Apricorn Aegis Bio drive puts data security at your fingertips
USB drive line combines encryption and smooth fingerprint authentication in an affordable bundleFollow @infoworld
If budget constraints prevent you from getting a new laptop with full drive encryption, you can still add a strong protection layer to your data when traveling or when at your desk. Enter Aegis Bio, (Aegis, I am reminded, is the name of Zeus' shield ), a new line of USB drives from Apricorn offering out-of-the-box 128-bit hardware-based AES encryption and biometric authentication with a fingerprint reader.
[ ApricornAegis Bio was selected for an InfoWorld Technology of the Year award. See the slideshow to view all the winners in the storage category. ]
After using the Aegis Bio for some time, I found the drive to be a fine alternative to having full-drive encryption on your laptop, or a secure backup device if your laptop data is already encrypted. The fingerprint reader, however, had me puzzled at first, and the unit's administrative tools are a bit slim for corporate deployments.
For my evaluation I received from Apricorn an 80GB Aegis Bio (capacities range from 80GB to 250GB) in its standard commercial packaging, including a CD with the fingerprint management applications and some ancillary software.
The drive has a built-in USB cable that folds neatly in a groove when at rest. In addition to a padded pouch, I also found in the box a Y-cable, one female to two males -- useful if not enough juice flows from just one USB port on your machine.
Measuring about 5 by 3.25 inches and weighing about 6 ounces, the drive may not be something you want to carry in your front shirt pocket; finding a place in your laptop bag shouldn't be a problem, though.
On top of the unit a double indentation -- think of two inclines converging at the lower side -- guides you to the built-in TouchStrip Fingerprint Sensor from Upek.
I was prepared for some frustrating attempts to make not-quite-ripe fingerprint-reading technology work, but I was wrong. After installing the Aegis Bio Protector Suite on my Windows XP laptop and following a short tutorial, I found that scanning a fingerprint was easy and reliable.
Keeping a steady hand is essential to taking a good sweep of your fingerprint. If your hands are shaking -- which could happen after pumping iron, for example -- trying to use the reader could be frustrating. There's a workaround, however: using the old-fashioned password.
In fact, the installation script will direct you to choose a backup password, an alternative to fingerprint authentication that you can use if there is a reader malfunction or when scanning a fingerprint is not possible or practical.
The fingerprint enrollment is the final step of the installation, during which you'll take three consistent readings of one, two, or up to all 10 of your fingers.
It didn't take me long to store the pattern of my two index fingers, but I was puzzled to discover that scanning different fingers didn't always trigger a mismatch during the enrollment.