AES256 secure USB disk U256 from Netac/Weast – Product Review

Review by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

The new AES256 Encryption USB disk U256 from Netac/Weast is claimed by the makers to be the securest removable data storage solution on the market.

Netac/Weast say that this device has already attracted attention from MOD, Met Police, down to ordinary customers who might be only concerned with their sensitive photos and personal files. They were, apparently, genuinely impressed by the most powerful feature of destroying the data after password error time expired.

The specs and main features of U256 disk according to the manufacturers are as follows:

  • AES256 bit encryption built-in, which means that the data inside is protected by world's highest security standard AES256 bit encryption with the only access by user's pre-set password.
  • The error times of password can be pre-set from 1 to 255 times, after which the data inside will be automatically destroyed without any trace.
  • The disk idle time protection can be pre-set from 0 to 120 minutes, after which the disk will be password locked.
  • The U256 disk has 2 zones, one secure and the other non-secure, with their capacities totally self-definable, or just merge into one single secure zone.
  • The U256 disk can encrypt and decrypt any files in your computer, with AES256 bit encryption technology.
  • The U256 disk can completely shred any files in the disk, which can not be recovered by any means.
  • The U256 disk's security function is supported in both admin and non-admin mode.
    The device is encased in a slim, stylish and solid metal case, works USB2.0 high speed with up to 30Mb/s (read) and 20Mb/s (write) and supports USB, ZIP and USB HDD BIOS booting.
  • On the case there is a write-protection switch and LED light indication.
  • It is fitted with a patented Ultra-stable (U-SAFE) technology by Netac to prevent data transfer corruption.

Right, so much for the information from the makers.

The device is very much like the Kingston Data Traveler Vault in that it has 2 drives, one non-secure and one secure and, in the same way, as with the DT Vault the encryption engine needs to be launched by the user.

While I have, so far, not encountered any problems in using the device the initial set up was problematic as the instructions provided by the Netac, the manufacturers, were more than confusing.

Once I realized – due to the fact of being an experienced IT user – that, for instance there was no need to format the drive, as talked about in the instructions, things were OK until the launch of the encryption engine. This took and still takes well over 60 seconds for the interface to open that prompts for the password.

Opening the device then to set my own password also was far from easy for nowhere in the instructions is that mentioned, e.g. the factory pre-set password which, in fact, is blank. The user just clicks on enter and the drive then opens. It is then ready to have one's own password set.

Now that that has been achieved, however, the U256 (sounds a little like a German U-Boat, I know) drive works well, considering though that it takes over a minute to bring up the password prompt interface in order to the secure drive then, after entering the password, too open in about 10 to 15 seconds.

The latter time is fine and more than acceptable, I should think, but, as far as I am concerned, the time for the launching of the password interface in order to be able to open the secure drive is way too long a delay.

On the other hand, the price that I was quoted by the representative of the company at Storage Expo 2009, where I received the review sample, for the 2GB version of 15 Pounds Sterling is in that bracket that one could be happy enough, I guess, to accept that delay that I mentioned above.

If the price is correct then this is a dual-drive that comes at a very reasonable price and the one or other hiccup could be overlooked. The instruction manual, on the other hand, needs serious re-translating as a few things – and I am rather gentle here in what I am saying – have been completely wrongly interpreted and some is outright Chinglish.

While it is said that the drive also, aside from Windows 98/98SE/2000/XP/Vista & Windows 7, works on Mac OS 9x/X and Linux 2.4x kernel. However, the AES256 encryption does only work with the Windows operating systems.

Maybe one day we will actually get a AES256 secured device that will work on Linux seeing that many governments and agencies are migrating to Linux OS. We can but wish and hope, I guess.

© 2009