Paul Whelan was sentenced to 16 years in jail for espionage against the United States. As stated in the original post, and IT professional who cannot access “photos” on a flash drive, which was his cover for trading information, is a red flag something was going on.
Update: Feb 3, 2019
“I want to tell the world that I am a victim of political kidnap and ransom,” Whelan said during a press conference in May. “This is retaliation for sanctions.”
“…There are abuses and harassment that I am constantly subject to. There is a case for isolation,” he continued, before listing alleged abuses committed by prison staff.
The former Marine said that he was being subjected to “typical POW Chapter 1 isolation” techniques to run him down and described his imprisonment as the “Salem witch trial mentality.”
According to Reuters, Paul made a direct plea to the President of the United States saying; “Mr president [Trump], we cannot keep America great unless we aggressively protect and defend American citizens wherever they are in the world.” And this is very true.
It’s not every day we see “flash drive” in the headlines in association with espionage. However, it appears American citizen, Paul Whelan, was arrested in Russia for the charge of espionage.
Gathering information from the news surrounding this situation, Mr. Whelan is an ex-Marine who visits Russia. He is a world traveler, a security expert for a US based auto parts supplier [BorgWarner], speaks Russian and uses a Russian social media platform called VKontakte, or VK.
From reports, the arrest happened like this: Whelan met up with a Russian associate who gave him a flash drive. Earlier in the visit, Whelan claims he received digital images from his vacation through his computer, but could not view them on his computer. Because of this, he asked the photos be placed on a flash drive.
Moments after the two met and exchanged the flash drive, the Russian policy arrested Paul and found state secrets on the USB drive.
Whelan claims he knew nothing of the information on the flash drive and was only expecting to see pictures of his vacation. I certainly hope this is the case, and I certainly hope Paul Whelan gets his chance to prove his innocents.
Some back ground information for Paul Whelan includes:
He served 14 years in the US Marine Corps Reserve until he was discharged for bad conduct in 2008.
His discharge was due to being convicted of trying to steal $10,410 in US currency. He was accused of wrongfully using another person’s Social Security number and writing bad checks. Hey, we all do dumb things when we are young.
Playing devil’s advocate, my only concern is a security IT guy not being able to open pictures? Regardless of the picture file format, shouldn’t be that hard. Maybe goes to show you to only use write protected USB sticks when traveling to another country. You never know what could happen.
Yubico YubiKey 4 appears to be an excellent device for a two-factor authentication solution. Two factor authentication means you need two things before gaining access. In this case, one piece of information is your password and the other piece is your finger print.
If you are using a password manager right now, (ie. Last Pass, Dashlane, etc) I would recommend getting this. The benefit of this device with a password manager is you can enable two factor authentication to add a new device capable of signing into your account.
This means if someone knows your password, it doesn’t really matter because they would also need your finger print. Understand that nearly all password managers conform to some sort of security protocol like FIDO U2F, smart card (PIV), OpenPGP, etc which in turn works with Yubikey.
Using Windows 10, you can partition a USB flash drive into multiple partitions. The process is not difficult, you simply follow some easy steps. This tutorial will partition the drive so that your device is assigned multiple drive letters when connected to the computer.
This partition process is not done at the USB controller level; or said another way, done at the hardware level. This USB partition process, for a lack of better terms, is done at the software level. What does this mean for you? It means the partitions can be wiped off the drive and full capacity of the USB flash drive can be restored.
When a USB stick is partitioned at the controller level, or at the hardware level, there is no way to reverse the partition. The multi-partition drive is permanent. At the end of this tutorial is the solution for a hardware based partition solution.
So letâ€™s get started.
How to partition a USB flash drive in Windows 10:
Connect the USB flash drive to your Windows 10 machine. Be sure there is nothing valuable on the USB as this process will remove all content from the drive.
Right Click the Windows icon and select Disk Management.
The Disk Management window will appear with all the connected devices. Select your USB flash drive by clicking one time. By selecting your flash drive, it will allow Windows to apply the partition to that device.
With all the gadgets we post about here at GetUSB.info sometimes a word or definition can get twisted on it’s meaning. One of those terms is UDISK. First, please don’t complicate the term into something more than it is. The geogrpahical location on where you live could have a huge part in the term you are using, hearing or reading about!
The Asia / Pacific Rim region use the term UDISK to describe a flash drive. In the United States and Europe the term is USB flash drive, thumb drive or USB key. However, this doesn’t clearly define what the term UDISK means, but rather the colloquialism (word or phrase) used to describe the object.
Simply put, a UDISK is the technical term for a disk hard drive which connects to the host via a USB cable. With magnetic hard drive platters spinning inside an enclosure, UDISKs have a bridge chip regulating the way the drive mounts to an operating system. This chip changes the hard from from IDE protocols, to USB protocols. Standard USB flash drives do not use rotating disks to store data, but use NAND flash memory instead, which enjoys faster speeds as well as increased reliability against shock, pressure, and temperature. Why then, do these UDISK drives exist? Because those spinning disks are cheaper to manufacture as a hard drive than creating a Solid State Drive (SSD) made from NAND memory.
As a point to remember: if your USB flash drive mounts as a UDISK on your computer, than most likely your USB drive has firmware which doesn’t match the memory type and controller combination. The smallest size of a UDISK should be similar to a small hard drive, like 80GBs and going up in capacity from there. Even today, in 2021 an 80GB USB thumb drive is not that common… so if you see a small thumb drive showing up as a UDISK then be careful with it’s use (reliability issue).
If you are still unsure a speed test will certainly help out. Take about 1GB of data and copy those files to the device. If the write speed ranges between 5-50MB/second then it’s a thumb drive. If the write speeds are much faster, say 75MB/second and above, then you have a hard drive. The speed test is an easy thing to do for a non-technical person, simply expand the copy dialogue Windows displays during the process. In that pop-up window will be the speed for the copy process. Below is a screen shot for copying 1GB of data to a USB 3.0 flash drive. Right about the upper limit of a common device at 46MB/s… this IS a flash drive.
Account security is one of the most vital pieces of the busy and interconnected world right now and nobody wants strangers accessing their personal information online. You might use a password manager as well as two-factor authentication like we mentioned in a previous post, but now there’s another way to stay protected.
In response to similar approaches from Google and Dropbox, Facebook has added support for safe login security keys. When you log into your account, this device will prove your identity rather than a code which sends to your phone. In addition to the superior security, they’re also potentially faster. With just a tap on the device you can have access to your Facebook account and feel safer in knowing only you can unlock it. It’s a welcome move from the company in an age where cyberattacks and identity theft are on the rise and as a universal rule on the internet, it’s never a bad time to strengthen your defences.
Police dogs have yet another smell they must detect. Tactical Detection K9 company now trains dogs to sniff out SD cards and USB sticks. The training is in response to better assisting law enforcement in child pornography investigations.
The percentage of a dog’s brain which is devoted to analyzing smells is 40 times greater than humans. For example, humans can detect about 5 million scents and a German Shepherd can detect around 225 million smells.
In a recent investigation a dog was used in the FBI raid of the home of the former Subway spokesman Jared Fogle in Hancock County, Indiana.
What could take investigators hours to find an SD card or USB stick in a house would take a trained dog considerably less time, probably no more than 30 minutes.
According to Tactical Detection K9 it took scientists over four years to isolate the odor associated with memory devices. Now that a specific odor has been identified it takes 8-9 months for a dog to be trained in picking up that scent.
A dog which can sniff out SD and USB sticks can cost upwards of $9,000.
Sometimes you will connect a USB to the PC and get an error message saying the drive has a GPT Protective Partition and you cannot format the drive. Here is the fix to resolve the issue:
First, what is a GPT USB stick? The GUID Partition Table (GPT) is the successor to the Master Boot Record. The MBR was created by IBM back in the early 90s. The problem with MBR is the limitation to partition table sizes which is 2 Terabytes.
Since there are no 2T USB flash drives (at the time of this post), there is no need to use GPT as your partition table.
Removing the GPT Protected Partition can be accomplished through the Windows Diskpart program.
Determine the Disk Number for the USB GPT-protected drive. To do this, perform the following:
Right-click on (My) Computer.
Select Disk Management (listed under Storage).
Look for the drive that is identified as GPT and note the Disk number (such as Disk 1).
Now, open a Command Window. From the command prompt, type diskpart and press Enter.
The diskpart prompt will open.
From the diskpart prompt, type list disk and press Enter. A list of disks will appear in a text format. You will return to the diskpart prompt.
From the diskpart prompt, type select disk disknumber (in this example from the screen shot above, you would type select disk 1)and press Enter. A message appears saying that the disk is selected. You will return to the diskpart prompt.
From the diskpart prompt, type clean and press Enter. At this point the drive’s partition and signature a removed. You will return to the diskpart prompt.
From the diskpart prompt, type exit and press Enter. Type exit once more to close the Command Window.
There are two ways to make a USB stick read only. One method will make the USB read-only in anything it is connected to, so you could say this is a universal way of making a flash drive write protected.
The other way is a PC specific solution where some registry edits are required to any computer the USB flash drive is connected to.
When we say 100% permanent, this means the USB stick is read only (write protected) on all devices, whether it be computers like a Mac, Windows PC, Linux box or non-processor based products like a car stereo. This permanent solution also means the status of the drive cannot be changed. The other method flags a USB device to be read only in relationship to the PC it is connected to so that whenever that USB stick is connected to that computer, it makes the USB read only and blocks all write commands to the device.
Most times an IT manager or content owner wants the USB stick to be read only so the files cannot be deleted or formatted off the drive. Another reason for making a USB read only is for the original files to remain the same and blocks the ability for files to be changed or manipulated. Finally, it’s smart to have USBs read only so that virus’ don’t jump onto the drive and possibly spread to other computers.
Let us start with the less permanent way because it’s easier to do and doesn’t require any specific hardware.
You will need a Windows7 machine or higher. The Windows7 machine will have DiskPart utility which allows us to perform all sorts of cool things to flash drives, like setting write protection.
Connect the USB to your Windows computer.
To begin, go to your Windows Start and in the Search Field type cmd
This will run your Command prompt.
Next, you will want to get to the C root of the Command prompt and if you are signed in as a user you can simply type cd\ this will get you back to the root of the C drive.
Type LIST DISK
Now you will need to find the USB stick connected to your PC. Most likely it’s DISK 1
One of the most classic and – yet still perversely prevalent – issues IT staff face is resetting Windows passwords for users who have forgotten them (again). While remote administration has reduced the need to physically reactivate and reset passwords in most scenarios, a copy of L0phtcrack still remains in every experienced admins ‘toolbox’. Of course, having to reboot the system and use a copy of Bart PE or other portable OS’ to run L0phtcrack has a PITA factor all its own.
Well, it seems that entrepreneur Jonty Lovell has done something about it as the all new – and fully funded – Password Reset Key has been designed to take the hassle out of this common issue. In fact, as long as you have physical access to the system even home owners can now reset their forgotten password within mere moments.
The secret to the Password Reset Key is the fact that it combines a key shaped 1GB flash drive – available in black, stainless steel, or ‘gold’ – with a simple OS that auto-loads his custom software upon startup. Just as with L0phtcrack, with a simple click or three, you can scan, reset and even test how secure a given systems login passwords are. Because of its ‘key’ form factor, it will be hard to lose as you can simply stick on your keychain and always have it close at hand. However, be warned that this $15 – $50 device (depending on which option to choose) may get you in trouble with your IT staff as resetting the ‘administrator’ password will greatly â€˜annoy’ them if they find out.
The above InfoGraph was provided by Nexcopy Company and highlights the current and services available for protecting intellectual property on USB flash media, or USB Copy Protection.Â The concept behind this USB copy protection solution is the ability to share digital files on a flash drive with others, but restrict their ability to pass along that information.
With the above solution a user can protect different file types which are the most popular multimedia files such as PDF, MP3, QuickTime, MP4, M4V, html, flash and some other listed.Â This post is not intended as advertising, but a share of products and services about USB copy protection available on the market today.