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Is it safe to buy new digital flash media direct from China?

Old 11-15-21, 12:09 PM
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CliffordK
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Is it safe to buy new digital flash media direct from China?

A decade ago, there were issues that Chinese vendors on E-Bay and Alibaba/Aliexpress were selling fake flash drives (USB flash, SD cards, etc).

Essentially they were selling 1GB drives badged as 32GB or 64GB drives.

So, start putting one's data on the drive, and it initially seemed OK. But, eventually if one passed the 1GB threshold, then any new data would overwrite the old data. And, any old archives would become irrecoverably lost.

I've seen some dirt cheap digital SSD drives on Aliexpress, and they are mighty tempting. But, are they safe to use?

There should be 100% write/verify test programs. Do I need to use those upon first use?
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Old 11-15-21, 12:20 PM
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You can use a for loop and count the number of bytes you can write to the drive before the operating system throws an IOException. I wouldn't buy something I didn't trust and needed to test in an adversarial manner, personally. What is the data worth to you?
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Old 11-15-21, 12:34 PM
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Originally Posted by Seattle Forrest View Post
You can use a for loop and count the number of bytes you can write to the drive before the operating system throws an IOException. I wouldn't buy something I didn't trust and needed to test in an adversarial manner, personally. What is the data worth to you?
Yeah, for data that matters, I prefer trusted vendors. Of course the irony is that while they do not set out to cheat you, their warranty often excludes data.

For protection, I write my data to multiple drives.
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Old 11-15-21, 12:35 PM
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Writing wasn't the problem. Reading the old data became the issue once one passed the threshold of real/fake capacity.

Something like an 8TB SSD for $23 would be mighty sweet for backups.... if it was "real".

But, protecting one's data with a fake drive would be a nightmare.
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Old 11-15-21, 01:08 PM
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Originally Posted by CliffordK View Post
Something like an 8TB SSD for $23 would be mighty sweet for backups.... if it was "real"
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Old 11-15-21, 01:29 PM
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Originally Posted by CliffordK View Post
Something like an 8TB SSD for $23 would be mighty sweet for backups.... if it was "real".
You might as well just set $23 on fire. At least it'll keep you warm for a minute. 🙂
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Old 11-15-21, 01:34 PM
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Originally Posted by CliffordK View Post
Writing wasn't the problem. Reading the old data became the issue once one passed the threshold of real/fake capacity.
​​​​​​You can write something to write a specific byte or pattern until the drive is full or the end of time, and then you can read it back since you know what it should be. But even if you can read it all that doesn't mean it won't fail tomorrow. Or that it will arrive in the first place. If something seems too good to be true, it probably is.
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Old 11-15-21, 01:54 PM
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Originally Posted by Seattle Forrest View Post
You might as well just set $23 on fire. At least it'll keep you warm for a minute. 🙂
Alliexpress is supposed to put all payments into escrow. So, one could run the data check, and if it fails, then the vendor doesn't get paid.

Would my 8TB drive be 8 GB?

Originally Posted by Seattle Forrest View Post
But even if you can read it all that doesn't mean it won't fail tomorrow. Or that it will arrive in the first place. If something seems too good to be true, it probably is.
The escrow and tracking should help with "arrival".

Yes, data longevity would be an issue. I'm not sure how they could screw that up. Pehraps using a critical button battery, once it dies, all is gone.

Many SSDs have a finite read/write lifetime, but that seems to be getting much better.
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Old 11-15-21, 01:54 PM
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Anyway, has anybody heard of fake drives being an issue in the last couple of years?
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Old 11-15-21, 01:56 PM
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Originally Posted by CliffordK View Post
Alliexpress is supposed to put all payments into escrow. So, one could run the data check, and if it fails, then the vendor doesn't get paid.
​​​​​​And you have enough confidence in that escrow to need to ask if it's safe.
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Old 11-15-21, 02:16 PM
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I thought this was going to be a thread about malware being installed on said media... we had a training video a couple years ago, reminding engineers not to try flash drives they might find in the parking lot or wherever.
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Old 11-15-21, 02:21 PM
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I've read of instances of Chinese flash drives being sold with embedded spyware and/or malware...
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Old 11-15-21, 06:39 PM
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Originally Posted by mtnbud View Post
I've read of instances of Chinese flash drives being sold with embedded spyware and/or malware...
I've also heard of SolarWinds data and security management software also being sold with embedded spyware.

Somehow IT has gone down a path mixing data and programs, and even microprocessors. Ideally a device would be rather insulated when one plugs it into a USB port, but it may be able to force the computer to run a device specific driver which could do anything.
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Old 11-15-21, 09:55 PM
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Originally Posted by CliffordK View Post
Essentially they were selling 1GB drives badged as 32GB or 64GB drives.

So, start putting one's data on the drive, and it initially seemed OK. But, eventually if one passed the 1GB threshold, then any new data would overwrite the old data. And, any old archives would become irrecoverably lost.
​​​​​​Obviously an unscrupulous person can put the wrong sticker on the drive. As you say, you can take a very old drive, 1 GB for example, and put a label that says 512 GB on it. That's easy enough. But when you go to use it, the operating system will see it for what it is, and tell you.

How would a drive go about fooling the OS? It would have to lie about its capacity, and it would have to run its own software such that after you write the 1 GB that it actually has room for, it would have to translate the addresses in write requests from the OS such that 1.5 GB wraps around to 0.5 GB and overwrites what's already there. And if you could figure out how to make that work, why would you go to the trouble?
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Old 11-15-21, 10:43 PM
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Originally Posted by ThermionicScott View Post
I thought this was going to be a thread about malware being installed on said media... we had a training video a couple years ago, reminding engineers not to try flash drives they might find in the parking lot or wherever.
Yes, only the approved malware on the company supplied thumb drives is allowed
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Old 11-16-21, 02:56 AM
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Originally Posted by Seattle Forrest View Post
​​​​​​Obviously an unscrupulous person can put the wrong sticker on the drive. As you say, you can take a very old drive, 1 GB for example, and put a label that says 512 GB on it. That's easy enough. But when you go to use it, the operating system will see it for what it is, and tell you.

How would a drive go about fooling the OS? It would have to lie about its capacity, and it would have to run its own software such that after you write the 1 GB that it actually has room for, it would have to translate the addresses in write requests from the OS such that 1.5 GB wraps around to 0.5 GB and overwrites what's already there. And if you could figure out how to make that work, why would you go to the trouble?
This was common on direct import flash devices 10+ years ago.

I don't have the inner workings of the drives, but essentially when a low level format is put on the device, it stores the drive capacity on the flash drive somewhere. So, when you insert the drive, the false value gets read. So, if it is a 1GB drive formatted as 256GB, then it will report the capacity as 256 GB.

Making the drive accept the wrong addresses may well be very easy. Since drive capacities are rated in powers of 2. Mapping from 256 GB to 1GB would mean simply ignoring 8 bits of the address (assuming the same word/block sizes). And, it may automatically do the translation by truncating the address.

Thus it will seem to look and function like a 256gb drive, but the data eventually gets hopelessly corrupted.

There are utilities to detect the fraud. Then by putting the correct capacities back the drive will function at the lesser capacity.

So, the question is whether the companies are continuing to do this type of fraud. Some of the notes I'm seeing are recent, so it may continue to be a problem.

I wouldn't be surprised if a Chinese company could make a large external SSD for quite cheap once the middle men are removed from the sale. But, would they actually do that?
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Old 11-16-21, 03:31 PM
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Originally Posted by CliffordK View Post
I don't have the inner workings of the drives, but essentially when a low level format is put on the device, it stores the drive capacity on the flash drive somewhere. So, when you insert the drive, the false value gets read. So, if it is a 1GB drive formatted as 256GB, then it will report the capacity as 256 GB.
​​​​​​When the operating system attempts to write to 1 GB + 1 byte, it will fail then and there and the OS will throw.
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Old 11-16-21, 04:25 PM
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Originally Posted by CliffordK View Post
Writing wasn't the problem. Reading the old data became the issue once one passed the threshold of real/fake capacity.

Something like an 8TB SSD for $23 would be mighty sweet for backups.... if it was "real".

But, protecting one's data with a fake drive would be a nightmare.
$23 for an 8TB SSD? Anyone thinking that could be legit has a serious deficit in the critical thinking skills arena.
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Old 11-16-21, 05:06 PM
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Originally Posted by ThermionicScott View Post
I thought this was going to be a thread about malware being installed on said media... we had a training video a couple years ago, reminding engineers not to try flash drives they might find in the parking lot or wherever.
I did, too.

Or, a new one on me... USB charging cables, apparently.
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Old 11-16-21, 08:44 PM
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Originally Posted by Seattle Forrest View Post
​​​​​​When the operating system attempts to write to 1 GB + 1 byte, it will fail then and there and the OS will throw.
When the problem cropped up over a decade ago, my understanding was that it did not crash, and continued to write to the drive until the early data was hopelessly lost or corrupted.

Of course it is possible that Windows 10 has better allocation checking than Windows XT.

I haven't studied the low level drive architecture very well, but presumably they created a FAT32 table representing the advertised drive capacity with pointers to inaccurate data locations. I don't know if there would also be a custom device driver or PROM.

I managed to acquire a couple of the flash drives off of E-Bay. But, did a data check on them before I used them. I reported them and ended up with free USB flash drives.

The data check utility would repair the FAT tables to the actual capacity of the drive, so it could still be used at a reduced capacity.

I'm a little surprised that others don't seem to be familiar with this hack.

I just dumped my GOPRO flash. 4 hours to transfer 256 GB. And, I'm going to have to work on getting my new video processing working. However, that is also an indication that running a data integrity check on an 8TB drive could take some time.
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Old 11-16-21, 10:14 PM
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Originally Posted by CliffordK View Post

I'm a little surprised that others don't seem to be familiar with this hack.
Those who are familiar with it have little care if impossible prices are real.
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Old 11-19-21, 12:46 AM
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What I will say is that I'm convinced that the prices that we're seeing on parts here in the USA have some pretty extreme markups, and the direct from China sellers are able to somewhat circumvent those markups.

I'm not convinced that it is more expensive to make an 8TB SSD than it is to make an 8TB HDD, but prices reflect demand, and are priced to be more expensive than the HDDs. But, that doesn't mean that essentially a wholesale price is the same.

I found the drives on E-Bay. There were companies that advertised the drives from sometime mid-December to as late as a February delivery date. I decided to try a December product. In part to try to figure out if it is "real".

I am starting to do some video processing, and expect a ravenous appetite for storage space. But, of course, also want dependability.

I'll also hunt down either main steam products, or perhaps a HDD for backups.
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Old 12-04-21, 02:11 PM
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Well, my EBay flash drive should arrive today. I'll figure out how to test it shortly.

However, I may well have been asking the wrong question.

It is easy out of date and it leaves one's head spinning!!!


The presenter doesn't give actual data. But, somewhere around 19:22 he does his benchmarking. WHEW!!!

I'm still going to need backups and archives which will probably be best with portable HDDs (assuming the cheap flash doesn't work).

But the answer for real time processing is to get he flash drive connected directly to the bus in one manner or another. No USB or SATA.

Now, if they didn't cram all the expansion slots so close together than there is no way to use more than one, and the video cards taking 2 slots!!!
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Old 12-13-21, 10:33 AM
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Anybody think this could possibly be real? 2TB thumb drive for $12?

https://www.ebay.com/itm/25513127696...UAAOSwX8xhPEyc
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Old 12-13-21, 10:48 AM
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Originally Posted by RubeRad View Post
Anybody think this could possibly be real? 2TB thumb drive for $12?

https://www.ebay.com/itm/25513127696...UAAOSwX8xhPEyc
Well, this exists at Amazon... For $30
https://www.amazon.com/2TB-USB-Flash...37116207&psc=1
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