The Amacom Data Locker is the latest product from Origin Storage, a manufacturer and distributor of IT storage solutions. The Data Locker (previously called the ezSecure) is an external USB 2.0 hard drive designed to give you peace of mind in the event that that the device is lost or stolen. The drive actually secures your data using a 6-18 digit PIN which is entered directly via the device itself, eliminating the need for clunky and unreliable software.

With security breaches and data loss stories frequently appearing in headlines, the need to secure data has become more essential in order to avoid such incidents. Data Locker allows the portable drive to mount an operating system only when the correct PIN has been entered on the LCD keypad. You can also use the LCD to change the Data Locker PIN, dismount the drive, toggle the encryption on or off, or wipe the drive clean. Unlike other USB drives that use software-based security, the Data Locker utilises a hardware-based encryption chip to seamlessly encrypt and decrypt your data using military grade AES/CBC mode encryption.

Available in three different capacities (160GB, 320GB and 500GB) and with two different levels of security (128- or 256-bit AES), the Data Locker (from £169 to £400) is not the most cost effective drive – you’re paying for the security privilege. Finished in a gun-metal grey aluminium chassis with silver accents, the most prominent feature of the device is its large non-backlit LCD. Origin Storage also supplies a rubberised black sleeve that wraps around the unit and protects the 2.5-inch (5400rpm) SATA hard drive from knocks and bumps. Weirdly, the sleeve doesn’t protect the display or the exposed power switch or the USB port. Nonetheless, it’s a welcome addition and at the very least helps to stop the drive from slipping off a desk.

Operating the Data Locker couldn’t be any simpler. After connecting the included USB ‘Y’ cable to the drive and the other end to your computer (two USB ports may be required, should your older computer not provide sufficient power to operate an external drive), you turn the Data Locker’s power switch to on and enter the default 6-digit password. Once you’ve entered the correct password the drive instantly appears as a new volume in Windows Explorer, allowing you to drag and drop data as you would any other external drive. The drive is shipped preformatted using the NTFS file system, but it can be reformatted to FAT32 if your PC or Mac configuration does not support NTFS formatted drives.

From the unit you can also change the password (cannot be recovered or reset without losing all your data, so choose carefully), turn the device’s keytones on or off, change the encryption key (lets you erase all data stored on the Data Locker and make it available for another person, but requires manual initialising and formatting), toggle self-destruct mode, as well as disconnect the drive from your computer. Self-destruct mode is a security measure that when enabled (is by default), will delete all the data and the encryption key on the Data Locker if the password is entered unsuccessfully nine times. On the ninth unsuccessful attempt your data is obliterated and the process is irreversible. Gulp!

A couple of other neat features are worth mentioning. If you are performing a lengthy disk operation (i.e. a large file transfer or backup) and would like to automatically disconnect and secure the Data Locker when it has complete, simply press the ‘Disconnect’ option on the display and the drive will secure itself. The Data Locker also detects USB malware or virus attempting to alter the drive’s file system or partition. However, as there is no means for the drive to update its built-in malware engine, I’m not sure how effective this will be against the latest attacks.

Amacom’s Data Locker is definitely a secure drive and would be a good option for business users transferring confidential data between locations. The downside is that it’s pricey and faces stiff competition from Lenovo’s ThinkPad USB Portable Secure Hard Drive. Then again, Lenovo’s offering maxes out at 320GB (£135) and doesn’t have a built-in display. The Data Locker isn’t the quickest drive on the block either, registering read and write speeds of 31MB/s and 20.5MBs respectively in my tests, but its number one priority is protecting your data. With features to protect against brute force attacks, one-touch drive erase for rapid re-deployment, and unattended auto lock function, the Data Locker is a versatile all-rounder.