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iStorage datAshur PRO Review: The USB Stick for Safety-Conscious Users

No Data Without Correct PIN

Despite the complex setting options, the keypad is kept quite simple, but requires some memorization if you don’t have the detailed cheat sheet that comes with the package at hand. The LEDs for the status display are helpful. Despite the keypad, the stick is not much bigger than other conventional USB sticks. Above all, it is slim, so it does not interfere with any other plugs in an adjacent port on the computer. The keys can still be pressed individually without any problems, tactile feedback confirms the entry.

The manufacturer has also integrated additional protective measures to ensure security in the event of loss of the USB stick: If the wrong PIN is entered ten times, the stick automatically resets itself and deletes the current key. All data on it is then irrevocably lost. In addition, a timeout can be defined after the stick is automatically locked if it is plugged into a computer. Additional security is provided by the option to activate read-only mode. All this can be done not only by the user himself, but also by an administrator.

Additional Security Thanks to Admin Mode

With a second admin mode with its own key, the datAshur PRO can be secured again, namely before the actual user. The administrator can then define all of the above settings himself. They also apply to the user, for example, read-only mode, if data is only to be transported and not changed. The user cannot change these admin settings himself.

We have also benchmark tested our datAshur PRO with 32 GByte. One of Sandisk’s fastest USB sticks, the Ultra Flair, served as a comparison – admittedly a somewhat unfair comparison. However, both use the USB 3.0 interface. Both were connected to a corresponding slot on the I/O panel of our housing. We used the current version of Crystaldiskmark. Of course, the values measured by us are only comparative values.

Not the Best Benchmark Values, …

We expected the datAshur PRO to be much slower than the Sandisk stick. Especially when reading the differences were more than clear, we could read data from the Sandisk-Stick three times faster than from the datAshur PRO. When writing, the datAshur PRO was also inferior, but far less than when reading. The controller is a Phison PS2313 with a firmware from July 2015.

Then it occurred to us that the encryption also plays a role in the writing speed, which the datAshur PRO also does with its own hardware module. Currently, an AES encryption with 512-bit is normally recommended, but the manufacturer iStorage uses 256-bit encryption on the datAshur PRO, probably also because the data on the stick is additionally secured by the other functions. With 256 bits, the encryption speed is naturally higher than with 512 bits.

… Except for Encryption

We made a final comparison between the Sandisk-Stick and the datAshur PRO by encrypting the Sandisk-Stick with AES-XTS and 256 Bit using the encryption software Veracrypt. Veracrypt also used the hardware module of our fast Ryzen 2700X from AMD. And look at this: The datAshur PRO suddenly beat the Sandisk Flair by lengths while writing. Ultimately, however, the benchmarks are far below the list of priorities for such a USB stick, which excels above all in terms of functionality and security.

In a further test we installed the Linux operating system Tails on the datAshur PRO, which was trimmed for security. We were able to successfully boot from the stick on all three test computers – after entering the PIN, of course. In addition, Tails ran subjectively just as fast as on other comparable data carriers. The low benchmarks didn’t matter here.

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Simon Lüthje

I am co-founder of this blog and am very interested in everything that has to do with technology, but I also like to play games. I was born in Hamburg, but now I live in Berlin.
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