We’re planning to leave our laptop behind when we next go out of town; we’ll take a secure flash drive instead. They’re about the size of your thumb.

Make that two thumbs, because we’re going to use two flash drives. One will have our portable applications, like a word processor, Web browser, spyware removal tools, photo editing, file shredder and Anonymizer. The other will be a new one we just got called “ID Vault.”

The ID Vault is for signing on to Web sites. Every time you go to a site, a message pops up asking if you want this site to be protected. If you do, you enter your login name and your password. Those are stored in the thumb drive and only relate to that Web site. You can save up to 40 user names and passwords.

Access to those Web sites is only possible by entering the proper PIN code you set up for the ID Vault itself. Even if you lose the little drive, no one else can use it without your PIN. Anyone who tries to hack this PIN code can only make three attempts before being locked out permanently by a “smart chip” that will permit no further access.

One of the neat security features on this device is that user names and passwords are not entered through a keypad. A picture of a standard “Qwerty” keyboard appears on the screen and you select the letters by clicking them with the mouse. So if someone has placed “key logger” spyware on your or any other computer, there will be no keys to log.

ID Vault costs $50 from¬†, plus a $20 a year subscription; the first year is free. Of course this raises the question of why you would need any subscription, because the ID Vault would already have your passwords stored. The company says they have a database of thousands of brokerage and banking sites and test the ones you log into to make sure they are indeed the real sites and not copycats created by so-called “identity phishers.” Many people are unaware that it is not difficult to create a Web page that looks exactly like a legitimate site, but collects the information you enter and sends it to someone trying to steal your identity.

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