The introduction of the Maxtor BlackArmor solution comes as growing reports of compromised computer information continue to alarm us all, underscoring the growing need for storage solutions that provide security and privacy for personal information. Since January 2005, more than 215 million computer records have been compromised in the U.S., many the direct result of a lost or stolen desktop or laptop system or hard drive, USB thumb drive, smart phone or CD.

The Maxtor BlackArmor is a 2.5-inch (5400rpm, 8MB cache) external storage device with a difference. This encrypted hard disk drive provides government-grade encryption protection against unauthorised access to all your personal data. Available in either 160GB (Best Current Price: £80.98) or 320GB (Best Current Price: £99.43) capacities, the Maxtor BlackArmor (84×17×131mm, 208g) delivers the confidence and reliability of robust security in a compact and friendly design.

Designed for those who have valuable information they wish to keep secure and private, the Maxtor BlackArmor product is a sleek solution that puts security first. The drive is not about capacity, it’s not about backup, it’s not about expansion – it’s all about security. The Maxtor BlackArmor mounts like a drive and acts like a drive, but without a username and password it’s a brick. Once you enter your details correctly you have full access to your data. Get the password wrong three times and you can kiss goodbye to all your files – you’ll have to perform a ‘secure erase’ to wipe the drive clean in order to gain access again. That’s hardcore! Seagate considered offering a biometric option, but biometrics generally need some kind of back door in case the scanner fails.

The Maxtor BlackArmor external storage solution uses a government-grade AES encryption certified by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to deliver the strongest commercially available data security available for external storage. Using parent company Seagate’s Secure hardware-based technology that resides on the hard drive’s circuitry, encryption is transparent and free of complicated installation required by software-based security solutions.

The drive provides transparent, real-time encryption of all the data on the device, not just selected files. It also puts all security keys and cryptographic operations within the device, delivering stronger protection against hacking and tampering than traditional software alternatives. Key encryption technology can also securely wipe out the data for simple, cost-effective redeployment or disposal of the product – an important capability for businesses or those selling a used Maxtor BlackArmor on eBay.

The product ships with Maxtor’s backup and synchronisation software for installation on your home system. On the home system the device works in ‘host mode’; anywhere else it’s in ‘traveller mode’. The biggest difference is that it’s only possible to erase the drive in host mode. If somebody steals or borrows the drive, they can’t get your data and they can’t erase the drive and make it their own.

Maxtor’s BlackArmor is an elegantly designed product that delivers on the promise of providing a level of security that is both reliable and robust. It also offers one of the best cost-per-gigabyte rates we’ve seen, so you’re not paying a premium for the built-in security. If you are serious about data protection and don’t might taking a hit on performance compared to some other USB 2.0 drives, the Maxtor BlackArmor is a really good choice. This box takes the prize as the Fort Knox of the storage world.

Reviewed by Rob Christian