Even if you lost a Datashur Pro it's no use to anyone else, and your data is secure

Cyber security is a huge issue. So big that the Government started spending millions to shoehorn it into an already congested curriculum (see "Cyber security lessons offered to schools in England").

Teachers are urged to be “data driven” but pupil data must be carefully protected. And we’re so used to high-profile cases of sensitive digital material being lost that we may forget that this is also an everyday danger in education. Which is why it's worth checking out clever USB storage devices like the Datashur Pro – so secure that only an idiot or a GCHQ genius might try to open it.

Encryption on a computer can be very useful but it can also be very unwieldy. If your laptop is encrypted it can become almost unusable for everyday tasks (ask former NCSL employees) so why not just save the data on to a secure memory stick? There are a few ways of doing this but the Datashur Pro sorts out the security issue before it's even pushed into a computer's USB slot.

Enter code via mini-keyboard before connecting to PC


In fact your PC or Mac won't even see it unless you have already successfully entered your passcode and been given the green light. It’s a well-designed and robust (water and dust resistant) memory stick with its own mini alphanumeric keyboard. You simply press the bottom button bearing the key icon and enter your code. If a green light comes on you are in business and can put it into a USB slot and use it just like any other memory stick. If you are stuck with a red light the code is wrong and your computer will not recognise it. It simply won't show up on a Mac or PC so there is nothing visible to even try and hack. (There's also a blue light that indicates when it's successfully connected to a computer.)

Bear in mind that your password cannot be cracked – at least not by everyday means – because it has military grade encryption and conforms to all the recognised industry standards. I know us non-techies can't hack it because after using it for a few months I forgot my password and couldn't find where it was stored. I was totally locked out. So the first lesson here is store your password somewhere safe. 

You can set it up with a regular personal as well as an admin password. Why admin and personal passwords? Well an organisation like a school or college could set up devices for staff use that are loaded with data that cannot be changed by users (eg read-only corporate information like contact lists) while giving them plenty of space to store and retrieve their own data.

There are quite a few other useful permission options (a techie's delight in fact). But none of them are particularly interesting for the personal user unless you want to share the storage with friends or family. The safest option is to get into your Datashur Pro when you first get it by using the default 11223344 code and then set your own passcode and keep it safe.  

Lose your code and lose your data 

When I locked myself out I was ready to go through the procedure in the handbook – enter the wrong password 10 times so that it trashes the storage area and you start again with the default pass code (at least you don't lose your money as well as your data). However, a variation on what I remembered triggered the green light (to immense relief) and this passcode was immediately saved somewhere safe!

Personalised DatashurProThe review DatashurPro (8Gb) personalised by iStorageThe Datashur isn't much different from other USB drives apart from the keypad. It's just a little longer and has a protective metal sheath (that can be laser etched for ID/corporate purposes) with a keyring loop – but it's not really suitable for being kept in a pocket as only one memory stick has ever lasted the course on my keyring (a small, solid metal one). And no one would want to be putting their passcode in every five minutes so it's more suitable for storing important/sensitive information or maybe sitting in a USB drive for continuous backup.

There are other products to consider, like the Kingston DataTraveller for example (it even has its own version of the Datashur Pro which appears to be more expensive). But what is so appealing about the Datashur Pro is that the security is on the device itself and has to be accessed with physical keys before it can go anywhere near a computer's USB drive. Why is that so good? For this user it's because the security is independent of computers and their operating systems. I have experienced problems when an OS upgrade has led to a USB drive's software no longer being compatible with the computer, and that's a pain.

Another aspect worth bearing in mind is that iStorage's core business is safe storage – it's not an add-on. It has a range of other devices that are always being updated along with the cybersecurity standards – more than would satisfy a GCHQ spook.

Most people working in education handle two kinds of sensitive information – other people’s data and their own. The Datashur Pro is capable of handling both. Of course professional data should come within an institution's strategy/policy and this device is well worth the close attention of systems people. But it also has much to offer the individual user, and top of the list is peace of mind.

A Datashur Pro holds no interest for a thief 

We need to think carefully how we protect that data from various threats, and not just because someone could exploit that data. Just because a data breach might not be used for nefarious ends doesn't mean it might not be a problem. It introduces uncertainty and loss of confidence and that means taking action to restore security. That can be painful and expensive.

The worst threat is our own fallibility. It’s easier than people think to lose hardware or leave it in vulnerable places. Those civil servants and politicians who left their laptops in taxis didn’t think for a moment that was possible and that they would cause a security breach and be splashed across the pages of national newspapers.

That kind of thing simply couldn't happen with a device like a Datashur Pro. It is useless to a thief. And if you lost your own the worst that could happen is that you lose the data (presumably also held elsewhere). For many of us that represents peace of mind, and that rarely comes cheap. What's not to like, apart from the price?

Ratings (out of 5) 
Fitness for purpose 5
Ease of use               4
Features                   5
Quality                      4.5
Value for money     4.5

Datashur Pro  
Secure USB 3 memory stick with its own keypad, sleeve and keyring attachment, military level security, available in capacities from 4 to 64 gigabytes (around £60 to £130). 

More information  
Office of Cyber Security and Information Assurance  
Cyber Security Challenge 
Cyber security: programmes and resources for schools and further education  
ITPro's “Legal experts predict 600 per cent surge in data protection disputes”