A security researcher has sounded the alarm over a portable SSD listed on both AliExpress and Walmart, which appears to be programmed to misrepresent its own storage capacity.
As reported by Ars Technica, a researcher that goes by the name of @RayRedacted on Twitter has published a teardown of an XGeek-branded SSD with a supposed capacity of 30TB, on sale for between $29-$39.
Upon close inspection, he found the manufacturer had likely meddled with the drive’s firmware in order to trick Windows into misreporting the available storage capacity, which in reality is far, far lower.
Fake portable SSD?
Suspicious of the capacity claims, @RayRedacted purchased the SSD in question from AliExpress. When he cracked it open, he found what appeared to be two microSD cards glued in a haphazard manner to a board.
A second red flag presented itself when the drive was plugged in. Although Windows reports drive capacity in gigabytes (GB), the OS actually measures in gibibytes (GiB) and tebibytes (TiB), which is why 1TB drives typically appear to have a capacity of roughly 930GB. But in this case, the SSD presented itself as two separate drives, each with a capacity of precisely 15TB.
This discrepancy is attributed by @RayRedacted to a firmware hack that allows for a low-capacity drive (perhaps as small as 1GB or less) to register a much larger capacity. “When you go to write a big file, hacked firmware simply writes all new data on top of old data, while keeping directory intact (sic),” he explained.
What’s more, the manufacturer appears to have taken steps to slow down the bus speed too, such that tests designed to verify the drive’s genuine capacity would take in excess of a year to complete.
The claims set out in the Twitter thread are corroborated by the Walmart reviews section, which is full of comments from unhappy customers.
“Do not buy this,” one reviewer wrote. “This piece of garbage does not work, in any way, shape or form”. Others reported that only one in every hundred files transferred successfully, speeds were slow and file corruption commonplace.
TechRadar Pro has asked AliExpress, Walmart and JD E Commerce America Limited (the merchant) for comment.
Update (August 30):
A Walmart spokesperson has since been in touch to confirm the listing has now been taken down. They also provided the following statement:
"Walmart has a robust trust and safety program, which actively works to protect our customers and help ensure items are authentic. After reviewing this item, it has been removed from our site."
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Joel Khalili is the News and Features Editor at TechRadar Pro, covering cybersecurity, data privacy, cloud, AI, blockchain, internet infrastructure, 5G, data storage and computing. He's responsible for curating our news content, as well as commissioning and producing features on the technologies that are transforming the way the world does business.