|Image credit: RayRedacted on Twitter|
A 30TB solid state hard drive (SSD) for $17.99? Way too good to be true, of course, but it was nonetheless listed for sale on Walmart. A cybersecurity researcher, Ray, saw the listing and, despite being certain it was a scam, decided to purchase the product to see what customers would receive should they fall victim to the ruse.
When Ray received the drive, which he purchased via a similar listing on AliExpress, he took it apart to find out what was going on, and it was about as bad as one might expect. As shown in a Twitter thread, Ray found two glued SD cards inside the enclosure, which looks like a typical portable SSD.
Have you ever heard the expression “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is”? Well AliExpress is currently advertising a 30 Terabyte SSD for $29. And I just had one delivered. Let’s open it up, shall we? /1 pic.twitter.com/cVXtr42LW5
— Ray [REDACTED] (@RayRedacted) August 25, 2022
Achieving 30TB of storage via a pair of SD cards is impossible. You’d need 30 of them, given that the current largest SD and microSD cards have 1TB capacities. However, when you plugged the fraudulent SSD into a computer, the machine detected a pair of 15TB drives. Ray thinks that the scammers loaded malicious firmware onto the SD cards to trick a connected computer.
To Walmart’s credit, after Motherboard, the technology wing at Vice, reached out last Friday. On Monday, the product listing was removed. In response to Motherboard, Walmart’s director of corporate communications, Robyn Babbitt, said, ‘Thanks for reaching out and bringing this to our attention. 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.’ However, it’s somewhat concerning that something so obviously fake was even allowed to be listed and sold in the first place.
Before it was removed, there were already 25 reviews. How the product rating wasn’t 0 is suspicious in and of itself, but some reviews were legitimate. One customer, William, wrote a review titled ‘DO NOT BUY THIS – it is a scam.’ The review said, ‘Walmart should get smarter than to sell products like this. I thought I was buying an 8 terabyte SSD drive, for $28, and this piece of garbage does not work, in any way, shape or form. This product is a scam, and Walmart should be ashamed of itself to sell them.’ The product page on Walmart offered hard drives of different sizes, although it’s safe to assume they were all manipulated SD cards inside SSD enclosures. Other reviews offered similar negative feedback, while some provided 5-star ratings for the fraudulent product.
Walmart is not the only online retailer who deals with this problem – many stores sell products from third-party sellers. With any online marketplace, especially one as large as Walmart, you’re always running the risk that a seller may be misrepresenting its product or, worse yet, selling something potentially hazardous. Plugging modified SD cards into your computer could theoretically cause more damage than wasting your money.
If something appears too good to be true, it probably is. Unfortunately, looking at user reviews isn’t a foolproof method to identify misleading product listings, either, as there are plenty of fake reviews.