If you’re searching for a secure external drive that meets US military and government security standards there’s plenty of encrypted external SSD choices around it. A couple of years ago I reviewed one solution, iStorage diskAshur 2, which has a built-in PIN pad for entering a seven-to 15-digit code to unlock the drive.
The SecureDrive BT is a similar idea but you unlock it via Bluetooth instead of a PIN pad. Specifically, you can use the Face ID on your iPhone while plugging the drive into your Mac to unlock it.
The drive is available in both spinning metal and SSD models, with capacities between 250 GB and 8 TB. The price ranges from $262 (250 GB) to $3.309 (8 TB) for SSDs. I had a 1 TB SSD model tested at $458.80.
The drive can be used with Mac, Windows, and Linux, and is available on both iOS and Android as the companion app.
Look and feel
The drive looks a lot like any external drive. It has a body of blue anodized aluminum with black plastic endcaps. On the front is a name for Secure Drive Bluetooth, and on the back a somewhat unsightly combination of barcode, website, and various compliance logos for standards.
One thing to watch out for: SecureDrive tells me that both USB-A and USB-C cables are available. There was a USB-A cable on the drive I got, so I wanted an adapter to connect to my MacBook Pro.
SecureDrive BT uses the same hardware encryption for AES256-bit XTS as for the iStorage drive. Also referred to as military-grade encryption, this is certified as standard P1619 by the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) and is in reality approved for military use in the US.
The encrypted external SSD is also certified as being FIPS 140-3. This is the certification of the Federal Information Processing Standards which requires it to be used to store Top Secret documents from the US government.
Within, the chips are enclosed in epoxy resin, ensuring the SSD chips can not be separated from the rest of the hardware.
Incidentally, Apple’s FileVault also provides the same AES256-bit XTS standard but defaults for performance reasons on the weaker 128-bit edition. However the Disk Utility gives you the option to format full 256-bit AES.
Running Blackmagic, I saw speeds of around 310MB / s in writing and speeds of around 325MB / s in reading.
Of course these are low numbers relative to the very fast external SSDs now available, and there are two reasons for this. Firstly, the USB 3.1 interface. Second, the AES256-bit XTS encryption slows things down significantly, which is why Apple defaults to FileVault on 128-bit.
The bottom line here is that you probably won’t want to use this as a working drive for demanding applications such as video editing— even if it will cope with HD video.
That’s not to suggest it’s a slow drive in SSD form but the speed of an equivalent unencrypted drive is still about half to two-thirds.
Mostly, though, this is a drive that you will use to store commercially sensitive documents, such as product designs in-progress apps marketing materials for unannounced products customer databases and the like.
This works just like any other drive once the SecureDrive BT is unlocked. So the review section “in use” really is about the unlocking process— and there is good news and bad news here.
The bad news is it’s a little less easy than a key-pad drive. You need to open the companion app and tap the name of the drive to unlock it. At that point it will be unlocked by Face ID. But if you keep the app on your home screen, it’s about as easy to unlock as using a keypad.
The good news is you trade off a slight inconvenience for greater security. A keypad restricts you to a numeric passcode; you can have an alphanumeric password with this drive including all the special characters.
Plus, it’s not clear it’s a secure drive If someone sees a commonly used drive with a keypad it draws attention to itself. This one, however, looks no different from any other external drive, and will not be associated with unlocking the drive using your phone. So it’s both the more discreet one, and the more secure one. SecureDrive also renders a variant of the keypad, if you want.
Apple Authority verdict
If you need the safe, or can use it as a tool for sale, then the drive can justify itself. If you don’t, you can get faster performance in unencrypted form at a lower price. For example, the Western Digital My Passport 1 TB SSD equivalent is about 50 % faster and has a list price of $340 versus just over $500 for the SecureDrive BT (and the WD drive is available on Amazon for far less). If you need this then the price will be worth it; if you don’t, it won’t.