Portable vault

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Storage on the run

Portable USB storage devices are practically a dime a dozen these days, so we perked up when we came across one that stands out in the crowd.

When we first saw it in April, the KanguruMicro Drive AES from Kanguru Solutions was the only USB flash drive on the market attempting to earn Federal Information Processing Standard 140-2 validation to certify it as secure for government use.

The drive uses 256-bit Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) to encrypt its contents, and it meets Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement and Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act regulations.

Like many USB flash drives, this one allows users to partition the storage space into virtual drives, though in this case you are creating an unprotected public drive and a secure private drive. To create the protected area, called the Security Drive, the user runs an application called Kanguru Lock that resides on the device. The Security Drive then appears as a new hard drive on the user's PC, and the files stored on it are encrypted. The user can access the Security Drive and decrypt files only by entering the correct password.

You can configure the size of the Security Drive and change it at any time, but changing the size reformats the entire device so you should first back up your files elsewhere.

To maximize space on the Security Drive, Kanguru offers file compression in the form of a Zip folder. You can simply drag files into this folder and they are compressed into .zip files. When you drag them out, they automatically unzip.

You can use other tools such as WinZip and PKZIP to unzip files compressed by Kanguru, but the reverse does not apply. In other words, Kanguru will not unzip files compressed by other tools.

The device can be used as an unprotected storage device with Microsoft Windows 98/ XP/Me/2000, Apple Computer Mac 8.6 and up, and Linux Kernel 2.4.10 or higher. However, the AES encryption will not work with the Macintosh or Linux operating systems.

Drivers are not required unless you use Windows 98/98SE. Kanguru provides the drivers on the device itself and on a bundled CD-ROM.

Our review unit had a capacity of 128M and a price tag of $49.95. The devices are available in five additional sizes ranging from 256M ($69.95) to 4G ($599.95).

— Michelle Speir

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