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ExactTrak Security Guardian review

Verdict

Packed with geolocation technology, this secure USB stick even has a self-destruct mechanism

Review Date: 12 Jul 2012

Reviewed By: Dave Mitchell

Price when reviewed: 16GB USB with 1yr contract, £295 (£354 inc VAT)

Overall Rating
5 stars out of 6

Features & Design
6 stars out of 6

Value for Money
4 stars out of 6

Performance
5 stars out of 6

PCPRO Recommended

USB sticks are the scourge of data security, since they can store so much sensitive information and yet are so easily lost. ExactTrak offers a unique solution to this serious problem: its Security Guardian USB device uses GPS and GSM to tell you where it is.

It can do this thanks to an internal Orange SIM card. Accessible via a smartphone or ExactTrak’s cloud management portal, its memory can be remotely turned on or off at will, and where the data is highly sensitive it can also be set to self-destruct.

You won’t see any dramatic Mission: Impossible smoke and flames; the stick uses its internal battery to send a high-voltage charge into the memory chip. This effectively fries its contents, destroying any data and rendering it unusable.

The Security Guardian is much larger than your average USB stick, but this is no surprise since it packs in a lot of hardware. Currently available in capacities from 4GB to 32GB, ExactTrak is also trialling a 64GB version.

You pay an annual fee for the Security Guardian service (£199 after the first year), which provides access to a remote management cloud portal. Each stick has a unique identifier, so you can manage and track them all from one console.

For GPS tracking, the device downloads ephemeris data to give it exact satellite positions, from which it can compute its location. For GSM tracking it uses a database of mast identifiers and their locations. It attempts to use GPS first, then falls back to GSM if it can’t find enough satellites. If it’s unable to pick up enough GSM masts, it uses the nearest master cell broadcast mast to provides a rough location.

ExactTrak Security Guardian

The portal map shows the computed locations of each Security Guardian device. You can select date ranges to track their movement, replay data back from selected ranges and, where there’s sufficient data, see how fast a stick was travelling.

Enabling and disabling the memory is a one-click manoeuvre from the portal, or you can send a custom SMS command from an authorised mobile. We found the stick responded to our SMS commands within ten seconds.

The device has only a small antenna, but we found tracking to be very accurate. It had us down to within 100m at our lab in Sussex, and when we took the device home to Brighton, it pinpointed us to within 3m.

On battery it transmits only once an hour, but at one point it logged us travelling along the A27 at 55mph. We also couriered the device up to London and monitored its progress to the PC Pro office, where it was located precisely the following day.

Geozones define areas on the globe where devices may be used, and are created from the portal using custom radial areas or polygons. When a device enters or leaves a memory control geozone, it’s automatically enabled or disabled. You can also be notified by email and SMS when it leaves a departure geozone or enters an arrival geozone.

Security Guardian was originally aimed at larger businesses, but ExactTrak is now seeing significant demand from single users and SMBs. This is no surprise: although it isn’t exactly cheap, it’s a very clever little security device, and one that has made storing critical data on a USB stick a whole lot safer.

Author: Dave Mitchell

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User comments

no smoke and flames? deal breaker ;)

By mr_chips on 12 Jul 2012

Indeed.

Surely smoke and flames are required features if it has genuinely been stolen.
I wouldn't mind setting alight some chav tealeaf.

By Heliosphan on 12 Jul 2012

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