iStorage is a provider of high performance and ultra

iStorage is a provider of high performance and ultra secure portable data
storage and security products. Their diskGenie range of portable encrypted
hard drives with secure PIN code access comes in various sizes (250, 320,
500, 640 and 750 GB) and two types of encryption (128-bit and 256-bit AES
hardware encryption). I had the opportunity to test drive the 250 GB diskGenie
with 256-bit AES encryption.
The iStorage diskGenie is a compact and
portable USB hard drive that encrypts its contents on the fly. The only way to access the
files stored in it is through a number pad similar to one used on ATMs - although the PIN is
not restricted to four digits, but can be any 6to-16 digit combination.
fault PIN and press the "Unlock" (unlocked
padlock) button.
The disk is very versatile - it can be used on
machines running Windows, Mac OS and
Linux. When taken out of the box, the disk is
pre-formatted in NTFS for Windows and can
be used immediately - no additional software
installation is required, and you don't have to
have administrative rights on your machine to
use it.
First you press and hold the "0" and "Unlock"
buttons together for a few seconds until the
LED light flashes red. Then, you enter the default PIN and press the "Unlock" button. You'll
know you have successfully accessed Admin
Mode if the LED light turns blue.
The LED light on the disk tells you what is currently happening with the disk. Plugged in for
the first time, the light is red - meaning that the
disk is inaccessible until you type in the
But, before you do this, I would recommend
changing the PIN. It is very easy to do - just
follow the steps enumerated in the quick start
guide sheet that is packed alongside the disk.
Then you press press and hold the "9" and
"Unlock" buttons together until the LED light
flashes blue, and now is the time to enter your
new PIN and press the "Unlock" button. But,
be sure to save the PIN somewhere because
if you lose it or can't remember it, the contents
of the disk are practically lost to you.
The LED light will flash green three times to
indicate the PIN is stored. Re-enter it and
press "Unlock" and you'll know the PIN was
changed successfully if the LED stays solid
green for 2 seconds. In the end, you need
only to exit the Admin Mode by pressing the
"Cancel" button until the LED turns red.
Now, you are ready to use the disk with your
brand new PIN by simply typing it in and
pressing "Unlock".
Once you do that, the disk is immediately accessible and shows up on the machine like
any regular removable drive - and you treat it
like such. Drag and drop the files you want to
store in it, which are automatically encrypted
on the fly. Once you dismount the drive or
simply plug it out, it immediately reverts to its
locked state.
I tried it on my Windows 7 Ultimate running
machine with the Intel Core i5 CPU, and it
worked flawlessly. Then I tried it on my iMac
running OS X 10.6.6 with a 2.4 GHz Intel Core
2 Duo processor.
Once I plugged it in and entered the PIN, I realized that I can read the files on it and copy
files from it without re-formatting the drive to a
Mac compatible format. But, to be able to
store files on it, I had to do just that.
It is a very simple procedure. Go to
Applications/Utilities/Disk Utility, select the
disk from the list of drive and volumes, click
on the "Erase" tab, give the disk a name, select the volume format to use (the manufacturer recommends "Mac OS Extended (Journaled) and click on the "Erase" button.
The process is over in a few seconds, and you
can now use the disk as it was meant to be
Seeing that the disk encrypts the files put in it
on the fly, you might be inclined to think that
the whole process takes somewhat longer
than it would with a regular, non-encrypting
disk. Actually, it doesn't.
As an example, it took 3 minutes to copy a 5.5
GB folder in it - I have regular removable
drives that work slower than that.
Un-mounting the drive after you finished using
it will make its contents inaccessible. Unmounting the disk before disconnecting it is
advisable, since sometimes you may find that
the files stored on it have disappeared because of your failure to do so.
The integrated USB cable - which is definitely
a boon for people like me who abhor too much
clutter - could also be a little bit longer.
Unfortunately, if you change your mind and
want to use it again, you have to unplug it and
plug it into the machine again. I didn't care for
that, since the USB ports are on the back of
my computer and I had to get up each time to
do it.
The disk is easy to use with a laptop, but if
you use it on a desktop computer, you can
find that the cable is simply too short to plug it
in and position it on the top of the casing, and
definitely awkward to use when changing the
PIN. But, on the other hand, it's nothing an
extension cable can't fix.
Also, at first glance, I thought I would miss a
screen on which you see the status of the device while you set up the PIN or insert it. It
turns out, the LED is more than enough, and
the keys are hardy enough to make it entirely
obvious whether you have pressed them or
reliable if used properly. I have been using it
for a few months and have yet to find a glitch
in its performance. According to the manufacturer, the data stored on the drive cannot be
accessed even if the hard drive is removed
from its enclosure - you simply must know the
In any case, if you entered the wrong PIN, you
simply won't get access and are free to try
again five more times. After the sixth incorrect
attempt, you will have to disconnect and reconnect the drive before trying again. All in all,
you have a hundred tries to get the number
right - after that, the disk assumes it is being
attacked and will destroy the encryption key
and lock itself, rendering the data useless and
requiring a total reset and reformat to redeploy
The disk is enclosed in a sturdy enclosure and
is protected by a shock mounting system
which - among other things - makes it perfect
for transporting data. The PIN protection (and
its limitations) and the hardware encryption
means that the disk cannot be brute force attacked and is not vulnerable to keyloggers or
to corruption of data by malware or viruses.
Setting aside those minor limitations, the disk
worked flawlessly. It's extremely fast and very
An additional benefit of this disk is that allows
enrollment of up to ten unique user ID's and
one administrator, making it ideal for business
collaboration within corporate environments.
Zeljka Zorz is the News Editor at Help Net Security and (IN)SECURE Magazine.