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Imation Defender F200 Flash Drive Has Spy Appeal

At a Glance
  • Imation Defender F200 USB 1GB Biometric Flash Drive

    PCWorld Rating

    Very cool biometric protection and FIPS 140-2 level 3 validation make this flash drive highly secure--but it'll cost you.

Everyone wants to feel a little James or Jane Bond-ish every once in a while. And nothing beats Imation's Defender F2000 Biometric Flash drive when it comes to spy-like sex appeal. Pull your flash drive out, jack it into your notebook, and swipe your finger across its biometric fingerprint reader it to enable it. How cool, not to mention convenient, is that?

Mind you, the F200 is not the first flash drive with biometric reader built-in. But it is the first we've seen that's validated to level 3 of FIPS 140-2 government security guideline. Not compliant, not designed to meet, but actually validated--a lengthy and expensive process.

This drive comes in five sizes and prices, with the 1GB option starting at $90, all the way up to around $300 for the largest capacity of 32GB, as of the publication date.

The device uses hardware AES 256-bit encryption and may be configured to use the biometric scanner, a password, or both for a double layer of security. You may define two fingers for validation, and excuse the morbidity, but it's recommended that you use one from each hand in case you lose the use of one arm. The device, you see, is designed for military use-and as such, it can withstand extremes as well (including cold, heat, and impact).

Unfortunately, the F200 does not allow you to hide or disable the CD emulating boot partition that it uses to deliver and auto-run (PC-only) its configuration and password software. Some workplaces don't want any type of executable file on removable drives that will be plugged into their PCs, so that might be an issue for some office environments.

The Access Standard software that comes with the drive is portable, so it runs from the flash drive without installation and supports both the PC and Mac. It's also easy to use and efficient. You configure the scanner, passwords, and can even reset the drive with it--given the proper authority that is; you can manage multiple users with it.

You might rightly expect biometrics to carry a heavy premium, but the price for larger-capacity versions of this drive scale particularly poorly, as in government-procurement poorly. As of Dec. 15, plain 1GB to 32GB flash drives ran from under $10 to just over $50. A 1GB Defender F200 cost $109 and a 2GB model $129, understandable premiums for what you get; but a 32GB cost $369--way beyond the extra cost of the memory.

Despite the high price, the F200 will have many takers; It's good looking, the finger-swiper is extremely convenient, and it's highly secure.

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At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    Very cool biometric protection and FIPS 140-2 level 3 validation make this flash drive highly secure--but it'll cost you.

    Pros

    • Biometric protection
    • FIPS 140-3 level 3 validated

    Cons

    • Pricey; large capacity models even more so
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