'30TB' Drive Was Brazen Scam

John Lister's picture

Walmart has stopped offering a 30TB portable hard drive that was listed on its website for $39. The third-party listing was not an unbelievable bargain but rather an audaciously cheeky scam.

The supposed solid state drive (SSD) was listed on WalMart's site but sold and shipped by a third party. One security researcher found the same item from the same seller at the Chinese-base Ali Express for $31.40.

Those familiar with the SSD market would recognize straight away that this was, to say the least, an implausible price. Most externals SSD ranges designed for the consumer market top out at 4TB, and getting 32TB of storage would cost several thousand dollars. Getting 32TB on a single drive is usually only available on an internal model, again costing well into four figures.

The security researcher who spotted the supposed bargain was unconvinced, but decided to order one just to see how much effort the scammers had put into it. It turns out they'd taken a few steps to try to delay the customer from realizing all was not what they'd seen, perhaps to try to create a delay before the inevitable refund request.

Actual Capacity 1GB

It turns out the drive casing simply housed two 512MB Flash drives, the same hardware inside what many people call a "USB memory stick." The firmware on the drives was hacked to falsely report to Windows that each had a capacity of 15TB. (Source: pcworld.com)

As the researcher noted, this was a giveaway in itself because most storage devices list capacity in gigabits while Windows uses capacity in gigabytes. That means Windows would list a real 15TB drive as having a capacity of a lower figures such as 14.89TB. (Source: arstechnica.com)

Fake File Listing

The other part of the scam was that the drive was programmed to produce a fake file directory listing that appeared to show every file the user had ever copied to it and not yet deleted.

In reality, once the drive was full, it simply wrote over the existing data. The fake directory listing would fool the user until they tried to open one of the files - only to find out that it was no longer there or corrupt. That could be many months if they were using the drive as a backup.

What's Your Opinion?

Are you surprised scammers put so much effort into this drive? Should WalMart have spotted earlier that the listing was clearly implausible? What steps do you take to make sure you buy legitimate computer hardware?

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ifopackets_10683's picture

A good tester is here:


Note: By aggressively testing a flash drive, it also lets you know if your USB is working properly.

FYI: When the price is "too good to be true" is is likely a SCAM.