iStorage diskAshur2 – Encrypted Hard Drive

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We recently reviewed the iStorage diskAshur PRO2 Portable Hard Drive (read our review here), and love the protection it provides for sensitive data. But that protection comes at a steep price. If you want the same level of security but perhaps only need to protect your personal data (rather than business related data), we suggest you look at the more affordable iStorage diskAshur2.

Disclosure: Apple Tech Talk participates in various affiliate marketing programs and may receive compensation if you purchase a product through one of our links, and/or in the form of product donations from the companies whose products we review . Unless otherwise specifically stated, Apple Tech Talk does not receive any other compensation for its reviews. The opinions expressed are based solely on our independent testing, are our own and are not shared with anyone prior to release on our site.

Apple Tech Talk Scorecard

Pros Cons
Same AES-256 bit Hardware Encryption as the PRO model Same short USB connection
Available in a variety of colors

iStorage diskAshur2 – Unboxing

The iStorage diskAshur2 is so much like the iStorage diskAshur PRO2 that it would be hard to tell them apart except for the color.

iStorage diskAshur2

iStorage diskAshur2

iStorage diskAshur PRO2

Because of that, we aren’t going to go through all the details again but do think you should read our review using the link above. For those of you that just want to know more about the iStorage line of products, here is a short video that provides a nice overview of what they are and how they work.

The iStorage diskAshur2 includes the same molded carry case as the PRO version as well as the same Quick Start Guide. There is a separate dedicated User Manual on the iStorage web site and you can see and download it here.

diskAshur2 vs. diskAshur PRO2

If you were to look at the comparison sheet that iStorage has for its products you would almost miss what makes the diskAshur2 different from the diskAshur PRO2. That’s because they are identical in every way except one, Accreditations.

The iStorage diskAshur PRO2 carries the FIPS 140-2 Level 3 security rating as well as certification by the Netherlands National Communications Security Agency.

The Federal Information Processing Standard 140-2 (FIPS 140-2) is a U.S. and Canadian co-sponsored security standard for hardware, software, and firmware product using cryptography and products sold into the government must meet the standard if it is intended for use in a security system that processes sensitive but unclassified information.

FIPS 140-2 defines four levels of security, simply named “Level 1” to “Level 4” with the following difference.

  • FIPS 140-2 Level 1 the lowest, imposes limited requirements such as, all components must be “production-grade” and not contain various kinds of insecurity.
  • FIPS 140-2 Level 2 adds requirements for physical tamper-evidence and role-based authentication.
  • FIPS 140-2 Level 3 adds requirements for physical tamper-resistant and identity-based authentication, and for a physical or logical separation between the interfaces by which “critical security parameters” enter and leave the module, and its other interfaces.
  • FIPS 140-2 Level 4 makes the physical security requirements more stringent, and requires robustness against environmental attacks.
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The Netherlands National Communications Security Agency (NLNCSA), a unit of the AIVD (the General Intelligence and Security Service of the Netherlands) is a partner and guide to the Netherlands government when it comes to technical protection of critical information.

It is certainly clear that any individual or business dealing with the US or Canadian Government would need the diskAshur PRO2. Also, with today’s heightened concerns of hacking and data theft, most businesses should probably consider the PRO version. But for individuals just interested in protecting their own data from falling into the wrong hands, without a need for government compliance, the iStorage diskAshur2 gives every bit of protection you get from the PRO model.

iStorage diskAshur2 – Test Results

Our testing of the iStorage diskAshur2 provided the same results as we saw from the PRO model.

We did have an issue when we tried to change the Admin PIN but eventually realized that our new PIN was only six digits long. The User Guide is clear that that any PIN must be between 7 – 15 digits. Once we realized our mistake we had no trouble changing the PIN but not before we locked ourselves out of the drive. We’re not sure but we think the drive considered our numerous attempts to enter a bad PIN as a brute-force attack and locked the drive down.

Once we got that situation cleared up, we partitioned the drive into the Mac HFS+ format using Disk Utility.

If you’re familiar with our article on having a backup strategy (read our article here), you know we advocate having a backup of your data in an off-site location. We keep a bootable clone of our computers in an off-site location and having the security of a hardware encrypted hard drive ensures that no one will be able to get to the sensitive data stored on it. But we wanted to see how the iStorage diskAshur2 would work as a bootable hard drive.

Making the bootable clone was exactly the same as any other hard drive and the Super Duper software we use to make our clones had no trouble writing the files to the iStorage diskAshur2.

Booting to the iStorage diskAshur2 posed a little bit of a challenge but only because the USB port on our MacBook Pro is not powered when the computer is off. That means you need to power and hold down the Option key and enter the iStorage diskAshur2 PIN to unlock the drive, all before the Boot Options are presented on the screen.

Admittedly, that sounds more complicated than it is as we successfully booted our Mac to the iStorage diskAshur2 on the first attempt.

iStorage diskAshur2 – Performance

When discussing encrypted hard drives, one complaint that is often heard is that the drive’s overall performance is compromised and the read/write times become painfully slow.

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We found the performance of the iStorage diskAshur2 comparable to other hard drives that don’t have the added encryption protection.

For our comparison we used the iStorage diskAshur2 and a standard Seagate Backup Plus for Mac portable hard drive. Both drives were 1TB, divided into two 500GB partitions and formatted in the standard HFS+ Mac format.

We ran two side-by-side tests, using a 2009 MacBook Pro with a USB 2 connection and a 2015 MacBok Air with a USB 3 connection. Here are our results

iStorage diskAshur2 Seagate Backup Plus for Mac
Macbook Pro File Size 275.52GB 275.52GB
Total Copy Time 2:53:38 2:57:31
Effective Copy Speed 25.04 MB/s 24.97 MB/s

 

iStorage diskAshur2 Seagate Backup Plus for Mac
Macbook Air File Size 236.27 GB 236.27 GB
Total Copy Time 1:51:44 2:12:58
Effective Copy Speed 35.40 MB/s 30.13 MB/s

 

Certainly a different hard drive may have yielded diferent results, and your results may vary but we think our comparison claimly shows that there is no significant degradation in performance for the added layer of protection the iStorage diskAshure2 encryption provides.

The Bottom Line

With the amount of personal data on computers growing every day, you can’t be too careful on how you protect it. Whether it’s financial information, medical records, insurance policies or just important family documents, if you need to transport it or store it off site, you want to be sure it doesn’t fall into the wrong hands. The iStorage diskAshur2 offers hardware-based encryption that ensures no one can access your data unless you want them to. As the folks at iStorage say, “without the PIN, you don’t get in.”

Unless you are dealing with a government agency or there are business requirements that required the extra certification that comes with the iStorage diskAshur PRO2, we think the iStorage diskAshur2 is the perfect solution for your ultimate data protection.

The iStorage diskAshur2 is available in a variety of sized from 500GB to 5TB for HHD models and 128GB to 4TB in SSD models. They are also available in Phantom Black, Ocean Blue, Racing Green and Fiery Red.

There is no question that the iStorage diskAshur2 is more expensive than an ordinary 1TB portable hard drive, but it’s hard to put a price on the security that iStorage provides across all of their products.

The iStorage diskAshur2 are available from Amazon and from the Storage section of the Apple Tech Talk Marketplace.


We would like to thank the folks at iStorage for providing a diskAshur2 for our review and testing.

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