RedCannon's Fireball Keypoint

This diminutive USB storage device lets mobile users carry data securely without lugging a laptop.

August 13, 2004

4 Min Read
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As soon as I plugged KeyPoint into my laptop, the device connected with the RedCannon Web site, then checked to see if its loaded software was current. After determining that no updates were available, KeyPoint launched a splash screen and proceeded to run the included spyware scan. Both software and spyware updates can be scheduled on a user-configurable basis as well as invoked manually.

Depending on the size of your disk and the amount of data to be examined, the search can consume quite a bit of time. But you can watch the file names zip by while the scan is occurring, so at least you know it's working.

While the spyware scan is taking place, you'll see pulsing lights on the KeyPoint unit. I could tell that the device was using USB 1.1 instead of its preferred 2.0 because the light was pulsing green--USB 2.0 sets off an orange light.

Fireball KeyPointClick to Enlarge

Aside from grooving to the pulsing lights, you can access the unprotected storage while the spyware scan is running. However, you won't be able to access your secure data or use the included e-mail and browser. Thankfully, you can skip the spyware scan if you're comfortable with the level of security on the computer you're plugged into.The spyware scan searches for adware, malware, Trojans and keyloggers. When it finished checking my laptop, the splash screen disappeared. A summary dialog box then came up, with the "Threat Level" indicated. To my dismay, KeyPoint discovered three different spyware applications on my test machine, as if to say it was time to run AdAware again. KeyPoint doesn't get rid of spyware--it just lets you know it's there.

After reviewing a detailed report on the spyware, I chose to continue on and launched the KeyPoint control panel. I was ready to use the KeyPoint applications to access my protected data.

The included e-mail client and secure browser store all e-mail, temporary files and cookies on the KeyPoint appliance. KeyPoint presents itself to Windows as two separate devices: a KeyPoint drive and a USB mass storage "Removable Drive." The KeyPoint drive contains applications necessary to start the initial applications and is read-only. The removable drive, in contrast, acts more in line with a standard USB storage device, allowing files to be dragged and dropped onto and out of the device.

The AES 128-bit encrypted data vault is neither visible nor accessible outside of KeyPoint's "Vault" option on its control panel. Encrypting and decrypting files are as easy as drag and drop. From the Internet Explorerlike secure browser, I had no trouble viewing a wide variety of sites, including those constructed using the more advanced features of CSS (Cascading Style Sheets).

The e-mail client supports clear and SSL-enabled POP3 and SMTP. The interface reminded me of a very early version of Outlook Express, but functionality is limited. Multiple POP accounts are supported, and the standard option to leave messages on the server is available. Mail is stored directly on the KeyPoint device, or at least that's what the documentation says.



Fireball KeyPoint, $149 (256-MB version), $299 (512-MB version). RedCannon Security, (510) 498-4100.

Of all the features I tested on the KeyPoint, mail storage is the only one that acted, well, goofy. It periodically flaked out, unable to connect to my e-mail server. The error messages that appeared when this problem occurred gave no details.

Downloaded e-mail was stored securely on the device. There's no way to get to it except through RedCannon's e-mail client. The device is designed for use on Windows operating systems only--I mounted it on a Sun Java Desktop 1.0 system and was unable to access the e-mail, temporary files or cookies from the browser and data vault.

What makes RedCannon's KeyPoint device stand out in this market is still under production. The company has us looking forward to its forthcoming centralized management features. This option promises to provide centralized access to device logs and software management across thousands of devices, giving you a good look at what type of data is being carried from home to office and back again. The administrator won't be able to view the encrypted data; only information regarding the names and types of files will be logged.

The usefulness of KeyPoint and other devices in this category is growing as functionality and storage size increase. With e-mail, secure browsing and encrypted data storage, the devices become a more viable solution for the occasional mobile user. It enables the enterprise to discontinue the practice of providing laptops that are rarely used, which results in a huge cost savings.

Lori MacVittie is a Network Computing senior technology editor working in our Green Bay, Wis., labs. Write to her at [email protected].0

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