Smartphone-controlled SSD firm launches its Kickstarter campaign

SoSecure's drives have proximity alerts that tell users when theyve been moved

An SSD that can be remotely controlled by an Android or iOS smartphone and encrypts all data backed up to it is being touted in a Kickstarter crowdsourcing campaign.

SoSecure, the company that invented the 2.5-in solid state drive, said the drive combines 256-bit encryption and low-energy Bluetooth with an Android/iOS application.

The SoSecure app monitors the SSD's battery level, data backup progress, and the last backup date and allows users to instantly lock the drive to deny outside access to data on it.

The SoSecure SSD uses hardware-based, 256-bit AES encryption to secure the data. The drive is FIPS 140-2 level 3 certified, meaning it meets the second highest standard for government-grade data security.

The SoSecure SSDs in the Zero Touch Backup station. The station changes color to indicate the progress of the drive. The app monitoring and controlling the backup can be seen on the smartphone (Image: SoSecure).

The SSDs, which will initially come in 64GB capacities, are expected to be sold in a variety of colors and materials, from aluminum and plastic to oak. You can even purchase an SSD with a carbon fiber case.

The SATA II connector on the SSD is also used to connect to a docking station that automates the backup process. Two of the SoSecure SSDs can be docked in the company's Zero Touch Backup (ZTB) station, which allows the transfer of data from one drive to the other. SSDs can be designated as "primary" or "secondary" drives. The secondary drive is automatically backed up from the primary drive.

The docking station first checks to ensure authorized SSDs have been inserted and then displays LED lighting that changes color as backups are in progress and when they're completed.

There is no de-encryption and re-encryption happening during a backup. The data remains encrypted throughout the process, the company said.

The company is asking for a pledge of at least $313 for a 64GB SSD. For $US869, pledgers get the ZTB backup station and two SSDs.

Encryption process

An encryption key is created on a new SoSecure SSD, or one that has been wiped, via the smartphone app by entering a PIN that can be four to 16 characters in length. This process takes user input via the smartphone to generate a random numeric digest, which is used to salt the system-generated encryption key. Simply shaking the phone after the initial PIN has been created generates the random numeric digest.

The SoSecure drive has two physical interfaces: SuperSpeed Micro USB3.0 for connecting directly to the computer; and, SATA II , which allows the SSD to be installed in a computer.

When the SSD is installed in a desktop or laptop, a "Stay Alive" feature stops the drive from locking if the computer moves into a phase of inactivity or sleep. The "Stay Alive" lasts for 10 hours after which, if a user needs more time, it can be reactivated again for another 10 hours. The time remaining is displayed above the button and on the main menu bar of your phone.

The SoSecure SSD app monitors the drive and allows a user to remotely lock it or wipe it clean of data.

"We've been working for more than a year to develop the drive and apps. Like all technology products, moving into production requires funding to purchase the initial components and that's where we need help from the Kickstarter community," James Little, founder of SoSecure, said in a video demonstrating the SSDs.

The Kickstarter project is hoping to garner about $220,000 over the next 35 days.

The SoSecure SSD allows users to control access to the data from an Android or iOS app. The app can also monitor an accelerometer in the drive to alert owners that it has been moved and a geo-fence feature to alert them if it has been moved away from their smartphones. The drive also comes with a docking station for automatic backups.

The SoSecure smartphone app also has a proximity alert function that monitors the location of the drive and alerts a user if the SSD has been moved from the vicinity of the smartphone. A motion detection feature can also be enabled, alerting users if the drive is moved at all.

During periods of non-use, the app activates a "Variable Locking" feature that keeps anyone from accessing data until a passcode has been entered. The SoSecure app also allows users to wipe their SSD and return it to a "fresh out-of-the-box" state without any data on it.

Another feature of the app is called "Random keys," which creates a new PIN pad layout with each login to make it harder for people to look over a user's shoulder and see where your fingerprints have been on a smartphones glass surface. Users can also set the PIN re-entry attempts from two to 10 before the SSD locks.

"Not only have we created a high-performance solid-state disk drive that is perfect for corporate and private use, we've also put the perfect 21st century twist on the technology by making it smartphone-compatible," Little said.

Lucas Mearian covers consumer data storage, consumerization of IT, mobile device management, renewable energy, telematics/car tech and entertainment tech for Computerworld. Follow Lucas on Twitter at @lucasmearian or subscribe to Lucas's RSS feed. His e-mail address is lmearian@computerworld.com.

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