There are USB flash drives, and then there are USB flash drives. We recently got our hands on the Lexar JumpDrive SAFE FIPS certified USB flash drive and have taken it out for a spin. Don’t think that all USB flash drives are alike – some of them do come with added security features while others are tough nuts to crack – I’m pleased to report that the Lexar JumpDrive SAFE S3000 FIPS satisfies both categories without missing a beat. Read on in the extended post for the full review.
First of all, let us get the technicalities aside. The Lexar JumpDrive SAFE S3000 FIPS comes with a couple of acronyms, where SAFE stands for Secure Access For Enterprise while FIPS is short for Federal Information Processing Standards. The main purpose for the Lexar JumpDrive SAFE S3000 FIPS is to assist government, military and enterprise users to carry their data around while meeting agency directives, offering users enterprise-level security that was specially scaled to meet the budget and performance demands of small businesses.
In order to make sure that you get top level security treatment for your precious data, the Lexar JumpDrive SAFE S3000 FIPS will merge a trio of key elements in no particular order – hardware-based AES 256-bit Encryption on all data stored within, a tamper-resistant smartcard that will manage all security critical computations and a rugged metal housing that is able to protect against physical damage. With the third element, we don’t mean driving a Hummer over it and backing up over and over again, but more of accidental drops and knocks which won’t scathe the information within, although the exterior might look a wee bit battered.
Some people might think that the encryption process will slow down the drive’s performance, but Lexar claims otherwise as theirs is a hardware-based 256-bit AES engine that is capableof performing on-the-fly encryption without impacting performance and missing a beat, hitting 30MB/s in read time and 22MB/s in write time – albeit under internal testing conditions.
Those who are familiar with Lexar products might mistake the Lexar JumpDrive SAFE S3000 FIPS for the vanilla, non-FIPS model, where the latter will boast a 16GB option while the former maxes out at 8GB, although the FIPS version will boast a more rugged, tamper-resistant and waterproof metal housing, and has been specially certified to work in Windows Vista being a desktop-based device management.
Nice to know the Lexar JumpDrive SAFE S3000 FIPS is a plug-and-play device with no need to install a driver or software on the host computer, and better yet one won’t require administrator privileges for it to run. The first insertion of the Lexar JumpDrive SAFE S3000 FIPS will see a setup program run, where you can choose to set up your passphrase and secret question just in case you accidentally lock yourself out by forgetting the passphrase (or having someone attempt to make 5 unauthorized entries in a row). Bear in mind that each incorrect login attempt will see an increase in delay in order to combat against a password dictionary attack. An important point to note is this – do remember the answer to your secret question, otherwise the Lexar JumpDrive SAFE S3000 FIPS will be permanently disabled with all the data within unrecoverable. In any case, you should always make a backup copy of all your data somewhere else instead of relying on just a USB flash drive.
I like the build of the Lexar JumpDrive SAFE S3000 FIPS as it feels extremely solid and heavy in my hand. There is one gripe I have though – it comes with a removable cap that protects the USB connector, which means you run the risk of losing the cap should you get careless. Unfortunately, that is a necessary flaw (in my books anyway) since a retractable USB connector might not make the entire drive waterproof in any case. I have yet to purposely leave the Lexar JumpDrive SAFE S3000 FIPS spinning in my washing machine for a couple of cycles to see just how waterproof it is, but judging by the build quality through everyday usage, I wouldn’t want to bet against it.
So far, with me being my butterfingers self, I have dropped the Lexar JumpDrive SAFE S3000 FIPS a couple of times on a cold, hard cement floor and some asphalt with no detrimental effect to the data within although the exterior did experience a couple of scratches that adds character. Of course, the first time it kissed the floor, my heart did drop but for a moment.
In conclusion, I would say that the average computer user would have no need for this if all they do is transport work files, downloaded video and audio files and carry a collection of their favorite digital photos with them from home to the office and vice versa. They would do well enough with a much larger capacity USB flash drive sans all the mentioned security features, trading safety and security for storage space instead. As for folks who work with sensitive information, the Lexar JumpDrive SAFE FIPS certified USB flash drive would make for a decent purchase – while data files might not be larger than 4GB (unless you’re in the military and carry extremely sensitive information that might compromise national security should it fall into the wrong hands), it ought to pose a pretty tough challenge for even the most seasoned hacker to get into the Lexar JumpDrive SAFE’s innards.
Specifications and features :-
Security standard :-
- FIPS 140-2 Level 3 validated
- Waterproof MIL-STD-810F
- Gemalto. NET smart card
Data encryption :-
- Onboard AES hardware encryption
- 256-bit encryption key
- Chain Block Cipher (CBC) mode
- Blue LED
- Operates between 0 to 60 Celsius
- 2GB, 4GB and 8GB capacities
- Tamper-resistant rugged, waterproof metal housing
- Certified for Windows Vista
- 75mm x 25mm x 14mm
- 48 grams