Lexar Media has 'dramatically expanded' the storage capabilities of its USB flash drives after announcing a 16GB memory stick that comes bundled with a number of security features, including encryption and a file shredder.

Lexar said that the JumpDrive Secure II Plus memory stick is ideally positioned to provide secure and portable storage for mobile professionals needing to backup large amounts of data - like prisoners' data.

The JumpDrive Secure II Plus already comes in 512MB, 1GB, 2GB, 4GB and 8GB versions. The stick features a built-in 10-bar capacity metre on the casing, so that users can visually gauge the available storage space on their flash drives without plugging it into a computer.

The latest 16GB JumpDrive Secure II Plus is both PC- and Mac-compatible, and comes pre-loaded with encryption software. Users can create multiple password-protected areas on the stick using 256-bit AES encryption. They can then simply drag files into these secure areas for automatic encryption. When the files are dragged out again, they are automatically decrypted.

Lexar is not alone in offering tough encryption on removable media. In April, memory giant Kingston announced the Data Traveler 'Blackbox,' which featured 256-bit AES hardware-based encryption, compliant with the tough FIPS (Federal Information Processing Standard) 140-2 Level 2 standard. Others, such as Ironkey, also claim to offer the world's most secure flash drives offering military grade AES encryption.

The JumpDrive stick meanwhile also comes with a 'File Shredder' feature, which allows users to discard files, including the hidden "digital trail" normally left behind when files are deleted. Lexar claims that files that have been deleted using the File Shredder feature are completely deleted, and cannot be recovered by file recovery tools.

"Today's consumers are looking for maximum storage capacity and advanced security protection in their USB storage devices," said Darrell Hill, senior product marketing manager at Lexar Media.

The JumpDrive stick also comes pre-loaded with a free 30-day trial of Dmailer V7 software, which normally retails for $29.95 (£16.30). This software effectively transforms your drive into a personalised PC for users on the move, as it allows for the easy backup and synchronising of data files, including those from Microsoft Outlook and Outlook Express.

Physically, the JumpDrive stick measures just 49.70mm x 20.75mm x 10.50mm, and features the usual keychain hole, making it easy to tether onto a key ring. It also has a protective cap for security and a blue LED tail that blinks during data transfer, so users know when a transfer job is complete.

The 16GB Lexar JumpDrive Secure II Plus will be available beginning in September for a suggested retail price of $99 (£54). UK pricing is still to be announced.

The security risks posed by memory sticks have been well publicised. Last December, a Ponemon survey revealed that more than half of respondents said they had personally copied confidential company information into USB memory stick, even though more than 87 percent admitted that company policy forbade them from doing so.

Then in April SanDisk also warned that IT managers were underestimating the extent to which unsecured flash drives was being brought into their organisations. It quoted evidence from a study of corporate end-users and IT executives, which found that 77 percent corporate end-users admitted to using personal flash drives for work-related purposes. However, when asked to estimate what percentage of the workforce used personal flash drives, corporate IT respondents said only 35 percent.

Meanwhile companies such DeviceLock have stepped in to the breech by offering a system to counter the growing use of removable storage devices - such as memory sticks - in the removal of sensitive information from corporate networks.