Over the last couple of months huge numbers of counterfeit 32GB and 64GB Kingston DataTraveler flash drives have been advertised on the Internet. These mimic the appearance of the real ones but there are some clues that can help you identify a counterfeit even before you buy. The first one is that the fakes seem to be shinier than the real ones – they have a very cheap and shiny stick-on covering:
When you get the drive you can sometimes see how tatty this is:
If there is no engraving showing the capacity of the drive on the usb connector you can be sure it is fake – but the cleverer counterfeits like the one below do have this – so engraving is no guarentee of authenticity!
Genuine Kingston DataTraveler 150 drives have a sticker on the back with a bar code showing a serial number – but so do some counterfeits – the clever counterfeits (like the one below) show a label with a serial number.
You think you are ok because the serial number is there but when you check with Kingston you find that the serial number has already been registered. Each genuine drive has an individual and completely unique serial number – counterfeits may show a serial number but it will be the same on every drive.
We suspect this means the fraudsters who produced the counterfeits bought one genuine drive and copied the information on it for their fakes. If you see Kingston flash drives for sale in a retail outlet with the same serial number you can be sure they are fakes. Here is the circuit board from inside a counterfeit 64GB DataTraveler 150 – the chip you see here is the small control chip:
Here is the control chip in close-up. It has an identification code which determines which tools are needed to programme it. The control chip is what reports the capacity of the drive to the operating system.
Fraudsters use the same tools as manufacturers to program the chip – the big difference is that the fraudster programs the chip to lie about the capacity of the drive. This fools most people – after all their computer shows the drive as having the capacity they expect and that just has to be true doesn’t it?
Well no it doesn’t – the control chip can be programmed to display any capacity the fraudster likes. You cannot beleive your operating system. This is why we always say test with h2testw. It will reveal the actual capacity of the flash drive and how much data would be lost or corrupted.
The larger chip shown below is the flash memory chip – the largest capacity of flash memory chip currently used in USB flash drives is 16GB – so a 64GB flash drive would need four of these – we have never seen a counterfeit with more than one!!
The cost of flash memory chips has recently doubled so any new genuine flash drives coming onto the market from now on will cost more than they did last year. We hope this post helps you understand the nature of this scam. If you buy cheap you can expect to pay dear – defrauded out of your money and losing your files!