11 May 2005

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The secure way to travel with Data

At first glance this little unit looks just like any other USB flash drive. It's small and light, pulls apart into two sections to reveal the USB connector, and is available in a range of storage capacities. Look a little closer, though, and you might wonder about the purpose of the bronze-coloured square in the middle.
The answer is that it's a fingerprint recognition sensor. This feature of the unit makes it rather more interesting than the usual flash drives, and makes it seem rather futuristic, too. But does it work?
The short answer is; yes it does. Using the supplied software, it's pretty easy to configure the unit to recognize up to five different fingerprints. Your data can then be secured so that only the person with the appropriate fingerprint can access it. No drivers are needed for recent versions of Windows, and a driver is provided for Windows 98 SE users. There's no obvious support for Linux or Mac systems.
This unit also supports USB 2.0, which makes for fast data transfer, and an extension cable is provided should your USB ports be in an inaccessible position. A carrying lanyard is also included in the box.
In addition, you can install the supplied secure screen-saver, so that access to your computer is locked unless the Biodisk 2.0 is plugged in and the correct fingerprint is used. For safety, though, there's also a back-door password that can be set on the screen-saver, in case the fingerprint sensor is damaged.
And there's the rub, of course. If you secure your data using the fingerprint sensor, with no back-door password, that data is effectively lost should the sensor become damaged. If you use a back-door password then the data is no more secure than with a password alone.
And, although it's not likely to happen to your average computer user in the street, there have been instances of people's fingers being cut off in order to steal biometrically-protected items, most recently a car.
Still, staying in the realms of the probable, this is an interesting feature to add to a removable storage drive, and is likely to give a little peace of mind to people needing to transfer secure data from one machine to another, or keep a backup of important, personal information.

CardMedia - Biodisk 2.0 features - Verdict
This is an inexpensive introduction to biometrically-secured data storage. There are flaws in the principle itself, but the actual Biodisk 2.0 does what it's supposed to do with little fuss. Worth a look if you're of a paranoid nature and passwords simply won't suffice.

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