Review: Kingston IronKey D300S, A Flash Drive for Dystopian Techies

Review: Kingston IronKey D300S, A Flash Drive for Dystopian Techies

Review: Kingston IronKey D300S

Kingston Ironkey D300 S Series 128GB model

Review: Kingston IronKey D300S: At first glance, the Kingston IronKey is just another memory stick. At 77.9 mm x 22.2 mm x 12.05 mm it runs “standard size” versus the more diminutive drives like the Kingston DataTravler or the SanDisk Ultra Fit Drives.

But put the drive in a USB port on a Mac or PC and things change. There is no plug-and-play with the IronKey. It mounts a “CD” image and requires an encryption password to reveal its content.

Our review unit was the serialized (S) series model, which provides network administrators a printed serial number on the device to identify a drive. This helps with drive deployment, assuring that InfoSec knows who received which cataloged drive, as well as a mechanism for better managing returns. The serial number also helps reconnect lost or misplaced drives to their owners. The S series alternative mouse-based login sequence executes via a virtual keyboard for English-language Microsoft Windows deployments which helps thwart keylogging hacks (or enterprise systems that track keyboard input).

Another model, the Managed or M model, leverages SafeConsole by DataLocker (purchased separately) for centralized management of encrypted drives.

All of this security comes at a price. 4GB drives run $65 undiscounted. 128GB models retail for $338. Buyers will have to decide if data protection is worth this hardware investment. Several groups, including military, aerospace, tech start-ups, and legal teams will likely find the answer to be yes.

Kingston Ironkey D300 Managed Box

What we like

The heavy-duty case looks like it will take on a large truck and remain viable. There is no crush rating, but I’m guessing it’s pretty high.

Built-in anti-information theft software includes digitally signed firmware that makes the drive immune to BadUSB (this ars technica post for more info on BadUSB).

The real key to the IronKey D300S comes in the form of AES hardware-based encryption employing FIPS 140-2 Level 3 256-bit in XTS mode. Kingston encases the hardware in a tamper-evident epoxy. This makes for a much more secure, and self-sufficiently portable device than one, for instance, that leverages BitLocker on Windows.

The IronKey will survive 4 feet of water. It isn’t just water-resistant, it is waterproof (complying with IEC60529 IPX8).

And yes, it’s a USB 3.1 drive, so it supports speedy data exchange with up to 250MB/s read, 85MB/s write speeds.

I’m never going to leave this drive tucked into a USB port as I’ve done with very small drives. But I am going to keep proprietary documents backed up on it should anyone ever come looking to steal them when I’m on the road.

The user experience starts with a device of some heft for its size making a statement about the hardware. It ends with files that unfold after security key entry. That entire chain of events reinforces the IronKey’s value proposition.

The user experience starts with a device of some heft for its size making a statement about the hardware. It ends with files that unfold after security key entry. That entire chain of events reinforces the IronKey’s value proposition.

What could be improved

The cap is a separate piece of plastic from the more robust metal case. As a cap goes, the snug fit and heavy plastic align well with the overall design. Lost caps, however, expose the connector and the device could be damaged. Some cap security or a retractable connector would make the device feel even more secure. Perhaps rather than a “keychain” loop on the end of the drive (which also secures the includes wire fastening loop), a couple of loops, one on the device and one on the cap couple work. The loops would retain “keychain” functionality and help secure the cap. That might make for a more awkward design, but the IronKey will always be a security-driven purchase, not an aesthetic one.

I would love to see a consumer version of serialization tracking, in which Kingston provides an option for customers to register drives, at least for lost-and-found purposes.

Finally, a USB-C version might make the retractable connector a more viable solution. The shift to USB-C would seriously influence the design, but with many devices now sporting USB-C connectors, it seems an extra effort to carry a hub to enable a security scenario. Though if security drives behavior, then you do what you need to do.

Kingston IronKey D300: Bottom line

Anyone who needs strong USB encryption in a solid package, the Kingston IronKey should sit at the top of the list. The drive offers flexible management configurations, but the extra security drives up the cost well above lesser flash drives.


Kingston provided a 32GB IronKey DS300S for review purposes.

For more about Kingston from Serious Insights click here.

32GB IronKey DS300S

Design
Features
Value

Summary

A rugged and secure USB-A memory stick. Waterproof. Pricy. Would benefit from a more secure cap for its USB port. But for securing data, the AES hardware-based encryption employing FIPS 140-2 Level 3 256-bit in XTS mode says it all.

3.7

For hardware reviews from Serious Insights click here.

Daniel W. Rasmus

Daniel W. Rasmus, Founder and Principal Analyst of Serious Insights, is an internationally recognized speaker on the future of work and education. He is the author of several books, including Listening to the Future and Management by Design.

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