Corsair Padlock 2GB USB Drive Review


Physical security for USB drives

Flash drives are becoming more and more popular in today’s digital lifestyle, as they are a convenient way to transport important data. These tiny devices are so small, that they can become easily lost or stolen, so how do you secure your personal information? Some of these devices incorporate password features in the drive’s firmware, and you can add encryption to any device, but a determined hacker can circumvent this software protection.

More and more portable media vendors are moving towards making their devices more secure, as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, HIPAA, and other initiatives now make digital trespassing a prosecutable crime. Manufacturing costs for these devices are also dropping, so adding more security to a drive doesn’t impact the manufacuring cost that much.

As previously mentioned, some USB drives use various methods to secure the precious data on the memory stick, but these software methods only logically lock the drive or encrypt its contents. One of the problems with a software method is that the protection can be circumvented by using another OS or running a password-checking program.

Corsair has delivered an answer to this problem with their Padlock line of USB flash drives. These drives use a physical numeric keypad, combined with a hardware mechanism to lock or unlock the drive before use. Once locked, no computer will be able to use it, regardless of the platform. The hardware protects the drive at its lowest level, so not even a drive letter is mapped.

The Flash Padlock contains a flash memory controller and flash memory IC (as all USB flash drives do). However, the Padlock is also equipped with a six-button keyboard and seperate security processor.

The security processor enables or disables operation of the Flash Padlock drive. When the drive is disabled, it will be completely invisible to the system that it is plugged into (much like a printer that is not powered up). When the combination is successfully entered, the drive is activated, and operates as a normal USB flash drive. This operation continues until the drive is unplugged from the system.

The combination itself is programmable and can be entered regardless of whether the drive is plugged into the computer. If the onboard battery ever fails, you can still enter the combination once the drive is plugged into a powered USB port.