GCN Lab Review | Virus killer in the palm of your hand

VaccineDrive combines key-drive simplicity with AV security

Performance: B+

Features: A-

Ease of use: A

Value: A-

Price: $65 for 128MB drive

Reviewer's comments: Putting antivirus software onto a key drive is an idea whose time has come. Beware of its aggressive nature.

Contact: Iocell Corp., Suwon City, South Korea, www.iocell.com

A friend of mine in the Navy told me that when sailors are let out on shore leave, they tend to bring viruses and other nasties back to the ship.

But he wasn't talking about disease. He meant the junk that sailors picked up on personal digital assistants and key drives.

Key drives have become a huge headache for administrators trying to keep their networks secure. They're extremely convenient'you can carry megabytes or even gigabytes of data on a tiny USB device and work with any modern computer. But convenience sometimes comes at a price, as viruses and other malware can get onto a network via the drives.

At FOSE this year, we were intrigued by a product called the VaccineDrive.
It's a USB key drive with embedded virus protection. The drives are still difficult to find in the United States (they're made by a South Korean company), though a few online merchants are selling the 128MB version for around $65 (they scale to 2GB). We received one to try out.

The virus protection engine on our drive took up 20MB of space, so only 108MB was actually available for files. But most users probably won't mind, given the protection they get.

When you plug the VaccineDrive into a PC running Windows XP, it will automatically find the correct drivers as a normal USB drive would. The only difference is that if the PC is connected to the Internet, the drive will seek out and update its virus profiles automatically.

You have to be careful not to remove the drive during this update process, which took about three minutes the first time we connected, but only a few seconds each time after that. A red LED light flashes to tell you the drive is busy and a pop-up window comes up on-screen.

Besides scanning every file you move on to and off of the key drive, the AV engine can also scan your entire computer or even network drives on command. And it's one of the most highly aggressive programs we've ever seen, flagging anything it thinks is adware, spyware or a virus.

For example, the VaccineDrive eliminated a little game we had installed. The game was free but had little ads that came up from time to time, so the VaccineDrive said it was adware and wiped it out. The problem: It did so without prompting us. From a security standpoint, that was probably the right move, but be careful of the software's aggressive nature, especially if you sic it on your local hard drive.

To its credit, the AV on the VaccineDrive never interfered with previously installed local virus protection on several of our test systems. And the price tag is good considering updates are free. The challenge could be getting your hands on one.

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