External hard drives are a dime a dozen. That’s not exactly true of course but we certainly are not lacking for choice. I’ve got half a dozen of them scattered around my workplace or in my desk drawers but none is as safe as this latest product from Apricorn: a 3TB USB 3.0 unit with keypad encryption. And that’s not all so let’s have a good look at the Aegis Padlock DT.
Apricorn has brought out a slew of encrypted hard drives with keypads over the years. We have reviewed a few as well as many other external drive solutions from Poway, California, where they are based. We never failed to be impressed with what Apricorn has sent us and many of their products have garnered our Editor’s Choice Award.
So, expectations are high. The build quality is outstanding: the unit feels very solid, a tad heavy, and no visible screws on the enclosure. That’s a good thing because this is supposed to be a very secure device. Most notable is the keypad with above that a small LED panel. There are ventilation openings at the front and the back has a switch for the 12 V power pack and the USB 3.0 port. The keypad is decidedly bigger than the one on the USB flash drive we reviewed not so long ago but the procedure for entering your own unique pin is very similar.
When you first hook up the drive (there is really no installation process as the drive works straight out of the box with any Windows machine-for Mac units it needs a reformat) you can put in the default pin but the whole point of course is to assign your own key to the device. If you need to share your data up to 5 personal pin numbers can be assigned.
Encryption is again to military standards and you have a choice between AES 128 and 256 bit encryption. The difference? In price only 10 bucks for the stronger type. If you’re not in the military or have supersensitive projects you’re working on, the 128 bit will do just fine.
Brute Force Self Destruct Feature
I have to copy this from their website as this was one feature I was not going to test myself but I like the sound of it!
The Aegis Padlock DT uses a three pronged approach to protect against a Brute Force attack. The first step is to deny access to the drive until the drive can verify the user PIN. After several incorrect attempts the drive will lock itself, requiring the drive to be plugged in again to input a PIN. This feature blocks automated attempts to enter PIN numbers. Lastly, after a predetermined number of failed PIN entries, the Padlock DT assumes it is being attacked and will destroy the encryption key and lock itself, rendering the data useless and requiring a total reset to redeploy the Aegis Padlock DT.
The only thing missing in this scenario is the proverbial puff of smoke that should accompany any self-respecting self-destruction feature!
Motto? Make your pin easy to remember!
You probably realise that any frequently used keys on a keypad can be detected for wear. Whenever I leave my office I always punch in an extra few keys to minimise possible detection of wear on the keypad of the office door. You don’t have to worry about that with the Aegis Padlock family of products that incorporates ‘wear resistant’ keypads.
Finally, this unit has Variable Timing Circuit technology, which simply means that it works to thwart “timing attacks” aimed at accessing the drive by studying the behaviour and infiltrating the Padlock’s electronics.
These days most companies would like to have some green credentials, simply because it makes for a better product. With reduced power consumption, the Aegis Padlock DT has a fairly low operating temperature. Logically, you would expect increased reliability and a rather quiet drive. But it also means it’s not a superfast drive at under 6000 rpm. However, speed should never be an issue with these types of drives (heck, transfer is fast enough with USB 3.0) and I would take reliability any day over speed when it comes to these devices! Not that it is a slouch with a Data Transfer Rate of up to 5 Gbps and an average seek time of 12ms.
It’s a tough unit. The Aegis Padlock DT from Apricorn makes a definite statement that you are doing some important stuff if you got one of these beasts next to your desktop. Yes, it also looks cool. Most importantly, it is a very, very secure unit and I will be happy to entrust all my backups and all my data to this drive. But it is not my only drive to hold backups as any drive, including the IoSafe fireproof and waterproof hard disk drive from our own experience, is subject to drive failure. Just hope that Apricorn selected the very best in reliable hard drives for this unit….
Pricewise, you can select between 1, 2 and 3 TB and they all come in two different encryption levels. The highest specced unit is $369 down to a very inexpensive $229 with free shipping. Check out the boys at Apricorn.com
Highly recommended! Or if you are mathematically inclined our score of would be a 9/10.