Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Kanguru Defender Elite secure flash drive Review

One can never be too careful about sensitive data, which is why if you are a top honcho of a multi-national corporation, you need to call in the experts. Kanguru Solutions is a U.S-based manufacturer of FIPS 140-2 Certified, hardware encrypted flash drives and other security solutions. Their products feature some of the highest forms of security provisions, like 256-bit AES encryption and FIPS 140-2 certification. Today, we’ll be taking a look at their flash drives, v.i.z the Defender Elite. With storage capacities starting from 2GB and going all the way up to 128GB, there are plenty of options depending on the type of data you’ll be storing. 

Build quality and Features 
We received the Defender Elite and the Defender V2, but we’ll be reviewing just the Elite, since that’s the top of the line model. You can have a look at the various features of the drives below:
A tough little thing
A tough little thing

The flash drive looks very simple just like any other flash drive. Unlike the V2 and the Basic editions though, the Elite is built using a tamperproof epoxy filling making it a little bit more secure. All of them feature a rugged aluminium housing, which means it should easily be able to survive a good thrashing. The package contains a quick install guide, warranty card, lanyard and the drive itself. The head of the USB is protected by a transparent plastic cap. There’s a physical write-protection switch on the side, which when engaged stops you from accidental transfer of unwanted files onto the secure partition. This helps stop malicious code from sneaking onto the drive, in case you plug it into an infected PC.
The various features available
The various features available

The Kanguru Defender Elite (KDFE) supports 256-bit AES hardware encryption and is the only one out of the three to be FIPS 140-2 Level 2 certified. This complies with the U.S federal security accreditation program managed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology. This is also the only flash drive in its range that’s compatible with a Mac and 32-bit Linux support. According to Kanguru, the drive is shock resistant up to 1000Gs and can operate in temperatures from 0 degrees Celsius up to 70 degrees Celsius. Other features involve a built-in anti-virus that not only protects data on the drive, but also can be used to scan the PC you’re using. This feature only works on Windows. It also supports Kanguru Remote Management Console (KRMC), which lets you control your flash drive from anywhere in the world. This optional subscription based service lets you remotely delete data on stolen drives, manage passwords, etc.  

Setting up the drive is simple. After you plug it in, the KDME program will automatically start allowing you to setup the password, anti-virus and so on. Once there, you’ll be prompted with a login screen. Remember, since the entire drive is encrypted, there is no public partition, so you won’t see any drive under ‘Mass Storage’ in Windows, until you enter the password. Once you do that, KDME will mount the encrypted partition allowing you to copy files back and forth. If you have the write-protection switch ‘On’, then it becomes a read-only drive. If you forget the password, you’ve had it as the only solution is to reset the drive which erases all the data, so it acts as a fail-safe as well.
Setup is dead simple
Setup is dead simple

All the drives are USB 2.0 with a suggested read speed of 20-33MB/s and a write speed of 10-13MB/s. Since our review unit was only 1GB, we couldn’t use our usual 2GB assorted and sequential files. Instead, we used a 575 MB folder of pictures for the assorted test and a 718 MB video file for the second test. 

Write – 5.1MB/s
Read – 14.3MB/s

Write – 5.98MB/s
Read – 16.3MB/s

The real world speeds weren’t exactly close to the rated speeds, so this was a bit disappointing. If you happen to enable the anti-virus option, remember that it downloads the program onto the drive, which does take up some space.
Access all the features right from the system tray
Access all the features right from the system tray

So, if you have a small capacity drive, to begin with, it could be a problem. Also, you need to keep in mind not to format the drive, since that will erase the anti-virus as well and then you have to start over. We couldn’t try out the remote monitoring feature, as it required purchasing a license. Throwing the drive around the place didn’t seem to do much damage, either, as it still worked just fine.   

Kanguru is soon going to discontinue the 1GB model, so the pricing for the 2GB Elite is Rs.3,400, V2 is Rs.2,600 and the Basic goes for Rs.2,300. We can’t really compare this to anything in the market, right now, and certainly not to a regular flash drive, as it’s designed for a very niche market. As far as security is concerned, the Defender Elite seems capable enough to guard the most sensitive data. We do wish the transfer speeds would have been better or that Kanguru updates these models to USB 3.0.

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