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Kingston's New Encrypted SSD Unlocks Via Touch Screen

Kingston VP80ES
(Image credit: Kingston)

Kingston's latest encrypted external SSD is designed to be as friendly for consumers to use as it is devilish for hackers to try and crack.  The new Kingston IronKey Vault Privacy 80 External SSD VP80ES unlocks like a smartphone, with its intuitive touchscreen, and then enables simple drag-and-drop file transfers. Meanwhile, hackers face a FIPS 197 certified OS-independent device which safeguards against Brute Force attacks and BadUSB with digitally-signed firmware and XTS-AES 256-bit encryption.

Many storage devices you can buy nowadays come with some kind of encryption tools bundled, or if not you can use BitLocker (might be an extra to pay for depending on your version of Windows). However, some of the software is OS specific, or it will require you complete a number of preparatory tasks some users will be tempted to put off until 'later'. Kingston reckons its IronKey Vault Privacy 80 External SSD VP80ES addresses all these weaknesses, and is a friction free alternative to secure data storage needs for any platform.

The first thing you will notice about the VP80ES is its handy compact shape is dominated by a color touch screen on one side. You will mostly be interacting with the touch screen to unlock the drive after plugging it into your computer or other smart device. In many of the pictures you can see a numpad for inputting a passcode or PIN. You can flip to text input to use a password or phrase instead (6-64 characters). As well as unlocking the device you will use the touchscreen for setup / configuration, and it will display useful status messages.

Some specifics about passcode and passphrase access provided by Kingston include the fact that there are multi-level password options. Specifically, you can set up admin and user passwords. It has an option to respond to brute-force attacks by crypto-erasing the drive "if the Admin and User passwords are entered incorrectly 15 times." Users can set this data destruction to kick in at their own choice of between 10 and 30 wrong password attempts.

The drive is similarly protected against USB firmware shenanigans. The publicity materials for the VP80ES mention it is protected against BadUSB, which is a computer security attack method using a reprogrammed controller, often used to inject malicious code into the victim's device.

(Image credit: Kingston)

Another nice feature of this device is that it has a read-only mode which you can toggle. This is useful if you know you are only going to be reading data from the drive and not writing / saving anything. Read-only mode is a must if you are going to use this drive on any system you suspect of being compromised.

If someone were to remove the SSD from this device, they would find all data is obscured with FIPS 197 certified XTS AES 256-bit encryption.

With the security features discussed above, it is time to mention some of the standard portable SSD specs you will be familiar with. Firstly, the Kingston IronKey Vault Privacy 80 External SSD is being made available in three capacities; 480GB, 960GB, and 1,920GB. The best performance you can get from this device is up to 250 MBps read, and the same for writes.

(Image credit: Kingston)

The drive has a USB 3.2 Gen1 port using a Type-C form factor, and the package includes both a Type-C to C and a Type-C to A cable, as well as a neoprene travel case. Kingston's VP80ES measures 122.5 x 84.2 x 18.5 mm but we don't have a weight. Buyers get a three year warranty. The 480GB, 960GB, and 1,920GB drives are listed by BHPhotoVideo (opens in new tab) at $437, $535, and $762 respectively, but they are waiting for stock expected within a fortnight.

Mark Tyson is a Freelance News Writer at Tom's Hardware US. He enjoys covering the full breadth of PC tech; from business and semiconductor design to products approaching the edge of reason.