Rocbit 2B

Reports of corporate employees losing laptops full of sensitive customer data have become a staple of the nightly news. Rocsecure’s Rocbit 2B portable hard drives, featuring real-time encryption, may make such security breaches a thing of the past.

Measuring 5.7-by-3.5-by-0.83 inches, the Rocbit 2’s sturdy 0.6-pound aluminum enclosure is small and light enough not to burden mobile users. The Rocbit 2 is available in several different models, differentiated by the encryption level (40-, 64-, 128-, or 192-bit), capacity (40 to 160 GB), rotational speed, and number and type of ports available. I reviewed the 40-bit, 100GB, 5,400-rpm Rocbit 2B with two FireWire 800 ports and one USB 2.0 port. You may need the supplied AC adapter when connecting the drive to your computer via USB, but never with FireWire.

To begin using the drive, you insert the small Secure Key into a special port on the back of the drive, then format using Disk Utility (you only need to do this once). After the volume mounts, you can remove the key and use the drive until you turn off the power, at which point you must reinsert the Secure Key before Mac OS X can recognize the drive again. This approach beats memorizing obtuse passwords or dealing with biometric safeguards. It would be more convenient, however, if the Secure Key port was on the front.

Encryption is provided via a chip on the drive’s controller that intercepts IDE (Integrated Drive Electronics) data commands to the drive and encrypts the data using DES (Data Encryption Standard) algorithms in real time, with no performance penalty. Security can’t be compromised by simply moving the mechanism to a new enclosure, as is possible with hard drives that store data in unencrypted cleartext. Of course, if you lose your keys, you lose your data. Under this circumstance, you must order a set of replacement keys to reformat your drive with encryption, since it’s impossible to use the drive as a normal storage device.

Once mounted, the Rocbit 2B behaves exactly like any other Mac volume, and it is pleasantly quiet, even during disk activity. In Macworld’s standard hard drive tests, the Rocbit 2B was six to 31 percent faster than the average of three comparable drives from other vendors.

timed trials

Copy 1GB to Drive 0:47
Duplicate 1GB on Drive 1:09
Low Memory Photoshop CS Suite 2:00

Scale = Minutes: Seconds

How We Tested: We ran all tests with the FireWire drives connected to a dual-2.5GHz Power Mac G5 with Mac OS X 10.3.9 installed and 512MB of RAM. We tested the drive using FireWire 800. (In cases where a drive does not have FireWire 800, we use FireWire 400.) We copied a folder containing 1GB of data from our Mac’s hard drive to the external hard drive to test the drive’s write speed. We then duplicated that file on the external drive to test both read and write speeds. We also used the drive as a scratch disk when running our low-memory Adobe Photoshop CS Suite test. This test is a set of four tasks performed on a 150MB file, with Photoshop’s memory set to 50 percent.—Macworld Lab Testing by James Galbraith and Jerry Jung

specifications

Price per gigabyte $2.50
Connectors FireWire 800 (2), USB 2.0 (1)
Rotational Speed 5400 RPM
Other capacities 40GB ($162), 60GB ($183), 80GB ($199), 120GB ($269), 160GB ($350)

Macworld’s buying advice

Rocsecure’s Rocbit 2B, with 40-bit encryption, is priced a bit higher than similar unencrypted portable drives and is well worth the premium if security is a concern, but the 192-bit model costs almost $200 more and is for the truly paranoid. If your storage needs exceed 160GB, consider the desktop Rocbit 3B instead (   ; August 2006 ).

[ Owen W. Linzmayer is the author of Apple Confidential 2.0: The Definitive History of the World’s Most Colorful Company (No Starch Press, 2 ed., 2004). ]

Rocbit 2B

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