A few weeks ago I reviewed the iStorage Datashur Pro USB flash drive. The most interesting thing about that flash drive was the fact it uses software-less encryption in the form of a hardware-based PIN. Well, today I am back with something similar but very different, the iStorage DiskAshur², a software-less encrypted portable hard drive that uses the same sort of hardware encryption as its smaller flash drive sibling.
Much like its little sibling, it’s packed full to the brim of other safety features, to ensure your data remains safe, should the drive ever be stolen or compromised. Such features include military grade AES 256-bit XTS full-disk hardware encryption, BadUSB protection and FIPS PUB 197 encryption algorithm just to name a few.
When it comes to design, the iStorage DiskAshur² is the typical rectangular shape you find with most portable hard drives. The main difference being is that’s there a 13 button PIN pad on the front. The USB cable that connects the drive to a computer is conveniently built-in to the drive and can be easily clipped to the side when not in use, however, the cable is very short, luckily though I did get a separately packaged extension cable included, I will say I am not too sure whether the extension cable is normally included.
Also present on the drive is another little security feature, although this one hasn’t got anything to do with data protection as such, instead it’s a desk lock, used to lock your drive safely onto your desk to prevent it from being stolen.
The iStorage Diskashure2 also boasts an IP56 rating, which means it’s resistant to both dust and water. Great for people who do a lot of work in the great outdoors with a laptop or perhaps those of you who are so overworked you take your computer into the toilet with you as well.
Another nifty design feature is an anti-wear coating on the number keys. At first, you may wonder what’s so good about that, well I’ll tell you if the keys wear down, it makes figuring out your PIN much easier, but no signs of wear mean no chance of making it obvious which keys have been used.
It comes available in four different colors, which include Fiery Red, Phantom Black, Racing Green and Ocean Blue. In terms of capacity, you can have a drive as small as 500GB or as large as 5TB. The 500GB model will set you back £159.00, while the 5TB model will set you back a whopping £449.00. The 1TB model I am using cost £219.00. While those prices seem steep, the thing to remember here is that these drives incorporate some of the best protection known to man. This drive isn’t designed with home use in mind, but rather business use, where any serious data compromises could result in very large fines or for smaller companies something as bad as going flat-out broke. Of course, this doesn’t mean you can’t use it to encrypt photos of cats doing funny stuff, but you’d be insane if you did. I should also point out that you also get two free pieces of software with your purchase included Nero Backitup and iStorage DriveSecurity.
Once you receive the drive, you should immediately change the default PIN to something more secure. To do this you need to plug it into any available USB port on your computer or laptop. once plugged in and ready to go, the Red status light will be lit up, meaning the drive is in standby awaiting your PIN, which by default is 11223344, input this PIN and then press the unlock button, which will give you access to the drive. From here you hold both the unlock and number 2 key until a blinking green light appears, now input your new PIN which can be anything from 7 to 15 digits long, then press the unlock button and re-enter the new PIN before finally pressing the unlock button again.
As well as the Admin PIN, you can also set up user PIN’s, but most interestingly of all is the rather cool sounding ‘Self Destruct PIN’. Ok, I have a confession to make, the rather cool sounding ‘Self Destruct PIN’ doesn’t live up to expectations. With a name like that, I was expecting some Hollywood like explosion when a bad guy tries to get his dirty mitts on the data, but instead, all it actually does is erase the data on the drive. Disappointing to say the least. Seriously though it’s an interesting feature, although I’m struggling to think of any reason one might use it. I mean you’re not just going to randomly want to destroy all your data one day, or are you? Just make sure you don’t muddle your PIN and ‘Self Destruct PIN’ up.
You have in total ten attempts to get your PIN correct. The first five incorrect attempts will freeze the drive, when this happens you have to unplug the drive and plug it back in, you now have only five more attempts, if you mess this up, the drive will completely erase itself, ensuring the data cannot be accessed by would-be thieves.
In use, it works just like any other drive, so long as you’ve put the PIN in first. On a Windows-based computer, you simply find the drive and copy files to or from it as you would any other drive. With read speeds of up to 148MBps and write speeds up to 140MBps plus a USB 3.1 interface, accessing and transferring data is as quick as you’d ever need it. I mainly use the drive for storing product photos and some videos I am working on and have found the speeds to be good enough for my needs. If you’re transferring mostly office related documents, then it’s definitely more than enough for your needs.
Overall the iStorage DiskAshur² portable hard drive is the perfect addition to any security conscious company. With some of the best protection known to man and even used within the military, you can rest assured your data is in a safe place. While the price certainly isn’t attractive to at home users with no real sensitive data, what business pays for these drives would be worth it, just because it’s far less than a fine for breaching data protection laws.
- More protection than the Queen of England (I think)
- IP56 rating for dust and water resistance
- Automatic data-erasion after 10 incorrect PIN attempts
- Built-in USB cable is rather short