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REVIEW: Mobiu Smart Key offers secure, remote data access on the move

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October 22, 2009

The Mobiu Smart Key offers secure chip and PIN security for online storage

The Mobiu Smart Key offers secure chip and PIN security for online storage

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USB keys are a boon to those who need to carry data around with them, and with capacities always on the rise it’s becoming more and more likely that sensitive data will be stored on what is, at the end of the day, an inherently losable little gadget. Various security measures are now available that bring more to the table than standard encryption, but it’s not often we see something as all-encompassing as Mobiu’s Smart Key. We took the 1GB version of the secure Flash drive for a spin to see what it has to offer.

Mobiu’s unique form of protection

The Mobiu looks and feels like a typically sized USB stick, though one key difference is the presence of a SIM card to allow it to offer two-factor authentication using chip and PIN, much like a credit card. It’s not ruggedized, which is a little disappointing considering the focus, but as it turns out this isn’t nearly as much of a problem as you might think.

The security on offer from Mobiu is not so much about files stored on the USB key itself, though of course there is space available to do this, but in the secure online storage it offers you. A range of capacities are available at different prices and 1GB is supplied by default.

Setting up the Mobiu

Once plugged in to a PC for the first time, you’re asked to register an account and enter a four-digit PIN code, which will be used alongside the SIM card in the device itself to grant you access to your "Mobiu Desktop" from which you can manage and transfer files. Data can be uploaded or synchronized from the current PC through MobiVaults, with multiple available for different machines. When you want to edit or run one of these files it is temporarily downloaded to the USB key and re-uploaded when closed if any changes are made.

There’s support here for multiple-version backups and though the process will inevitably incur a short delay, largely dependent on Internet speed, it’s a tidy way to make sure no traces of the file can be recovered from a host machine.

In addition to this, the Mobiu Desktop includes its own word processor, spreadsheet, presentation tool, web browser, archiver and PDF viewer – just about everything you need in order to securely access and modify data. These are extremely capable for the most part and should have no trouble handling some of the more advanced functionality that some other alternatives struggle with, plus they are of course compatible with Microsoft’s popular suite.

Sharing and additional security

In addition to the features outlined above, Mobiu has obviously considered the fact that multiple users (perhaps from the same department or office) may want to access and change data when necessary, and to make sure everyone is working from the same files it’s possible to create "MobiRooms" for additional users who have their own key. Users can be invited to access a particular room using a unique membership number and any discourse is stored in the MobiMessages section of the desktop for easy review. Finally, it’s also possible to remotely disable the key if it gets lost or stolen, meaning additional security for those who fear their PIN number might be compromised.

Overall impressions

Though the type of security on offer with the Mobiu Smart Key may not be for everyone, it seems to have clear benefits over many more traditional solutions, not least of which is the fact that you can access important files from any internet-ready PC in the world without risk of these files being stored on the host computer. There’s plenty of peace of mind on offer here and at £86.99 (US$143) for the standard package it’s quite reasonably priced as well.

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