Kingston Ironkey™ Vault Privacy 50C 64GB Flash Drive
Kingston Ironkey Vault Privacy 50C 64GB Flash Drive Review
USB sticks are commodities. Go to a trade show, and people giving them away filled with product literature (which, yes, increasingly is just a QR code with an ink to a web directory)—are found abandoned on desktops, in hotel rooms, and classrooms.
I should say USB sticks are commodities until they are not commodities, and such is the case with the Kingston Ironkey Vault Privacy 50C 64GB Flash Drive—a standard enough looking USB stick until you stick it into a computer, and it asks for a password.
What we like
Kingston Ironkey USB sticks are not new. What’s new, however, is multiple access levels designed into the Vault Privacy 50C. The drive supports administrator-level support and user support. With both accounts turned on, the device supports password resets and other features.
Also new is the passphrase mode, which supports numeric PINs, sentences with space characters, lists of words, or other phrases (like lyrics, a line of Shakespeare, or a curse)—from 10 to 64 characters long.
The core technology of the Kingston Ironkey Vault Privacy 50C still circles around XTS-AES 256-bit encryption. It only rates FIPS 197 certifications as the hardware is not as robust as earlier versions, like the D3000 series, rated FIPS 140-2 Level 3 certifications based on the enhanced physical attributes. In either case, even if the drive becomes physically compromised, the data won’t be readable by hackers without a key.
Kingston also includes Dual Read-Only (Write-Product) settings to stave off malware attacks in sketchy environments. This feature can be set by users or admins.
DO NOT LOSE YOUR PASSWORD. Although you can reset the flash drive, you will not be able to recover your data. I tested it. After several tries, the drive locks and requires a reset back to factory defaults—which means back to blank. Small and medium businesses can set up password recovery as well.
Because the drive locks, the “eye” icon in the upper right of the screen can be clicked so the user can ensure they entered the password correctly. A virtual keyboard built into the app helps shield keyloggers and screen loggers from capturing the password.
Kingston ships the disk with Mac and PC compatibility facilitated through a directory that contacts software for both and a FAT32 file format. Once I set up the drive, I reformatted it to the exFAT to accommodate larger files.
A small nylon loop accompanied the version of the drive provided at CES, though the Amazon image does not show that part of the package in its images.
I like that the company now makes USB-C and USB-A versions of the USB-B 3.2 Gen 1 drive that reads at 250MB/s and writes at 180/MBs for 8GB-128GB drives. The 256GB version runs a bit slower. Drive capacities go up to 256GB. Kingston includes a 5-year warranty and free technical support.
The software is straightforward on first use (and after resets). Just create a strong passphrase or password with a hint and get going. Admins can do a lot more, such as managing the drive’s other users, offering one-time password resets, and enabling read-only mode.
What could be improved
For a secure drive labeled as an iron key, I would like to see the Kingston Ironkey Vault Privacy 50C with an environmental rating for water and dust as well as a connected cap (so the cap can’t fall off and be lost, exposing the connector to the elements) or, alternatively, a connection retraction mechanism to help ensure the physical integrity of the drive.
All the encryption available doesn’t mean much if the USB connector gets bent or smashed (although that is a way to ensure more people can’t access the drive, including its owner). Those looking to secure information want to make sure that security extends beyond the virtual world—but they still want to access it when they need it. The cap security connection suggestion rolls over from our D3000 series review.
While the new Ironkeys are lighter than the D3000 series, the material is also not as robust. I like the Ironkey to feel, well, like iron. This drive, and its FIPS rating, however, clearly inform knowledgeable buyers about what they are and are not getting in terms of physical capabilities.
I’m also not a big fan of the tiny lanyard holes on the drive. I got one to go in, but (a) it wasn’t the one that came with the drive—which was seemingly vacuumed up from the floor of my Las Vegas hotel room after an initial installation tussle, and (b) it took way too long with too many makeshift tools to be worth the effort. Give me a good loop of metal or nylon pre-installed. If it proves too hard and too expensive to pre-install, it’s probably also not a good customer value or experience.
I also don’t like that the Ironkey ejects from MacOS automatically when it times out, which complicates using it—as it must be remounted, not just have its password re-entered.
Kingston Ironkey Vault Privacy 50C 64GB Flash Drive: The bottom line
Kingston continues to make flash drives aimed at protecting valuable personal and business information. The new dual password system on the Kingston Ironkey Vault Privacy 50C creates a more flexible user environment without overcomplicating the experience or compromising data.
Those looking for even more physically robust drives should consider the older D3000, which only comes in sizes up to 128GB.
Kingston provided the Kingston Ironkey Vault Privacy 50C for review. Images courtesy of Kingston unless otherwise noted.
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