Apricorn Aegis Padlock SSD: An ultra-secure hardware-encrypted solid-state drive that fits in your pocket [Review]

If you have personal files that you want to be able to access when on the go, but don’t trust cloud providers to keep them safe, and are worried about the dangers of storing them on a USB memory stick which could be easily lost or stolen, the best solution is to use a 100 percent hardware encrypted USB drive like the Aegis Padlock SSD.

This is a much more secure solution than using software encryption and is designed to meet NIST FIPS (Federal Information Processing Standard) 140-2 Level 2 requirements. The SSD drive protects data as it’s being written with military grade 256-bit AES XTS encryption, and is small enough to fit comfortably in any pocket.

SEE ALSO: 20TB Aegis Fortress L3 SSD is the world's largest encrypted portable drive

To get started with Padlock SSD, you just need to connect it to your computer, and then set up a PIN. For security reasons, it doesn’t come with a default one. With the LEDs glowing solid green and blue, press the green unlock and 9 keys together. This will cause the green light to start flashing. Enter an admin PIN of between 7 and 16 digits in length. This pin can’t be made up of one number, like '9999999', or all consecutive numbers, such as '1234567'.

When entered, press the green unlock button, enter the PIN again and press the green unlock button once more. The green light will glow steadily for three seconds, then the blue light will indicate that the drive is in admin mode. It will stay this way for 30 seconds or until you press the red lock key.

To access your drive’s contents at any time, plug it in (or press the red lock key), enter your admin PIN, and then press the green unlock button.

If other people are going to use the drive, you can add a user PIN which will give them more limited access. You can also set up one-time user recovery PINs, and set read-only or read/write modes for both admin and user. It's possible to create a self-destruct PIN as well which if threatened you can give to someone which will cause the drive to be wiped when entered.

The device offers strong protection against brute force attacks -- after three wrong PIN attempts it will add time delays, and after ten attempts the drive will lock. It is possible to get another ten attempts (the process is described in the manual) but after this point the drive will delete all of the data on it.

There’s also a new Provision Lock feature which lets an admin 'lock in' a security policy, which prevents users overwriting admin-prescribed security measures, including stopping them changing programmable settings, permissions, and recovery PINs, without the admin PIN.

The device comes pre-formatted in NTFS for Windows, so you will need to reformat it if using it on a Mac. Once the Aegis Padlock SSD is unlocked, you can copy data to and from it. The drive isn’t recognized by any operating system when locked.

Recently updated, the device is now significantly faster than its predecessor, promising read speeds of up to 350MB and write speeds up to 310MB.

The drive comes with an integrated USB-A 3.2 cable and in the box there’s a travel pouch, quick start guide, and a USB-Y cable which lets you plug the drive into two USB ports should a single port fail to provide sufficient power.

In my tests, the Aegis Padlock SSD worked perfectly, locking and unlocking quickly every time, which isn’t the case with other similar drives I’ve had in the past.

I would have liked the drive to have come with a USB-C adapter (or even be available to buy with an integrated USB-C cable), but that’s a small quibble.

Aegis Padlock SSD is available in a choice of storage capacities -- 240GB, 480GB, 1TB, 2TB, and 4TB (I tested the 480GB model) and comes priced from $209/£166.97 - $1,199/£957.88.

You can buy it from Apricorn here.

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