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GCN : September 2013
12 GCN SEPTEMBER 2013 • GCN.COM It's pretty easy to see why Apricorn decided to call its newest secure por- table drive the Aegis Padlock Fortress. It's fairly large and designed vaguely like a padlock, the type of big square iron lock found on the massive doors of a colonial barn. And the Padlock's large numeric keypad clearly indicates that it's a protected device requiring a numerical password. Security meta- phors aside, the 3.3 inch by 4.7 inch drive, which is 0.75-inches thick, is also a bona de fortress, built from the ground up to be one of the most se- cure data storage devices in the world. Every Padlock in use today has security enabled by default. The rst time you use a Padlock Fortress, the drive forces you to set up security with a 7- to 16-digit number. There is no option to pass on enrollment. Once set up, drives attached to computers won't even be recognized until the proper PIN code is entered. And the Padlock Fortress must be attached to a com- puter, because all the power comes from the USB cable. The Padlock Fortress has no software component; all security is handled with hardware chips. Thus, there is no middleware to hack on the drive, and no need for any software to autorun once attached, making the device impervious to key logging at- tacks too. The drive will automatically lock itself down if no activity is detected after an amount of time established by the user. Thereafter, the PIN needs to be reen- tered to use the drive again, just as if it were being reattached to a computer. And if the wrong PIN code is entered more than 20 times, the drive will com- pletely wipe itself and all of its data. We tested this out, and the wiping process is quick and quiet. The drive can still be used again after that process, but all the data will be lost. Users can even set a self-destruct PIN number, something we have not seen in any other product. Entering the self-destruct number instantly erases the drive, resets all PIN numbers and reissues the encryption key, something that could be useful if a drive is likely to fall into the wrong hands. As a guard against physical attacks, the encryption circuitry boundary is protected by an epoxy resin. The sticky substance locks onto the chip and will destroy it if anyone tries to tamper with the drive, a feature that helps the Pad- lock Fortress earn FIPS 140-2 Level 2 validation. Software attacks on the drive itself would likely go nowhere since they have no launching point, but in any case, all of the data on the drive is AES 256-bit encrypted using hardware. A user simply can't save unprotected les to the drive. We tested the device on a PC run- ning Microsoft Windows 7, a Mac with OS X 10.2 and a box running Linux. It worked ne in all cases. Transfer rates can vary wildly depending on whether it is connected to the computer via a USB 3.0 or USB 2.0 interface. The Padlock Fortress can use either, but it really zooms with 3.0 ports. Our review unit had 1T of storage capacity and is priced at $419, a good deal given the drive's speed and, espe- cially, the security. There is also a 500G model with a standard drive available for $349 and a 750G for $399, making the largest drive is actually the best deal. The SSD version goes for $399 for a 128G model, $599 for a 256G model or $899 for a 512G one. That's a pretty big price jump just to have an SSD, though it would make the drive more inherently rugged and likely a bit faster. Users probably won't be able to get data at rest to be more secure than when using an Aegis Padlock Fortress. • A portable drive with rock-solid security BY JOHN BREEDEN II The Padlock Fortress is software-free, handling security with hardware chips. [BrieFing]