SecureData has been more than gracious, sending me drive after drive from their line of flash and solid-state-based storage devices that are built — from the inside and out — to protect your data.
With big data a hot topic, it’s only a matter of time before home users realize the need for everyday protection. I’ve already written at length about how these drives are useful for spies and executives, but we’re moving into an era where everyone’s storing their pictures, personal spreadsheets, and even their school assignments on drives.
The world has changed in the past few months. It’s becoming more a matter of when than if this pandemic will end, and with hundreds of thousands — if not millions — of employees returning to their work sites as vaccines are released, many of them will have laptops and data to carry.
In the days of yore, physical briefcases came with number locks standard. It may only be a matter of time before data drives with built-in security features become the norm.
That doesn’t mean we’ll get rid of flash drives completely — they’re convenient and disposable. But all of the drawbacks for carrying portable hard drives have become nullified with the advent of cheaper, thinner, and lighter solid state drives that are much less fragile than their spinning-plate counterparts.
And with the SecureDrive BT, it looks like I have a new addition to my everyday carry essentials that will compete with the SecureDrive KP I reviewed a few months back.
Where the SecureDrive KP features a keypad on its casing that lets users type in their pin in order to unlock the drive, the SecureDrive BT (Bluetooth) connects to an app on your smartphone.
Once you’ve connected the drive to the app on your phone — mine manages the new drive and the SecureUSB BT flash drive — you can choose to unlock the device with a simple touch of your smartphone screen and a few taps for the password.
Locking the drive is as easy as sliding the name of your drive to the left. Sliding it to the right removes it from your app in case you need to hand the drive over to someone else.
Simply tapping on the drive name will open up a bunch of settings. Since the drive is managed by your smartphone, there are a lot of options you won’t get on the SecureDrive KP, and a lot of the shared options are easier to manage through the app.
Changing the password is a matter of putting in your old password and typing in a new one with a confirmation. There’s 2-Factor Authentication and even a Remember Password function that basically makes your drive work as if there is no password.
My favorite option is Biometric Unlock, which makes remembering the password a moot point. I don’t have to worry about anyone somehow getting into my drive unless they were somehow able to knock me unconscious and press my thumb onto my phone. If that’s ever a thing, I have a lot more to worry about than the family photographs and MP3s I’m carrying around.
For anyone concerned about having their drives accessed when they’re away from the drive — and away from their phone — settings under the Locking Options will set up an automatic lock after a period of inactivity.
Or — if you have your phone on you — you can have the drive automatically disconnect if you put distance between the connected smartphone and the drive.
For cases where someone has taken off with your drive, you can initiate a Remote Wipe. It’s a feature that makes a lot of sense for its inclusion, but I’m wondering how many people will ever actually need it. This thing is hackproof, and if they don’t have your smartphone and password, they’re not going to get in. Wiping the drive after it’s been taken away provides peace of mind, but it’s just one extra layer in the onion that is the SecureDrive BT.
Built for secrets
Going over the litany of security features for the SecureDrive BT might seem like a broken record if you’ve read my other reviews for their products.
The drive comes with a one-year license for DriveSecurity Antivirus powered by ESET, carries AES 256-bit hardware encryption that is used to encrypt and decrypt the data, and is FIPS 140-2 level 3 validated. The inside of the drive is covered in epoxy, which makes it very difficult to physically tamper with the drive, and the metal casing will keep it safe from day-to-day bumps and jostles.
The hard-drive version comes with a two-year warranty, but I would forego that and pay $20 extra for the solid-state drive that won’t be destroyed if you were to ever let it fall out of your pocket or onto the floor from your desk. That $20 extra gets you a three-year warranty and a faster drive — it’s a no-brainer.
A new feature — Remote Management — lets you manage the drive through a web console. It costs $24.95 per drive per year, but if you’re a company with multiple drives floating around, you may want to know where each one is through the tracking service. You can also remotely unlock and force password resets along with wiping drives and revoking access.
These are great features to have on the enterprise level, but for the average home user, it’s completely optional.
The SecureDrive KP has been in my EDC bag, but it’s time to pass it on to my wife who has wanted her own drive. She understands the need to protect data — she’s also a teacher and an academic coach. While we both use the cloud for many of our documents and communications, our school-loaned laptops can’t store everything — especially large files like videos for presentations that would take hours to upload.
The reason I’m choosing the BT over the KP — a simple matter of having more options.
In class, I often step away to work with students. If a student were to get onto my computer, or if I was pulled away by an administrator, I would have to walk or run in order to get to the drive in order to lock it. With the BT, I can pull out my phone, slide the drive’s name, and then leave the classroom knowing no one will be able to loot my directory of Spice Girls music.
If ever the drive were stolen and somehow compromised, I could erase the contents remotely. It’s just a more advanced version of the KP with more control. But on the other hand, if I were ever to lose my phone, that would be an inconvenience that’s easily solved. All I have to do is download the app to my new phone, put in the drive’s serial number, and type the password for the drive to connect it to a new mobile device.
To me, the BT is the superior device. For every situation where I’m not able to unlock the drive because I couldn’t charge my phone, I’m better off not worrying about a keypad that can malfunction or be hacked because I happened to be eating super greasy fries. There are trade-offs, but the workarounds are easier for the BT.
The 500GB drive I reviewed goes for $239 on the SecureDrive website. Is it worth that much more than a non-secure drive that costs multiples less?
In 2021, I would say the cost is nominal. You’re not getting just a drive — you’re getting an upgrade that allows you to carry documents, files, music, and videos in your pocket. And instead of keeping those receipts, tax statements, and confidential records on your laptop where they’re less protected, you can store them inside of a digital safe that’s built to keep prying eyes out.
Whether you’re going back and forth from home to work or traveling to see your parents across the country with a bunch of baby photos in tow, the SecureDrive BT is your portable metal attache with a Bluetooth pair of handcuffs no one can break.
SecureDrive BT 250GB
This review is based on an review-sample 250GB drive sent to us from the company.