How much would you pay for 30 terabytes of portable flash storage? At current market prices, you could make that happen for around $4000, assuming you’re okay with splitting it up among multiple units. But what if I told you I can give you 30TB of portable SSD capacity, in a single full-size drive, for less than the price of a 1TB drive from SanDisk?
You would probably say “shit”. And you would be right.
Such was the case when Twitter handle @RayRedacted I found a “30TB Type C SSD External Flash Drive” on AliExpress for less than $30. Ray is no fool and knew this was an extremely common (yet extraordinarily brazen) fake storage scam. But out of morbid curiosity, he bought one just to try it out and take it apart. This particular drive is notable for mimicking Samsung’s popular portable SSD designs… and it appears to be available from more popular and supposedly legitimate marketplaces like Walmart.com as well.
Since similar scams have been around for a while, you probably know what’s coming next. When the drive arrived, Ray plugged it in and found two “15TB” virtual drives, not running at USB 3.1 speeds, but much older and slower USB 2.0. When trying to fill the drives with several terabytes of data, the files appeared to be in place, but were unrecoverable. This is because it’s easy for drives to report false capacities to Windows, simply overwriting themselves when the data exceeds the actual storage space.
Ray opened the drive with a razor blade and found two MicroSD cards glued into place on an adapter circuit board, not the M.2 drive that was advertised on the package. After some more research, the cards turned out to be 512 megabytes each, with a combined total capacity of… one gigabyte. The kind of storage that would put a 20-year-old MP3 player to shame. And it’s worth noting that if someone is willing to sell fake drives, they’re probably not above slipping some ransomware in there too.
Ray’s story was picked up by major sites like Ars Technica, but despite the increased visibility, the unit (or one very similar) is still available for purchase on Walmart.com. This is the kind of thing that often happens when companies open their sites beyond the standard retail channels and allow any online seller to use them as a storefront, as noted security researcher Robert Graham. But, in general, a little quality control can eliminate these scams… which is not to say that they are never seen in similar bus windows, such as Amazon and Newegg.
Any slightly tech-savvy person could spot the scam from a mile away, but appearing on a major retailer’s site, it definitely affected at least a few unsuspecting shoppers. Remember, you don’t need a Computer Science degree to follow the old adage: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.