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Lexar Enterprise JumpDrive SAFE S3000 FIPS and JumpDrive SAFE S3000

Mil spec thumb drives constructed with military grade epoxy By Joshua Virata

As more schools and businesses across the world become filled with technology and more work moves more toward computers USB drives have also become more common.  Because of this commonality many people are careless with their drives and often forget them. To some of us those drives are our life; we keep everything on them and the last thing we think about is losing them and having all our data stolen. Now if the files were just word documents and pictures that didn't have sensitive materials in them then the security of those files doesn't matter. But think about the few who store more sensitive files, then I think we'd all care about the safety of our USB drive. The latter of these two situations is more prevalent in financial institutions, and enterprise level businesses who want to protect their secrets and classified files. 

Lexar has come up with a very secure solution for USB drives used in the enterprise environment. Two new drives offered as enterprise solutions are the Lexar JumpDrive SAFE S3000 FIPS, and the JumpDrive SAFE S3000. Both drives offer the same hardware-based 256-bit AES encryption, same tamper resistant smart card security manager, and a rugged metal housing to protect against physical damage. Both drives are certified for both Windows and Mac use to offer great compatibility across both platforms.

SAFE, or Secure Access For Enterprise, and Lexar's offering of two different drives is designed to reach different industries in need of secure drives. The S3000 FIPS drive is more secure than the S3000. FIPS stands for the Federal Information Processing Standards which is the publicly announced standard developed by the United States. Both offer a great set of features that makes each unique but great drives.

The SAFE S3000 employs AES 256-bit encryption handled by the tamper-resistant smart card all on-the-fly with no impact on performance. This encryption style is scaled to meet the security requirements of lower level enterprise files as well as small businesses who want to keep their files safe. The drive itself is encased in a tamper resistant rugged metal housing and is available in 2, 4, 8, and 16GB versions with up to 30MB/second read and up to 8MB/second write speeds. 

The SAFE S3000 FIPS also employs AES 256-bit encryption that is also handled on-the-fly by its built-in tamper- resistant smart card. But the FIPS version takes the encryption a step above the SAFE S3000 in that it supports FIPS 140-2 Level 3 verified encryption. This level of security is specifically geared at government, military, and upper level enterprise users who require the ultra high security standards.  The drive itself is sealed with a military grade epoxy compound making the drive waterproof and is encased in a tamper resistant rugged metal enclosure. Together these two levels of hardware protection meet the FIPS 140-2 level 3 physical hardware security standards as well as MIL spec MIL-STD-810F for ruggedness and for being waterproof.  The FIPS version of the SAFE S3000 is available in 2, 4, and 8GB versions which support up to 30MB/sec read and up to 22MB/sec write speeds which is a slight increase over the non-FIPS version.

Both drives are run using Gemalto software to manage the security preferences of the built-in .NET smart card. The non-FIPS drive also has support for a web-based service called Token Lifecycle Manager that enables a user to recover from lost passwords, remotely block a lost drive, and run secure firmware and software updates for the drive. The FIPS version does not have support for the Token Lifecycle Manager. When running the drives all encryption ciphers are stored within the embedded smart card and are never transferred over the USB bus nor enter the flash memory. Since the encryption is hardware based on the drive, the host computer never has access to the encryption cipher and is never encrypting the data before it goes over the USB bus. Another great feature with having hardware driven encryption is that there is no software to be installed on the host system. With no software the encryption is safer, contained within the drive, and faster than if it was software based.

Accessing the drive is easy as plug-n-play, but with just one more step.  The first partition mounted is a very small ~30MB partition that contains the Windows and Mac Gemalto software versions as well as documentation about the drive. The software needs to be run before the drive is able to decrypt the secure partition of the drive. The Gemalto software is designed to run with the drive, taking advantage of its security features of the smart card. Multiple security features protect the drive like limited passphrase attempts, time delays between entering incorrect passphrases, and a lock out feature that requires a security question to be answered before a password reset can occur. Using the software I've tried numerous passwords of varying length and character combinations to test if the encryption is effected directly by length but this wasn't the case. When I changed the password each time there was a bit of a time lapse that occurs, this is what I'm thinking is the smart card being rewritten with the new passphrase and generating a new set of encryption ciphers. 

In testing the FIPS version of the SAFE S3000 I got great results in compatibility and in transfer speeds. In testing compatibility I was able to move between Mac OS 10.6 and 10.5 on two different computers (only Intel-based Macs are supported), as well as access the drive with ease on both Vista and XP Windows operating systems. In running a speed test it took 1 minute and 45 seconds to write a 2GB file to the drive, while reading that same file back to my computer clocked in at just under a minute at 58.4 seconds. When you think about it, it is very fast for the drive to be encrypting and reading/writing on-the-fly.  The drive was also able to keep up a constant stream of HD media content I placed on it with very few hiccups on playback. 

Pricing for the JumpDrive SAFE S3000 starts at $79.99 for 2GBs all the way up to $209.00 (price cut from $299.99 on the Lexar online store. For the SAFE S3000 FIPS version, pricing starts at $99.99 for 2GBs all the way up to $209.99 (price cut from $269.99 on the Lexar online store). With these price points Lexar has made it affordable for companies to purchase these drives and distribute them to their employees. Both SAFE drives are assembled in the USA out of imported foreign components.

Altogether the JumpDrive SAFE S3000 line of drives is a great set of drives that are ready for action in the enterprise workspace. With the SAFE S3000 FIPS, the level of data protection and fast transfer speeds is perfect for military, government, and enterprise use when working with large files. For the price points they're not out of reach of the small business and individual who wants a safe drive to store their most sensitive files such as tax returns and financial statements. For more information, visit

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Joshua Virata is a 2008 graduate of Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana, CA. He has been using computers since the age of 2 and is proficient in the areas of home wired and wireless networking, music creation, secure computing, cell phone communication and GPS navigation. You can email him at
Related Keywords:Lexar JumpDrive SAFE S3000 FIPS, enterprise security thumb drives,

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