Review: Kingston IronKey D500S Hardware-Encrypted USB Drive

Reviews Security USB drives
8.5

Great

About four years ago, we reviewed the Kingston IronKey D300S, a reliable, portable, and secure USB storage solution, meant for those who want to store and carry sensitive data on the go. The company had recently introduced the Kingston IronKey D500S, a successor to the previous D300S model. We got an opportunity to try out the new secured drive, and here are our thoughts about the device.

Design

The IronKey series line-up of USB devices is quite popular among users working in enterprises and businesses, who want to carry important information that would not easily fall into the wrong hands. Companies and employees are now encouraged to use encrypted and secured USB drives.

The D500S looks like a beefed-up version of any normal USB drive and features a rugged zinc casing with IP67 certification for dust and water resistance. Kingston says that the drive can withstand shocks and vibrations, and is certified by MIL-STD-810F military standards. This ensures that the data on the drive can handle harsh conditions. The D500S has a dimension of 77.9 mm x 21.9 mm x 12.0 mm. As compared to any other normal drive, the D500S does feel a bit heavy due to the rugged zinc casing.

Kingston did not introduce any design changes for the D500S, and it looks the same as the older IronKey D300S. It happens that we still use the older IronKey D300S and we decided to place them next to each other. As you can see, both have almost the same dimensions, design, LED placement, casing color, and shape. The only difference is the model number and the font.

Kingston has also included a keychain to use with the IronKey D500S drive, and it was the same as with the previous IronKey D300S.

Features and Interface

Back when I reviewed the IronKey D300S, the user interface of the IronKey app was something that looked very outdated. Kingston has introduced a brand new interface on the D500S that looks much better and easier to use. When going through the initialization process, the D500S IronKey app asks if the user prefers to use a complex password or a passphrase.

The addition of passphrases is a big boost to security because it will be a sentence or a phrase that you will only know and can easily remember. Users will also be able to add a hint, in case they forget the password. You can also enable the option called “Enable Admin and User Passwords”, so other users will have their credentials. You can also enable the option to reset the password for any user’s first-time log-in, so they can add the password they desire.

Once all the credentials are set for both admin and user access, you will be able to specify and configure how much storage should be allocated for both the admin and user partitions. This is another feature that was not available on the previous D300S.

I also would like to add that there is also a virtual keyboard option for those who are worried about keyloggers. The virtual keyboard also offers the option to enable screenlogger protection, so none of your credentials are stolen or captured by any malicious applications.

Users will be given the option to log in as a user or an admin. You can also set the user’s access as a read-only mode so other malicious files will not get copied to the drive. There are other passwords that you can set as an admin, such as the One-Time Recovery Password and the Crypto-Erase Password. While the new IronKey user interface looks very modern, I wish there was also a dark mode for the interface.

Security

The Kingston IronKey D500S doesn’t just include a military-grade casing, it’s also a FIPS 140-3 Level 3 (Pending) certified USB drive, along with the inclusion of a secure microprocessor for stronger security. The drive also meets the best practices of Data Loss Protection (DLP) with the toughest military-grade security for compliance with data encryption laws and regulations such as CMMC, SOC2, NIS2, FISMA, GDPR, PIPEDA, HIPAA, HITECH, GLBA, SOX, TAA, and CCPA.

The drive also incorporates digitally signed firmware, which is immune to BadUSB malware. In the case of password guessing, the drive also features a Brute force password attack, where the device will crypto-erase the storage and its sensitive contents if the invalid password attempts are exceeded. The crypto-erase feature ensures that all data stored on the device will be completely and securely destroyed to avoid unauthorized access, and the erased data cannot be recovered. And then there is the inclusion of Complex password or Passphrase mode, which we saw on the IronKey app UI. The Passphrase can be set from 10 to 128 characters long.

Performance

The user interface of the IronKey app is not the only thing that has changed on the IronKey D500S. For starters, the D500S uses a USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A physical interface for fast data transfers, and the data transfer speeds depend on the storage model. The D500S is available in 8GB, 16GB, 32GB, 64GB, 128GB, 256GB, and 512GB capacities. Kingston sent us the 255GB model for review.

The 8GB, 16GB, 32GB, 64GB, and 128GB versions feature a read speed of 260MB/s and a write speed of 190MB/s. The 256GB models come with a readout speed of 240MB/s, and a write speed of 170MB/s. Now, I’m not sure if this is a typo from Kingston’s website, but usually, the higher storage models have a faster read and write speed. But in this case, the 256GB model has a slower transfer speed than the lower storage models. That said, the 512GB model is the fastest in the bunch, featuring a read speed of 310MB/s, and a write speed of 250MB/s- exactly the point I mentioned above about higher storage and faster speeds.

To ensure that we get the maximum speed for our speed tests, we plugged in our D500S on our testbed which features the ASUS Crosshair X670 Hero motherboard. We connected the D500S to the USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A port and ran CrystalDiskBench. To our surprise, the drive was able to produce speed results that were even faster than what Kingston specified for the 512GB model too. We also tried using older USB 3.2 ports to check the speeds, and the performance was lower.

Verdict

The Kingston IronKey D500S is a good recommendation for those who want to store and move their sensitive data on a secured drive. The device is a FIPS 140-3 Level 3 (Pending) certified drive that meets the latest security standards, along with the inclusion of digitally-signed firmware to protect against BadUSB malware. The Brute force password attack protection ensures that data stays safe and is securely erased if invalid password retries are exceeded.

The device also offers users the option to use a complex password or a passphrase that can be from 10 to 128 characters, and the new user interface looks clean and easy to manage. For working environments where the drive is required by different users, the IT department will be able to make a separate hidden partition for admin access and another partition for user access. Performance-wise, the D500S uses a USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A physical interface for high-speed transfers and is available in different storage variants. The IronKey D500S is also an IP67-certified device for dust and water resistance, along with MIL-STD-810F certification for protection against shocks and vibrations.

8.5

Great