A bit of a break from politics as articles about burying USB sticks in walls are once more doing the rounds. These are not new articles, they just seem to get picked up and re-circulated every now and again. So far I’ve not seen any of the these USB sticks, I suspect I don’t frequent areas with a high enough hipster quotient. To save you reading the article the theory is something like this – it allows for an anonymous off-line file sharing mechanism. So a bit like the old hiding messages in walls that I read about in something like the ladybird book of spy craft many years ago – except it’s less useful and more dangerous.
Just in case you are for some reason thinking it’s a good/cool idea or even worse are considering using such a thing consider this. Unless you encrypt the data you put on the stick it may be modified, even if you encrypt it, it may be removed by anyone and if you want to share with specific people you have to communicate with them as to which USB stick you’ve put the data on. If you’re going to communicate a location with them you may as well just hide an SD card or USB stick somewhere only they know so there’s more hope they’ll actually get the data. About the only thing that these public drop boxes are useful for when putting data onto them is to share data with random strangers who might happen to check the USB-wall you’ve used. Not the most effective mechanism for sharing ideas especially when you consider that the people using these USB-walls are probably not the sharpest tools in the box.
Now you may think that’s a little unfair of me, as the idea sounds cool a bit like a lucky dip or a treasure hunt – who knows what you’ll find. Well a lucky dip is a good analogy as long as you like your lucky dips randomly laced with broken glass, razor blades and other such things. The problem is you don’t know who’s put what on the USB stick you’ve connected to and well not everyone in the world has benign intentions. Consider that you’ve no idea what may be on the stick you connect to, the only way you can find out is to copy the data to your own device, now consider that possession of certain digital files is a strict liability offense – still want to check what’s been left on a random USB device plugged into a wall? Of course it’s not just files of dodgy content that you need to worry about, there’s also your usual malware and viruses including unfixable attacks or perhaps the USB connector you see isn’t actually a USB stick but something more malevolent that might fry your laptop.
So if anyone you know shares an article saying what a cool idea these wall embedded USB sticks are please slap them upside the head with a clue-by-four and tell them not to be so stupid.