How much would you pay for 30 terabytes of portable flash storage? At current market prices, you could get there for around $4,000, assuming you’re willing to split it among multiple drives. But what if I told you that I could offer you 30TB of portable SSD capacity, in a single standard-size drive, for less than the price of a 1TB drive from SanDisk?
You would probably say “bullshit”. And you would be right.
Such was the case when Twitter user @RayRedacted found a hanging “30TB SSD External Flash Drive Type-C” on AliExpress for less than $30. Now Ray is no fool and knew this was an extremely common (although rarely brazen) fake storage scam. But out of morbid curiosity, he bought one just to test and tear it down. This particular drive is notable because it apes Samsung’s wildly popular portable SSD designs…and it appears to be available on more popular and supposedly legitimate marketplaces as well, like Walmart.com.
Since similar scams have been around for a while, you probably know what’s next. When the drive arrived, Ray plugged it in to find two virtual “15TB” drives, which didn’t run at USB 3.1 speeds, but at the much older and slower USB 2.0. When trying to actually fill the disks with several terabytes of data, the files appeared to be in place, but were unrecoverable. Indeed, it is easy for readers to report fake capacities to Windows, simply writing to themselves when the data exceeds the actual storage space.
Ray opened the drive with a razor blade and found two MicroSD cards stuck in place on an adapter circuit board, not the M.2 drive advertised in the package. After a little more investigation, the cards turned out to be 512 megabytes each, for 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 pointing out that if someone is out to sell fake discs, they’re probably not above slipping a little ransomware in there as well.
Ray’s story has been picked up by major sites like Ars Technica, but despite the increased visibility, the player (or an extremely similar player) remains available for purchase on Walmart.com. It’s the kind of thing that tends to happen when companies open up their sites beyond standard retail channels and let any online seller use them as their storefront, as noted by security researcher Robert Graham. But usually a little quality control can weed these scams out…which doesn’t mean they’re never spotted on similar omnibus storefronts, like Amazon and Newegg.
Anyone mildly technical could spot the scam from a mile away, but since it appears on a major retailer’s site, it’s definitely affecting at least a few innocent shoppers. Remember, you don’t need a CompSci degree to follow the old proverb: if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.