Security Products'Hardware: Kanguru's little device gives you sleight of hand security

Kanguru Wizard

Company: Kanguru Solutions, Millis, Mass., www.kanguru.com.

Nutshell: Keychain-sized USB device, with 16M of storage and 128-bit encryption that lets you create up to eight virtual drives on a PC for storing sensitive information. The data is invisible to users without the Wizard and its password.

Price: $50.

Why it won: Innovative and inexpensive approach to securing PC data. Helps users keep sensitive data separate from other files and prevents accidental or intentional access by unauthorized users.

The tiny USB Wizard lets you create now-you-see-it-now-you-don't virtual drives.

Henrik G. de Gyor

Protecting confidential data is one of the hardest things to accomplish outside a secure area, particularly if you're always bringing data back from the road. It's one thing to keep your documents organized; it's quite another to keep them safe.

On shared computers, or computers in a shared environment, you not only need to keep your data in order, but you might need to keep sensitive and nonsensitive data separate as well.

Small package

The Kanguru Wizard from Kanguru Solutions of Millis, Mass., can make the difference.

It's a tiny portable storage device capable of holding up to 16M of data. There's nothing unique about keychain storage devices'what's im-pressive about the Wizard is the security it can give sensitive material.

The device comes with software that lets you create up to eight virtual drives on a PC hard drive. These virtual drives, which can be as large as 2G each, are encrypted and invisible when the USB Wizard is removed. In essence, the tiny device becomes a token revealing up to 16G of information otherwise hidden on a PC.

Each Wizard is password protected and comes with a unique emergency password in case the user password is lost. Nate Cote, vice president of product management for Kanguru, said layered security is important to federal users.

'In order to access information that is protected by the Kanguru Wizard, a user must first insert the Wizard into their USB port and then, to get to the data, they must type in a secret password, thus creating two security methods to reaching the data,' Cote said.

Hiding selected data, rather than encrypting an entire computer, 'allows a user to secure data on a machine without limiting that computer to one user,' he said.

Other users can access less-sensitive data without even knowing the secured information is there. 'This eliminates the curiosity factor,' Cote said. 'No one will try to access data they can't see.'

More than one user, using separate Wizards, can create virtual drives of their own on the same PC.

After using the Wizard for several months in the GCN Lab, what surprised me most is how ex-tremely easy it is to use, even if you're not accustomed to in-stalling peripherals. It operates on most Microsoft Windows platforms including 98, ME, 2000 and XP'and requires no device drivers with 2000 and XP.

Creating a virtual disk is as easy as installing and removing the device. Simply go to the Windows Start menu, then Programs, and left-click on 'create virtual disk.'

When creating a virtual disk, the user is not limited to the c: drive. The virtual disk setup lets you explore for other places to install the secure partitions.

The USB drive has 128-bit en-cryption and measures 75 mm by 23 mm by 11 mm. Although it uses USB Version 1.1 rather than the faster 2.0, 11 Mbps is more than enough bandwidth for 16M of data.

The Wizard's small frame makes it durable, and the company says it can withstand more than 1 million write cycles.

All in all, it delivers a lot of security for its $50 price.

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