The SanDisk Cruzer Profile is a security-minded flash thumbdrive that can protect up to 1GB of data through a combination of fingerprint access and data encryption. Despite its strong encryption and a slew of helpful software, the Cruzer Profile's design makes it harder to use and more ungainly than other biometric memory drives, such as the Kanguru Bio Drive or the Lexar JumpDrive TouchGuard.
At about twice the size of most thumbdrives, the squared-off SanDisk Cruzer Profile is neither as sleek nor as pocket-friendly as its brethren. The 3-inch cable that connects the two halves of the drive can easily get caught on pocket or purse items such as keys or a mobile phone antenna. At 0.8 ounce and measuring 2.5 by 1.1 by 0.6 inches, the SanDisk Cruzer Profile is smaller than Lexar's TouchGuard but bigger than the Kanguru Bio Drive. When plugged in to your computer's USB port, the thick Profile can block ports on either side. A USB extension cord would solve this problem, but unfortunately, SanDisk does not include one. The drive comes with two brief manuals as well as programs for backing up and synchronizing data; however, the software requires a Windows PC, although the unencrypted drive works with Mac and Linux computers.
Snap apart the black, white, and red Profile, and you're face-to-face with the SanDisk Cruzer Profile's fingerprint reader. After watching the helpful minivideos and going through a short training session (both are stored on the drive), you can enroll up to 10 fingers, swiping each finger three times to register it. Each registered fingerprint serves as a passkey for your favorite programs, frequently used network logins, and most-visited Web sites (though it works only with Internet Explorer). You can also set up a backup password and a question/answer clue in case of a hardware problem or the unfortunate loss of your finger. The biometric access works well and errs on the side of caution; it sometimes denied us access to the drive but never granted access to the wrong finger. The drive comes with FAT formatting.
The SanDisk Cruzer Profile has two partitions and consequently takes up two drive letters--an approach we haven't seen with any other flash drives. The first is a smaller, read-only partition that holds the start-up software, the fingerprint data, and the applications. The second partition is open for storage and can be hidden and protected. The key to this thumbdrive's security is the CruzerLock 2.1 software, which is a free, basic version of EncryptX's open-source, 448-bit Blowfish encryption algorithm. It scrambles data and hides filenames, but it's slow. It takes a while to get accustomed to CruzerLock's encryption interface, and we found the process of encrypting data tedious; on an IBM ThinkPad R51 notebook, the Cruzer Profile encrypted data at a rate of 3.2Mbps. EncryptX's Web sites offer a variety of downloadable upgrades for connecting to network drives, sharing encrypted data, working with Outlook's permissions templates, and making usage rights expire.
The SanDisk Cruzer Profile comes with a five-year warranty that blows away the coverage provided by Lexar or Kanguru. SanDisk's toll-free tech-support line is open 24/7; a helpful technician came on the line less than a minute after we waded through the company's complicated phone-menu system. SanDisk also provides e-mail support, and its Web site offers tips, suggestions, and downloadable software.