iStorage diskAshur2 Review: Ultra-Secure 256-Bit AES Locked Down External Storage

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iStorage diskAshur2 Security Features

Mobility is king at the moment. You don't need us to tell you that; odds are good that you're reading this on some sort of mobile device. There's simply nothing more convenient than portability, and these days, we don't even have to pay much in the way of a power penalty; your notebook (especially if you're a gamer or media developer) may be nearly as powerful as that souped-up desktop machine you were using last year. That powerful mobile device may cost you some bucks, of course, but even that gap grows ever more narrow.

But that portability is also a curse: As easy as it is to drop your device into a pocket or backpack and take it with you wherever you go, it stands to reason that it's just as easy for a thief to snag that laptop, phone, or tablet -- or disk drive.

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You almost certainly already have an external drive, and you probably take it with you whenever you plan to work at home, at the office, or at the local coffee shop. But its portability is also its Achilles heel. A thief can snag it just as easily as you can. And it happens all the time. According to the Ponemon Institute, some 600,00 laptops will be stolen just at airports this year. Add in thefts from cars, restaurants and coffee shops, and that gym you visit every...well, 8 months or so...and it's obvious that we have a problem on our hands. Yeah, the guy who busts your car window and snatches your laptop bag for a quick score may not know how to get past your drive password (you do have one, right?) but what about the guy he sells it to? You know, the one who makes a living buying and selling stolen computers and peripherals? That guy can get into your drive, trust us.

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But there's no way he'll get into this drive, which is why the diskAshur2 impressed us. Even if someone did snag the drive, they couldn't get at the data that resides on it. And if they kept trying, the drive would simply erase itself. Data on a diskAshur2 is always protected, and accessible only with a PIN. The 256-bit, FIPS Pub 197-validated AES encryption is just about impossible to crack. AES, also known as Rijndael, is tough enough to be the only publicly accessible cipher approved by the National Security Agency for top secret information. Could the NSA bust it? Oh, probably. Then again, if your drive has been snatched by the NSA, you have other problems.

If you want, you can even set a self-destruct PIN that, when entered, will completely delete ALL data, both the Admin/User PINs, and then unlock the drive. The Self-Destruct PIN will then become the new User PIN and the drive will need to be partitioned and formatted before it can be used for data storage again. This is like Sherman burning Atlanta as he marched his army to the sea: once you torch that drive, there's nothing left of your data but ashes and regret.

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The drive comes with a default Admin PIN, of course. Naturally, you'll change that almost immediately. Creating a new PIN can be a little tricky, so this is one case where the manual will actually come in pretty handy. That's especially true if you want to juice up the security: You can set a read-only mode, create user PINs (which lack Admin-type access, naturally), create that self-destruct PIN we mentioned, set a timeout-lock, etc. Once you've gone through this setup, you're home free. Just use your PIN to access the drive and it acts just like any other external drive. Unless you let it sit too long without accessing it; then it locks and you'll need to re-enter the PIN.

Honestly, this drive is locked down about as well as you could possibly want -- and with no degradation in speed. And we do mean locked down. If you lose the PIN, you're just flat out of luck. You can reset the drive and redeploy it, but all of your data is simply gone.

It's also worth noting that, physically, the diskAshur2 is also nothing to sneeze at. It's very solid, with a sturdy, rubberized, IP 56-compliant dust- and water-resistant body (no actual immersions, please), epoxy-coated components, an integrated USB 3.1 cable (which in our opinion, is way too short), and a handy padded carrying case. It's a strong build that feels solid in your hands. It's not cheap, after all; so it certainly shouldn't feel cheap, and it doesn't.


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