Review: Self-Encrypting External Hard Disk Drives

When evaluating secure, external, portable, hard-drives for yourself, the fundamental question is do you want a hardware- or a software-based device?

Data Locker DL3

Out of the box, Data Locker’s DL3 could be easily mistaken for a media player, its screen covers most of the front face.  It’s fairly light weight but the solid build gives it a feeling of quality and the brushed metal face-plates add a stylish look.  The unit also ships with a rubber casing leaving only the front screen exposed.

Set up includes pages of options.  The first of these is choosing your language—you have four, English, Spanish, German and French.  

As with other drives in this review, the features seem to be fairly standardized across products. 
The Datalocker DL3 offers a virtual CD feature, allowing you to mount your own ISO image to the drive.  This could be great for demonstration purposes if you wish to use a different computer but your own software, you basically have your own portable virtual machine.

Password length can be set anywhere between 6 and 31 characters.  The option to randomise the keypad display is also offered.  We think that this is a particularly good feature to have on a product with a glass screen. Finger marks can make it really easier to guess the locations and numbers keyed for the password.

Page 2 offers another 4 setting options, key tone is standard, but this is followed by the less familiar Zeroize Drive feature.  Zerozine allows you to quickly wipe and reset the drive for redeployment (just make sure you’ve got your documents backed up before selecting it).

The DL3 also offers 2-factor RFID authentication, an option not available on the units reviewed here. The extra security this provides could be really beneficial for securing data.

We found this product simple to use, all of the instructions were clear and logically ordered.  Once your password is accepted the device appears in your machine’s device listings and is ready to be used as a straight forward fixed drive.  The randomised keypad is really good idea, it brings that extra level of security, but it also requires a bit of extra thinking to key in your number.

Whilst the device is really likeable, there are a couple of things that would be good to improve. Most notably, the responsiveness of the keypad was fractionally slow.  Users today are getting accustomed to touch screen phones with sophisticated response times, sometimes during testing, after pressing the screen, nothing happened.  We had to be very precise with keypad selections to ensure they registered. 

The other feature for improvement is the default password.  When entering the default password for the first time it warns you that changing the password is mandatory, but the onus stays on the user to do so.  We actually left the default password in place while trying out the drive and each time we logged in it reminded us to change it but didn’t force us to. It would have been better practice to be redirected to the change-password screen right after the first log in.  You are only forced to change the password if you enter the setup mode, it won’t let you leave the menu without changing the default password (but if you just pull the cable out you can still log in again using the original default password).

The Datalocker DL3 uses a dedicated 256 bit AES XTS Mode Crypto Engine.  All encryption is carried out on the device itself so there is no need to install software—a good design.

To test the recovery and password rejection, all settings were left as default.  An incorrect password was repeatedly entered and after the fifth attempt, the device was powered off.  The USB cable had to be unplugged and reconnected to return power back to the unit. After a further two incorrect passwords were entered, the device registered that a hack had been detected and indicated that all data was to be erased.  Pressing the screen area instead of the OK button circumvented this.  The ninth incorrect password attempt warned of self-destruction and the tenth initiated the destruction.  After the destruction the drive returned to its original, out-of-the-box condition, and the whole process was able to start again.  There was no sign of any previous documents on the drive.

A very good product for securely transporting data from site to site and it includes some good features. A few tweaks would make it a great product.


Tags information securityreviewData Locker DL3CMS ABS Plus with DataguardCMS ABS Plus FDEencrypted hard disk drivesiStorage disk GenieEclypt FreedomData Locker Enterprise

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