Encryption has crept on to a wide range of USB sticks, but they tend to involve loading some kind of key-entry interface from the drive itself. Nothing wrong with that, but a new drive from US company Systematic Development takes the concept of simplicity a stage further by including a Keypad on the drive itself.

The LOK-IT drive comes in two forms, a secure ‘consumer version’ with five number keys, and a more expensive hardcore version with ten keys which is also designed to resist physical tampering. We reviewed the simpler five-digit version.

The drive is set up by putting the drive into key setting mode and entering a chosen PIN of between seven and fifteen digits from 10 numbers printed two for each of the five keys. The status is indicated by red (locked), green (unlocked) and blue (docked) LEDs. The USB connector slips back inside a retractable hood for protection.

As with the DiskGenie, the advantage of using PIN entry is that it requires no software (so will run on any OS that supports USB) and involves carrying a number sequence around in your head.  A security aid is that PINs cannot feature consecutive or repeated numbers, so 1234567 is out.

In case of forgotten PINs, a master PIN can be set by admins, and the drive protects itself from guessing numbers by resetting itself after 10 incorrect attempts. And the battery to power the LEDs? The makers say that this recharges when it is plugged into the PC.

The five-key LOK-IT can be fiddly. Setting up a seven digit PIN with such tiny numbers is hard enough but doing it when there are two numbers per key requires careful pressing for anyone with adult fingers. We found turning the drive by 180 degree to access PINs on one side or other of the keypad the easiest way to avoid mistyping. If this is an issue we’d recommend either the more manageable 10-digit model or just using a conventional plug-in and password flash drive.

That said, anyone who wants a cross-platform drive (assuming you format it in a compatible way), and no software complexity will find this fairly cost-effective.

OUR VERDICT

PIN access on a flash drive. Five-digit version is fiddly to use.