A biometric hard drive capable of delivering the storage power of a PC in a pocket-sized data device will be launched by Memory Experts International Tuesday at the RSA Conference in San Francisco.
Based on 128-bit AES (Advanced Encryption Standard) encryption, the Outbacker hard drive activates only after a fingerprint is authenticated, said Mike Kieran, director of sales and marketing at Montreal-based Memory Experts. Access to the hard drive is restricted to users whose fingerprints are registered in the hard drive, he said.
The hard drive will come in 20G-byte and 40G-byte capacities and has been ruggedized to withstand a three-meter drop, he said. The device is targeted at the road warriors looking to keep their information secure, he said.
After plugging the hard drive into a USB (Universal Serial Bus) port for the first time, a user can enroll up to 10 prints. In addition to fingerprint authentication, users can access the hard drive by entering a nine-digit pin on a pad accompanying the device.
An LED (light-emitting diode) on the device turns green once the hard drive is connected a desktop or a notebook USB port, indicating it is ready to use. After a fingerprint is authenticated, the LED turns blue, signaling that the fingerprint has been verified and the hard drive is ready to use. The hard drive shuts down after it is disconnected from the USB port.
An administrator can erase or add fingerprints to the device, said Kieran, who recommended that each user register at least two fingerprints. "If you scratch your finger while working in a garden, there will be no way (for a user) to get in."
The hard drive is USB 2.0 backward-compatible, and works only on computers running Windows 2000 Service Pack 4, Windows XP Service Pack 1 and Windows 98 Second Edition. The company is working on the hard drive's compatibility with Macintosh and Linux.
Priced at US$450 for the 20G-byte model and $650 for the 40G-byte model, the device is available next Monday at retailers including Best Buy Co. Inc. and Circuit City Stores Inc. It will be available internationally in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia shortly after, said Kieran.
An optional external power supply is offered for the hard drive, as it uses 500 milliamps on a PC or notebook's USB drive. Some low-end notebooks provide only 250 milliamps of power to the USB port, in which case the external power supply would be needed, he said.