Why that 60TB drive from AliExpress probably isn't a good way to spend your money

Using an external hard drive
One Twitter user shared their experience of being ripped off. Photo credit: Getty Images

There's no doubt Chinese shopping site AliExpress can be a bargain-hunter's paradise - but one buyer has taken to Twitter to show a well-known adage is true.

I remember being told 'if it's too good to be true then it probably is' many times, but I've never put it to the test like RayRedacted did over the weekend.

He's an associate producer of internet security podcast Darknet Diaries and a cybersecurity researcher.

While AliExpress is great for cheap phone covers to more expensive massage guns, wallets and laptop bags, I've always avoided buying computer peripherals or consumables from it.

That might be a wise decision if RayRedacted's testing proves to be common across devices.

Of course, the first test should always be the sniff test.

With 5TB portable hard-drives going for around $200 each in New Zealand, seeing a 60TB one for around $50 should be the first indicator something may not be right.

But sometimes it's a cheap enough risk just in case, right? Not on this occasion, Ray found out.

Initially he was expecting the package to say 30GB instead of TB, which would have been what he called a "credible typo".

After resorting to using a razor to pry it open because there were no screws or brackets holding it together, he found an electronics board with two glued down SD cards.

"Windows reports it as two 15 terabyte drives," he wrote. So far, so good? Not quite.

"My son just pointed out something interesting: It appears to only work over USB 2.0, using the cable they shipped with the device," he continued.

"That means it will only run at 480 Megabits per second, or 60 Megabytes per second."

That would mean it would take 500 days to test the capacity of the drive, which no-one is going to do.

Ray then submitted for a refund from AliExpress, before spelling out exactly what the problem was.

"Scammer gets two 512MB Flash drives. Or 1 gigabyte, or whatever. They then add hacked firmware that makes it misreport its size," he wrote.

"Windows reports EXACTLY 15.0 terabytes. Not 14.89, Not 14.78.

"But when you go to WRITE a big file, hacked firmware simply writes all new data on top of old data, while keeping the directory (with false info) intact."

Ray's warning went viral, with other people pointing out they had fallen victim to a similar scam, including one whose device contained a USB stick instead of glued down SD cards.

He also pointed out the dodgy item wasn't just for sale on AliExpress, but noted that Walmart in the US had the same devices for sale via third party 'trustworthy sellers'.

Buyer beware, indeed.