While flash drives are all the rage, they can be pretty insecure; to lose it is quite easy as they are so small. Should sensitive material be placed on one such drive, a thief would find getting information off such a device to be a walk in the park.
With that in mind, the ClipDriveBio integrates a biometric scanner with a flash disk. It is quite a bit larger than a normal flash drive but this is because of the scanner and the fact that it is designed to be rugged. We tested the 128MB version, there are other versions going up to a huge 2GB in size.
Enrolling a user to access the device takes several scans, which may sound like an inconvenience but makes for one of the most effective fingerprint scanners we have seen in this magazine. It also requires each user to enrol two different fingerprints, which is useful should one suffer an accident!
The device can enrol up to 16 different fingerprints. While users can be added one at a time, revoking a user means having to revoke all users which we though was an oversight. The vendor tells us that this problem is being looked into.
The drive itself is separated into public and private partitions. The public drive is accessible in the usual fashion and when we tested it, files on this partition could be seen from a variety of OSs, including Macs, Linux and BSD. However the private partition can only be viewed from a Windows-based PC after proper authentication with the fingerprint scanner.
Any files copied into the private partition are transparently encrypted (using AES), and decrypted when copied or accessed.
The public/private space can be resized (by default it is 50/50), but doing so wipes the data from both partitions, even if ample blank space is available. This is another area which the vendor should look into. Another downside to the product was there was no way to lock the device without physically removing it from the pc.
The device does not come with any paper documentation but the online help which is adequate.
Overall, the device is a fine example of a secure flash drive. Its price is about three times that of a similar-sized (but insecure) flash drive. If someone wanted to have secure storage on a flash disk they could use PGP to encrypt files, but this is a transparent and effective demonstration of how portable storage can be secured.