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?


The CMS products offer a different kind of solutions to the other devices discussed here.  ABS Plus is an Automatic Backup System.  It can be used as a normal external hard disk, but the encrypted area is software controlled instead of hardware.  The main purpose of this drive is to allow the user to make secure backups of a system, but it can also be used to transport secure data in the same manner as other drives, provided that the computers involved have its Bounce Back software installed.  This software allows access to the control panel and the ability to unlock the device.

The CMS ABS Plus has a number of features that are instigated by the Bounce Back software.  Obviously the most refined is for data backup, and this can be set up in a variety of ways.  You can select all or part of your data, you can decide to have it synchronised, versioned or encrypted.  The device also offers a built-in scheduler so that backups can be carried out automatically.  The schedule can be set to periods from every 15 minutes for the extremely critical data, up to 8 hours on a continuous protection cycle, or ad-hoc as you please on the scheduling page. Backups can be quickly restored in a few clicks to their previous location or a location of choice.

To use the device as an encrypted hard disk for transporting files, you must set a password in the software which will automatically lock the device when powering down.

The CMS ABS Plus is more complicated to use than the other devices in this review, but nor is it that difficult.  To gain access to the data holding portion of the device you must launch the software, select the unlock feature, select the correct device, and then enter your password.  This reveals the device to the user and once the device is unlocked, using it to transfer files is simple, just like using MS Explorer.  Its backup features are really quite straight forward in the way that they are set up,  the on screen instructions are clear and by holding the pointer over any heading pops up an explanation of what that section does.

The CMS ABS Plus uses AES 256 bit encryption.

The software allows three invalid attempts before requiring you to disconnect the device before trying again.  Even entering the correct password will not allow you to gain access until the device is unplugged.  After  the ninth invalid attempt the software  gave me the option to lock the device, after ignoring this option and entering another invalid password the software confirms the password as invalid and would not allow you to continue.  It required the user to go back to disconnecting every three attempts.  No limit of attempts was indicated which would force a format of the device, allowing brute force attacks to be carried out for an unknown period.

If an organisation is prepared to install the Bounce Back software to all necessary consoles, this is a good solution. But this is also the downside of the product. The software must be installed. This can result in obvious problems if you wanted to transfer data to a computer without the software.
As an additional advantage for a primary user it also allows a continuous, up-to-date, backup of their system. 

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

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