Fake or "Too Good to be True" USB Flash Drives
by, 09-08-2010 at 04:27 PM (12008 Views)
USB Flash Drives, also known as Jump or Thumb Drives, USB pen drive, or a USB stick. We have all seen a number of very inexpensive USB Flash Drives for sale on eBay, online dealers and auction sites, and sometimes in a brick-and-mortar discount electronics/technology store. These USB Flash Drives are usually sold in sizes ranging from 8GB to 128GB.
Sometimes, one might just take a chance; it arrives and you gingerly plug it into your PC…and whew, Windows reports the capacity as being correct. Looks like you bought yourself 61.4GB of USB Flash Drive storage for USD $22.95. So, you start to use it and now something goes wrong and all the files are corrupted. What happened? You bought a fake USB Flash Drive.
One monitoring site, SOSFakeFlash reports they have more than 1200 fake flash memory sellers on file from eBay alone. As of December 2009, 72 countries have members who have been the victims of fraudulently manipulated fake capacity USB Flash memory items purchase on eBay. SOSFakeFlash is active in fighting fake flash drives sold on eBay. Be careful to avoid a fake site that has been set up to divert traffic away from SOSFakeFlash; the fake site is SOSFakeFlash.com. The real site is linked in this Blog and is http:/SOSFakeFlash.wordpress.com.
With the right software tools, flash storage chips have been successfully manipulated to report sizes as high as 1TB to operating systems. Reportedly, changing a 2GB flash storage chip with a MXT6208 USB controller to be read as 256GB was done in just a few minutes:
Most of these fake USB Flash Drives are made from a 1GB, 2GB, or 4GB flash memory chip (sometimes a good memory chip, but more often from a quality control reject) that has been programmed to report a higher capacity.
A useful Windows utility program is RMPrepUSB for USB Flash Drives. RMPrepUSB can be used to format, partition, and make a USB Flash Drive bootable. There are functions to erase and clean your USB Flash Drive and it can create an image of the drive contents as a backup. For the purposes of this Blog about fake USB Flash Drives, we will be focused on using RMPrepUSB to test a USB Flash Drive.
There are two methods in the RMPrepUSB download that can be used to test a suspect USB Flash Drive; the quicker of the tests is to use the RMPrep USB Quick Size Button. This test is a destructive test in destroying any data on the USB Flash Drive and one needs to reformat the drive using RMPrepUSB after the test. Testing of a purported 16GB Flash Drive is complete in about 5-10 minutes. The slower, but more thorough means of testing that cheap Flash Drive is to use the test H2TESTW (included in the download of RMPrepUSB).
Run H2TESTW.exe and all bytes of unused memory will be tested, even those nonexistent bytes of a fake Flash Drive. H2TESTW will create large files to fill the Flash Drive, however, any files resident on a legitimate drive will not be destroyed. If the Flash Drive is a fake, all files may be destroyed in the test. The test can take 4-8 hours to test a legitimate 16GB drive and much longer for a fake drive.
If the Flash Drive is fake, one might not be able to repair the drive to its real memory chip capacity because many of the fake drives use the faulty chips that fail the quality test. So, RMPrepUSB may identify the true size of the memory in that Flash Drive, but it will likely be an unreliable medium for your data storage.
The SOSFakeFlash website has information on how to fight back against USB Flash Drive fraud HERE.
Speaking of fake drives, eBay is being flooded with fake Sony Vaio USB Flash Drives that look like this:
If you see a listing for Sony-labelled USB Devices that looks like this, DO NOT BID ON IT... DO NOT BUY IT. It is a FAKE! The sellers are using the Vaio brand name along with a silver metal USB device. Sony uses the name VAIO as its branding of laptops, NOT USB Flash Drives. Be careful, stay safe.
Adapted from original publication in the WiiHacks Exclusive Newsletter-August 2010.