Most people remain blissfully ignorant about their data security, until something bad happens and you are a victim to some form of data loss, identity theft or ransomware.
We are in an era of cybercrime, I am not sure a day goes by without a news announcement about a data breach, software vulnerability or ransomware. So the requirement for secure storage of data has grown exponentially. There are a lot of free ways to secure your data using encryption software that can encrypt full drives or create encrypted mount points on hard drives. Windows even has BitLocker software built-in.
The issue with software encryption is that it requires software to run on any client device you use. This is OK for an internal hard drive that never goes anywhere, but for storage on the move, it is less than ideal.
Hardware-based encryption is generally both more secure and considerably more user convenient and user-friendly.
The iStorage diskAshur 2 is a rugged external HDD built to offer full protection for the stored data by relying on the real-time military-grade AES 256-bit hardware encryption (XTS mode) and ensuring that without the PIN, any type of attack is rendered useless. This includes all forms of brute force attacks, which software encryption can be vulnerable to.
Understandably you pay a premium for these drives compared to standard external drives. This drive costs £262 while the Seagate ST2000LM007 drive used inside it currently sells for just £74. However, when comparing it to other hardware encrypted drives, this works out quite a bit cheaper, and I have covered this in more detail further down.
|Capacity||500GB, 1TB, 2TB, 3TB, 4TB & 5TB|
|Data Transfer Speed||Up to: Read 148 MBps / Write 140 MBps|
|Power Supply||Bus Powered|
|Dimensions (W, D, H)||124 mm x 84 mm x 19 mm (500GB,1TB,2TB)| 124 mm x 84mm x 27mm (3TB,4TB,5TB)|
|Weight||500GB/1/2TB max. 216 grams approx. | 3/4/5TB max. 325 grams approx|
|Approvals||FIPS PUB 197 Validated, FCC, CE, RoHS, WEEE, TAA Compliant|
|Interface||Super Speed USB 3.1 – up to 5Gbps. Backward compatible with USB 3.0/2.0/1.1|
|Operating System Compatibility||MS Windows, macOS, Linux, Chrome, Thin Clients, Zero Clients, Android & Embedded Systems|
|Hardware Data Encryption||Real-Time Military Grade AES-XTS 256-bit Full-Disk Hardware Encryption|
One thing worth noting is that this has an included USB cable, which is perfect if you are on a laptop, but it is very short and wraps around one length of the drive, so for desktop users, you may need a hub or extension cable for easy access. iStorage kindly provided me with a cable.
As this is hardware encrypted you can’t just plug it in and away you go like other drives. When you plug it in you must then type in your pin and unlock it. This works immediately with the default 11223344 pin, and from there you can use the drive as you would any other.
Obviously, no one in their right mind would buy this drive then leave the default pin, and following the instructions, changing the pin is a simple process. As they want this to be secure there are pin policies in place, it has to be 7-15 digits long and can’t contain all sequential or repeating numbers.
Once you have changed your admin pin, you can then add other users. This is great for business environments where a drive may be passed around between employees. You wouldn’t want a disgruntled member of staff locking you out of your drive permanently.
This uses a Seagate ST2000LM007 2TB 2.5-inch drive with a 5400-RPM spindle speed and 128MB buffer. Performance is identical to any drive of this nature. You get around 127MB read and write speeds which quickly drop off for small random reads and writes. iStorage do SSD options, but there is a huge price premium with the 2TB model costing over £1k.
Standard windows files transfers perform the same, with a large file sitting at around 125MB/s.
From a storage perspective, nearly £260 sounds like terrible value for a 2TB portable hard drive, but it is not so much the storage you are paying for, but the hardware level encryption that will protect your data.
I have previously reviewed a couple of the Apricorn Aegis products and in comparison to these the iStorage diskashur 2 offers tremendous value for money. The Apricorn Aegis Padlock Fortress 2Tb costs £359.99 vs £262.58 of this drive.
Depending on how serious you are about security, there is a difference that justifies the price difference. The Apricorn uses FIPS 140-2 Level 2 while the iStorage drive uses FIPS PUB 197.
FIPS 197 certification looks at the hardware encryption algorithms used to protect the data. FIPS 140-2 is the next, more advanced level of certification. FIPS 140-2 includes a rigorous analysis of the product's physical properties.
If you really want that FIPS 140-2 Level 2 certification, iStorage have Pro options of the diskAshur with the 2TB model priced at £293.43 which is still around £64 cheaper than the Apricorn.
For me at least, I don’t really need to know if my USB drive has been tampered with, and the FIPS 197 certification is above and beyond what I need. Granted, other people may feel differently, if you are storing financial data of a large company, or trade secrets, then the extra £64 is probably worth the increased security. I think for small business and home users, you will be fine with the more affordable solution.
With growing issues with cybersecurity, we are in a sad state of affairs where people should be taking their data security a lot more seriously and using encryption is becoming a necessity.
While not as cheap as software-based solutions, this is cheaper than competing hardware-based options while also being more secure and much more user-friendly.
For business owners, I would say a device like this is essential to secure anything sensitive such as client data, business finances and generally anything you would prefer not to be stolen, and for business owners the cost of such a drive is negligible.
Even for home users, I think this is a wise investment, 2TB can store a LOT of information, you are not going to be using this to back up your movies and MP3s. Even the 1TB model should be more than adequate to store all your financial and personal information.
iStorage diskashur 2 Review Overview
- Overall - 85%85%
SummaryWhile it is expensive, it is cheaper than its competitors. Hardware encryption also offers superior security and usability over software alternatives. So for anyone serious about data security, this is a great buy.