Review: iStorage diskashur 2

While there are lots of programs offering bulletproof encryption, it’s rare that we’ve seen hardware locked down as well as the iStorage diskashur2. This portable drive offers up to 2 TB of AES 256-bit XTS hardware encrypted storage. What’s more, there’s no need to search for specific software, this device will work with your Mac, PC, Linux server, or even BeBox.

iStorage offers a range of encrypted devices, from portable flash drives to 8 TB hard drives, all with hardware encryption and a physical PIN keypad. There are also different levels of security available, with the diskashur 2 featuring a FIPS PUB 197 Validated Encryption Algorithm.

Most people won’t need this level of secured storage, but it’s essential for a lot of organisations such as healthcare, government, or any business that holds valuable information. Even if it’s not required at your business, using an encrypted disk saves any worries about losing valuable information.

The iStorage diskashur 2 comes in a range of colours for easy identification, has an inbuilt USB 3.1 cable, and can be purchased for £159 for the 500GB version. If you want 2TB of storage the price goes up to £289.

While the diskashur 2 isn’t marketed as a rugged device, it still comes with IP56 protection meaning that it’s protected from harmful dust ingress and strong jets of water. Unfortunately, it won’t cope with immersion but should be fine after a minor spillage.

The diskashur 2 arrives in a security sealed box listing it’s credentials in five different languages. Once you’ve peeled open the seal there are some handy accessories in the box, as well as the main drive. The most useful accessory here is the manual, detailing how to access all the security functions and settings through the keypad. You aren’t going to want to lose it, but if you do there’s an electronic version available from the iStorage website. You’ll also find a small case and a voucher for a 1-year license of NERO BackItUp and DriveSecurity software.

The main drive feels sturdy and is easy to grip with a rubberised coating. The numeric PIN keypad dominates the front, alerting you to the fact that this is no normal drive. I was surprised that, despite all the security, it was no bigger than many portable drives, measuring a reasonable 124 mm x 84 mm x 19 mm.

The right side of the drive integrates a USB lead that’s a reasonable length and snaps back into place when not in use.

There’s little else of note on the exterior of the drive – just a label reminding you that the drive was reassuringly designed, developed and assembled in the UK.

Using the diskashur 2 is slightly more complicated than a regular USB drive, but once it’s set up daily use doesn’t take much time at all. The drive comes with a default Admin PIN that you should change the first time you use it. To do this you plug it in, hold down ‘unlock’ and number ‘1’ to enter the admin mode, enter the Admin PIN, hold down ‘unlock & 2’, enter your new Admin PIN and press ‘unlock’, re-enter the new Admin PIN and ‘unlock’, finally press the ‘lock’ button to exit the admin mode. This took me two goes to get right, it almost made sense the second time around!

The manual guides you through the various setup options, each of which requires similar steps to complete. This is when I realised the manual was so valuable! It’s rare that I’ve had to turn to a manual but this one is truly useful. Some key features include setting read-only mode, timeout-lock, self-destruct PIN, and how to have one last attempt at entering your PIN after someone’s tried too many times.

Luckily, once you are set up, daily use just involves entering the PIN and pressing the unlock button. Once you eject the drive from your computer the diskashur 2 automatically locks itself.

If you find that you have completely lost the PIN and still want to access the drive, well you can’t. You can reset the drive and encryption system to use the drive again, but all your data will be lost. This is similar to using the self-destruct PIN that will delete the encryption key, all data and all other PINs. I can see this feature being used in an episode of ‘24’, but it’s unlikely to be of use unless you’re a spy or up to no good. At a push you could use it to wipe sensitive data if it gets seized going through customs in an untrusted country.

I was impressed by the speed of the diskashur 2 – I was expecting a much greater overhead for the real-time encryption. The 2.5” HDD worked at a reasonable speed and was entirely capable using as a normal drive. I managed to get read speeds of 106 MB/S and write speeds of 94 MB/s – definitely slightly slower than the CalDigit TUFF, but with a lot more security.

There are a few downsides I experienced with the diskashur 2. The connected USB 3.1 cable is very handy for most people, but with more computers having USB C connectors you may need to carry a dongle. Also, the rubberised exterior feels great in the hand but is a complete dust magnet. Finally, the price is significantly higher than a non-encrypted drive but you do gain a lot of security for the extra spend. If these things aren’t going to bother you then it’s a great drive.

Overall, the iStorage diskashur 2 is a very secure drive that comes in a compact and sturdy package. It’s well thought out, with some amazing security options that are sure to find favour with many an IT professional. Even if you’re just looking for personal storage of sensitive files (financial reports, patient records, or other for-your-eyes-only material), the diskashur 2 offers quick and convenient access with ample storage.


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