro), 2009