Get Your System Back From Petya Without Paying a Penny!

When it comes to security threats and risks, the community as a whole is at its best when it has a common goal. An example of this was two weeks ago when a new ransomware was found going by the name Petya. Petya didn’t act like normal ransomware but instead decided it would go after your master boot record, often locking people out their entire system until they received their password after paying a nice little fee. That was until some clever people got together to create some tools to get your system back from the ransomware without paying a single penny!

The original web tool came from the twitter account @leostone and lets you retrieve your file by providing it with a selection of data from the infected hard drive. Getting the data may seem like something difficult but a separate researcher went and created a tool titled Petya Sector Extractor that can find and retrieve the required data in seconds.

By removing the hard drive and plugging it into another computer, these tools can work together to retrieve the password required to unlock your master boot record from the clutches of Petya. The sector extractor tool is hosted by Bleeping Computer, a computer self-help forum, and reports that not only does the technique work but has also provided a step-by-step tutorial for anyone who isn’t 100% regarding how to return all their family photos at zero cost.

Western Digital’s Acquisition of SanDisk Finally Approved

In a deal that has been months in the making, Western Digital today announced that their shareholders had voted to approve the $19 billion purchase of SanDisk.  It was revealed that over 90% of WD’s shareholders voted for the issuing of WD common stock connected to the purchase, while 98% of SanDisk’s shareholders voted to approve the merge. Despite some potential upsets along the way, the takeover of SanDisk is expected to be completed by the second quarter of this year.

Western Digital and SanDisk are both industry leading giants in their fields, with WD focusing on hard drives and disk management software while SanDisk is one of the largest providers of NAND flash memory-based products, including SD cards, SSDs, and USB drives. This purchase gives WD a solid entry into the NAND flash storage sector and should bring together the WD’s experience in the hard drive sector and SanDisk’s SSDs to create great results.

WD CEO Steve Milligan firmly believes that the merger is best for both companies, stating that “This combination brings together two tremendous companies and cultures ideally positioned to capture the growth opportunities in our rapidly evolving industry.” Meanwhile, SanDisk CEO Sanjay Mehrotra said the merger would allow them to “offer the broadest portfolio of industry-leading, innovative storage solutions to customers across a wide range of markets and applications.”

With SSDs rapidly gaining on HDDs in almost every way, it seems like Western Digital’s purchase of SanDisk will allow them to remain more relevant in a world that is shifting towards NAND flash storage instead of the traditional hard drive they are known for. What this merger will mean for the consumer remains to be seen, however, both companies possess a history of high quality and reliable products, so we can hope it is nothing but good.

Western Digital Release New 314GB PiDrive for $31

When it comes to using the Raspberry Pi, one of the key issues is storage. Micro SD cards are limited in size and become more expensive for the larger capacity cards, and while Western Digital have offered a 1TB PiDrive for some time now, its price tag of almost $80 puts it way above the cost of the Pi itself. Now, in order to accompany the Pi 3, Western Digital have announced a smaller 314GB version of PiDrive that will cost just $31.

The new Raspberry Pi 3 may have the power to be a replacement for a fully-fledged PC, but the form factor of the board limits its hardware options. With no on-board storage, the Pi typically relies on a micro SD card slot in order to hold its operating system and other user files or an external hard drive. Unfortunately, not just any external hard drive is supported by the Pi, but Western Digital have been releasing drives specifically designed to be Pi-supported. These drives have been fine-tuned in order to drastically reduce their power draw compared to other mechanical drives and offer a small form-factor. The new PiDrive supports up to a USB 3.0 interface, which can be connected to one of the Raspberry Pi’s USB 2.0 ports. Western Digital even offer a “BerryBoot” installer that can load software and operating systems onto the Pi’s drive at boot-time.

With the Raspberry Pi becoming more and more advanced, it is good to see companies developing peripherals designed to allow the miniature PCs achieve their full potential, especially when it is provided at a price and form-factor to match the Pi itself.

Seagate Sends Employees’ Payroll Information After Phishing Scam

Seagate is known for many things, but most of all they are known for their hard drives. I would recommend you look elsewhere if you are looking for something a little more secure I would say avoid them for now as it’s been revealed that employees’ payroll information was sent out after a phishing scam.

Phishing is the act of pretending to be someone else, asking for details (normally bank details or contact information) in order to gain access to information you normally couldn’t. From Nigerian Princes to Sergeant in the Army, they use anyone to obtain information. This time, the email claimed to be from Seagate’s CEO Stephen Luczo requesting data about current and former Seagate employees.

Believing the email to be genuine, the employee responded with the W-2 (Wage and Tax statement) documents. With the scope currently set at “several thousand” employees, the company has been working with federal law enforcement agencies since the incident on the 1st March. To help support their employees, two years of credit protection has been provided on the off chance that their data is used.

With most details of this nature being used in returning fraudulent tax returns with the IRS (something which is made all that much easier by being hacked recently), it could cost the government thousands if they don’t catch the culprits involved.

Samsung Start Shipping 15.36TB SSD Drives

Samsung is one of the key companies when it comes to providing memory to everything from your phone to your PC. With their latest revelation being the creation of a 256GB flash memory chip, it was only a matter of time before they made the news again. Today they’ve done just that by releasing to the public the 15.36TB SSD.

Stored within a 2.5-inch enclosure, the latest evolution of the SSD means all that more trouble for traditional hard drives which have slowly been losing out to the SSD’s, winning only on cost per GB (something that solid state technology has been catching up on quickly).

While it would be amazing to plug this drive into your computer or laptop, it may be a while before your everyday device can deal with this drive as it requires a 12Gbps SAS interface, with sequential read and write speeds going up to 1,200 MBps.

While it is currently being released with memory choices going from 960GB to the 15.36TB version, a 480GB version is expected to be released later in the year for those needing a little less storage.

Do you use an SSD? What would you store on an SSD of this size? With no price detailed yet, what do you expect this monster will set you back?

Image courtesy of Gordan Mah Ung.

Western Digital Introduces Consumer Helium Hard Drives

As always with most technology, helium hard drives arrived first to the enterprise segment. Over 3 years since HGST, a Western Digital subsidiary, first announced their helium-filled HDD, Western Digital is coming out with their first consumer-oriented helium hard drive. Sold under the WD instead of HGST brand, the family of drives goes up to 8TB, just a tad lower than the 10TB offered to data centres.

The family of helium filled 3.5” internal HDDs will be sold under the WD Red, Red Pro and Purple lineups. These are for NAS/RAID and surveillance system use respectively. The new helium drives will also find their way into My Cloud, My Book and My Book Duo external storage systems. Due to the helium fill, the Pro manages to sport a 7,200rpm spindle speed which is impressive for consumer 8TB drives. The Pro also features vibration protection for up to 16 drives in an enclosure while the regular drives only go up to 8. The regular Red and Purple are limited to their standard 5,400rpm.

While there are few specifications out yet, the drives should feature 1.33TB platters like their enterprise counterparts. As expected, the use of the HelioSeal and the more exotic fill does drive up costs, with prices about $70 more than Seagate’s Archive series 8TB using SMR technology. By using helium though instead of SMR to increase capacity, these WD drives will offer better performance.

Flash Memory Density Surpasses Traditional Hard Drives

SSDs are most definitely on the rise, being the go-to source of faster boots and the best loading experience for software and games. Traditional disk-based hard drives have always continued to rule the domain of mass storage, having advantages over SSDs in both areal density and price per Gigabyte. One of these advantages is about to become history now, with Micron revealing at the 2016 IEEE International Solid State Circuits Conference that its NAND flash storage had areal density beyond that of hard disk drives.

Micron is far from the only company aiming to improve the performance and density of flash storage. SSD market leader Samsung revealed in 2015 that their flash storage offerings had as much as 1.19Tbits per square inch (Tbpsi), predicting that by 2016, this could reach as much as 1.69Tbsi. Micron’s revelation of their 3D NAND technology had smashed the aims of Samsung, having reportedly demonstrated density as high as 2.77Tbpsi in their laboratory tests. This puts the 3D NAND head-and-shoulders above the densest HDDs around, which only offer around 1.3Tbsi, with many consumer drives offering as little as 850Gbsi despite using techniques like shingled magnetic recording to increase density.

Of course, many of the super-high density flash devices shown at ISSCC are definitely laboratory pieces and not consumer devices, SSDs that are on the market are definitely not far behind. Samsung announced last year that they had plans to release a 16TB SSD and Fixstars already offer a 13TB SSD costing a whopping $13,000. And while price per GB, HDDs still hold an advantage, the tables could be turned as soon as 2017, with the tumbling price of SDDs vastly outstripping the relatively stable price of hard drives.

What this all means is that the future could be bleak for the hard drive. With its main advantages of density and price set to vanish in the next few years, it is likely that we will see more and more SSDs appearing in both desktops and laptops. I for one look forward to the mass adoption of flash memory technology over the traditional hard drive as I doubt many will miss the times waiting for their hard drive to spin up or the painful sounds of their parts failing.

Image credit to Micron

Seagate Launches Their Own Helium HDD

Even as rival HGST started shipping helium based drives several years back, Seagate had managed to keep up in terms of capacity with less exotic technology. That’s all set to change as Seagate has finally launched their own helium based 10TB HDD. The new drive will do battle with the PMR based HGST Ultrastar He10 which just started shipping two months ago while the slower SMR based Ultrastar Archive Ha10 launched 7 months ago.

Just like the HGST drive, the Seagate® Enterprise 3.5 Capacity HDD features seven platters and 14 heads to read and write from them. With a helium fill, Seagate is probably running the drive at 7200rpm unlike normal drives which generally have to slow down when the platter count reaches 6. As an enterprise drive, it comes with a choice of either the standard SATA 3 port as well as the 12Gb/s SAS connector.

Reported reliability is the same as its chief competitor with 2.5 million hours MTBF, a nice bump over the usual 2 million. Due to the helium fill reducing turbulence nad allowing more platters, Seagate has stuck with PMR (perpendicular magnetic recording) and not with the performance crippling SMR (shingled magnetic recording). HAMR also isn’t used since that will probably be done with air-filled drives first. While HGST/WD has beaten Seagate to the punch with Helium, Seagate may bring HAMR out first given they’ve been talking about it a lot more.

Seagate Revamps Hard Drive Line-up @ CES 2016

CES 2016: Seagate is one of the leading hard drive manufacturers and renowned for creating high-capacity products at very competitive prices. Their LaCie range targets customers who desire a more luxury finish and prepared to pay extra for a stylish design. During CES 2016, Seagate showcased their flagship LaCie Chrome lineup which features a 1TB SSD and 10GB USB 3.1 interface. Apparently, this drive can reach speeds, “up to 940MB/second for intensive applications.” As you might have guessed, this is an expensive proposition and going to retail for $1100.

If the 1TB capacity seems overly limiting, then the Porsche range might be a more suitable choice. Starting from $210, the Porsche drives utilize an aluminium body and traditional HDD mechanism. The mobile disks come in 1TB, 2TB and 4TB options while the larger desktop SKUs are available in 4TB, 5TB and 8TB configurations. Additionally, the mobile and desktop versions support fast USB 3.0 speeds via a USB 3.1 Type-C connector. Although, the larger models have the capability to charge a laptop’s battery which is a welcome addition. Sadly, Seagate didn’t provide any pricing information about the Porsche disk drives, but I’m sure this will be revealed very soon.

Seagate CFO Claims HDDs to Remain Relevant for 15-20 more years

With each passing day, SSDs are growing in capacity and speed while their cost/GB continues to go down. Not surprisingly, HDD shipments have been falling steadily over the last few years as SSDs encroach their territory in storage. Despite the gloomy outlook, Seagate CFO thinks that HDDs will be here to stay, at least over the next 2 decades. Speaking at the Nasdaq 33rd Investor Program Conference David Morton said that:

“I believe HDDs will be along around for at least 15 years to 20 years”

While we would expect an HDD maker to express confidence in their product, HDDs will likely remain relevant for the near future. Despite the huge drops in price, SSDs still remain much pricier than their spinning disk cousins. Another major factor is that HDDs still continue to offer larger capacities in a single drive. With the introduction of HAMR and other technologies, HDDs will likely keep their lead at least till the end of the decade if not longer.

Even if SSDs do surpass HDDs in terms of capacity, hard drives may remain cheaper and thus more widely used for bulk storage. For those with large media collection and services that require immense amounts of storage, hard drives will likely remain cheaper for quite a while. With such an advantage, it seems highly likely that hard drives will be with us for quite a while yet.

SSDs Could Approach Cost Parity With HDDs by 2017

While the cost of solid state drives (SSDs) has been falling incrementally for the last three years, it still costs 18 cents per gigabyte more to buy an SSD than a hard disk drive (HDD). However, if price continue to plummet at the present rate then that difference could drop to a difference of 11 cents per gigabyte by 2017, according to the DRAMeXchange. While SSDs are unlikely to ever be cheaper than HDDs, the differential could become negligible.

Alan Chen, Senior Manager of DRAMeXchange, has presented figures that predict that 2.5-inch SSDs will cost 17 cents per gigabyte – compared to HHDs’ 6 cents per gigabyte – by 2017, and that SSD adoption rates in laptops and notebooks should represent 42% of the market during the same year.

“Branded PC vendors and channel distributors are holding back on their SSD purchases due to lower-than-expected notebook sales,” Chen told Computer World. “However, 256GB SSDs will be moving close to price parity with mainstream HDDs in 2016, so the adoption of SSDs in the business notebook segment will rise.”

Though SSD prices have consistently dropped over recent years, HHD prices have remained rather consistent, dropping only 3 cents per gigabyte from 2012 to 2015.

Light Based Memory Could Replace Your Hard Drive

Mechanical or SSD? This argument has gone on many times in my own and many of my friends minds, the added speed of the SSD or the capacity of an mechanical drive. Both of these drives have their advantages and more than often it comes down to the things you wish to do. If you want to quickly load your game and have your computer awake within seconds it’s an SSD, but if you are storing your family photos and music you tend to care about not spending hundreds for storing something you will only ever access at Christmas or to embarrass someone on their birthday, you want mechanical. The advantage both of these devices have over different memory storage methods is they are ‘non-volatile’, meaning that they don’t require constant power to store the information, although researchers now hope to give you a third option for a super fast, light-based storage device.

Unlike SSD’s or mechanical drives which are limited in speed because of the heat and resistance they generate while being used, the ‘nano-photonic’ chips are not limited and can, therefore, operate at much higher speeds. By using the same material that CD’s and DVD’s use, called GST, the researchers have managed to change the structure of the alloy (comprised of Germanium, Tellurium and Antimony) in such a way that they were able to store 8 bits of data in any one location. Let’s just take that in, at the moment, electronic memory can only store binary information (1’s or 0’s). Meaning that they can store four times as much information in a single space, but it is still far from perfect.

Currently the chips are several sizes larger than the media everyone uses today to store data, but the researchers are hopeful that they could soon have you working on computers up to 100 times faster than your current desktop and no doubt with much greater capacities.

Thank you Engadget for the information and image.

Intel 750 Series SSD Firmware Update Improves Boot Times

Intel’s 750 series SSD incorporates astonishingly high read/write speeds but encountered slow boot times compared to traditional SATA storage devices. Thankfully, Intel has released a firmware update today which addresses the prolonged boot problems. To upgrade your SSD to the latest version, all you have to is download the Intel Solid-State Drive Data Center Tool. Once downloaded, launch the installer and you should encounter much more consistent boot speeds.

However, PCIe drives require a longer period to initialize and it’s highly doubtful if the boot speeds will match SATA SSDs. Despite this, the drive’s extra few seconds on boot isn’t going to be a major issue as NVME SSDs are mainly used for professional situations and these machines are on for days at a time. I’m also pleased to see Intel addressing this and PCIe SSDs offer such an enormous performance boost that they could replace SATA drives in the future. Although, the average end-user isn’t going to notice a distinct difference in consumer tasks like games.

If you’re interested in a 750 series SSD, feel free to check out our comprehensive review here

What size of SSD do you currently have and is it M.2, SATA or PCIe?

Thank you The Tech Report for providing us with this information.

Western Digital Drops ‘Green’ Drives in Favor of ‘Blue’

Western Digital has had several lines of hard drives for the past few years. Today, the lineup shrinks a bit as the WD Green brand gets folded into the WD Blue lineup. This move is apparently aimed at reducing consumer confusion when shopping for hard drives.

Even with Green drives gone, WD still has a decent number of different colors. There is the Black which is aimed at enthusiasts, the standard consumer Blue, the NAS centered Red and the surveillance oriented Purple. The biggest difference between the Green and Blue drives was the slower spindle speed of the former. While the Blue advertised 7200rpm, the Greens had a range between 5400rpm and 7200rpm but really stuck to about 5600rpm most of the time. The biggest selling points of the Green drives were the reduced power consumption and price compared to the Blue. Of course, this came with a performance penalty due to the slower spindle speed.

By removing the Greens and slotting the Blues in its place, WD is offering a small speed boost to the most budget users. For now, Green drives will be sold under the Blue brand, so be sure to check which specific model you are getting to ensure it’s actually a ‘Blue’. In some ways, this change has long been coming. Rival Seagate long consolidated their consumer lineup with the 7200.14/Barracuda lineup which offered the power savings of the Greens but had slightly better performance compared to the Blue.

Thank you PCWatch for providing us with this information

Tech Furniture With a Twist

If it sounds as if we have turned into popular but dull television show QVC, we haven’t, you won’t find any of the following sublime pieces of furniture on that or any other mass-produced channel. As tech is produced in greater volumes, there is one question which remains constant, what do you do with the eventual waste within a perpetual upgrading cycle? Well, according to the below items, you can achieve quite an array of dazzling re-imaginings of classic products.

So, what do we have first? Below is a table, but not just a standard run of the mill Ikea flat-packed piece, but a coffee table which has been constructed out of circuit boards.  This amazing item was the brain child of David Maloney of Glendale, Wisconsin. In 2009 he saved a series of circuit boards for a potential craft project which turned into a table. He achieved the design by building an internal structure to mount the boards before crafting the frame from Black Walnut wood; wow is my impression, I would love to own this.

Next up is a chair/stool, Chilean Designer Rodrigo Alonso created the N+EW (No More Electronic Waste) art product in 2007. He collected components which had been blended into bits before placing them into a mould. He then filled the gaps between them with an epoxy resin which permanently encased the waste in a translucent form that can be used as a stool. The top of the stool looks to be the earth at an angle, again, an amazing design which re-imagines the whole concept of electronic waste.

Next up is a round table with a difference, a clever individual by the name of Joe Grand of Grand Idea Studio in Portland, Oregon, created a table from a 26-inch diameter hard drive platter from a 1960s mainframe computer. Today an average standard consumer based hard drive can hold around 3TB of data with Laptops holding around 1TB as standard, this disk could hold a huge 9MB of storage, which is tiny compared to today. Hopefully, the round edge is not sharp.

Last piece of tech furniture porn arrives courtesy of a 1987 Apple Mac II in the form of a sofa, or 25 to be precise, each mac was worth a staggering $5,500 dollars each, so that’s 25 x 5,500 = $137500. Of course, this price doesn’t account for inflation or the dirt cheap a price which these computers can now be found for. It’s an eye-catching piece of furniture, but maybe not the most comfortable.

Thank you bradlands, thenewsisbroken, grandideastudio and ralonso for providing us with this information.

First Prototype Seagate HAMR HDDs limited to 4TB

Even as we transition more and more to speedy SSDs, developments are still occurring in HDD land. Having explored the limits of what is practical with Helium filled Shingled Magnetic Recording drives, Seagate is moving onto HAMR or Heat Assisted Magnetic Recording which will allow HDDs to  scale beyond 16TB. Initial prototypes drives set to ship in late 2016 will be coming in a much more pedestrian 4TB though.

As HAMR is still in the early stages, the laser which provides the heat is too large, requiring more room between platters. This limits what Seagate can do until their refine the technology to ship 100TB HDDs in 2025.  Both Western Digital and subsidiary HGST are working on HAMR as well and even third wheel Toshiba is planning 128TB HDDs.

HAMR changes the bit density paradigm of HDDs which currently use a strong magnetic field to flip a bit permanently on a platter. Bit density is getting harder to achieve as it gets more and more difficult to shrink the  magnetic field. A magnetic field that is too large can risk flipping nearby bits and corrupting data. What HAMR does is to allow a change in platter material. Using a laser, a certain small area is heated up and a strong magnetic field applied to flip the bit. This field does not have to be small as before as the platter material won’t flip unless it hits a certain temperature. This means the bits can be as dense as the width of the laser, eliminating the issue of the magnetic field inadvertently flipping nearby bits.

For the first prototype, Seagate is starting off with an 810 nm wavelength and 20 mW power laser. This will heat up the target bit to 450c and then allow it to cool, all within 20ns. Seagate hopes to initially hit a target of 1.5 Tbits(Terabits) per square inch over the current 1 Tbits per square inch. No word yet has been released about the rpm of the prototype HAMR drive. Don’t get your hopes up about getting an HAMR drive in later 2016 as probably only certain partners will receive it.

Thank you heise for providing us with this information

SP Introduced the Next Generation Portable Armor A85 HDDs

You might remember the pretty amazing Silicon Power Armor A65 that we reviewed not long ago and just that drive has just been upgraded in the form of the new SP Armor A85 and A85M portable and rugged hard drives. The drives utilize a special internal structure design and rigid aluminium exterior to strengthen its protections against all sorts of things, including shock, pressure, water, and dust.

The A85 drive has passed the U.S military’s drop test of MIL-STD 810G Method 516.6 Procedure IV (transit drop test) and the IP68 standard that it can resist water and dust. Added is the pressure resistance where it can withstand a pressure of up to 500kg of force. The droptest includes freefall tests with a height of up to 122cm on 26 different contact points, so your data should be well protected.

The Silicon Power Armor A85 also offers the SP HDD Lock Utility, a free software download for full disk encryption and 256-bit AES encryption with SP Widget for Windows or Mac OS. IT also features the practical cable carry design where the USB 3.0 cable can be easily attached to the rear of the drive. Have everything in one place.

The A85 and A85M drives are backed by a 3-year warranty and are offered in three capacity options of 500GB, 1TB, and 2TB.

Samsung Reveals 2.5-Inch 16TB SSD

Samsung has unveiled the world’s largest hard drive and, surprisingly, there’s no disc to be found. Revealed at the Flash Memory Summit in California, Samsung has developed a 16TB solid state drive, beating its nearest size-rival, a 10TB HDD.

The 2.5-inch 16TB (15.36TB actual size) PM1633a is made possible by Samsung’s new 256Gbit (32GB) NAND flash die, which boasts twice the capacity of last year’s 128Gbit NAND dies. To achieve such a feat, Samsung has squeezed 48 layers of 3-bits-per-cell (TLC) 3D V-NAND into each die. The drive is packed with technological innovations, including speeds of 1,000,000 IOPS, and a continuation of their intelligent drive initiative.

Since SSDs are essentially analogue devices – electrons held within quantum wells – shrinking storage devices isn’t feasible, so presumably Samsung has vertically stacked the 480-500 3D NAND chips (the ‘V’ in V-NAND stands for ‘vertical’). Fitting all those chips into a 2.5-inch drive seems just as great a feat as a 16TB SSD itself.

Though the PM1633a is aimed at enterprise customers, home PC users are bound to be excited by the prospect of owning a super-high capacity drive, boasting the speed and durability that comes with an SDD.

Thank you Ars Technica for providing us with this information.

Drive Destroying Malware Discovered

Cisco Systems’ Talos Group have discovered a new malware that takes ninja operation to a whole new level. It has been dubbed Rombertik and it basically monitors everything you do on the web, including all of your personal information.

This nasty bit of software gets installed when a user unknowingly clicks on a malicious link; either from an email or off a website. The researchers reversed engineered the software to see exactly what is going on, Rombertik stays hidden in the deepest darkest part of your hard drive, cloaking itself when the user goes near and that can self-destruct if put under scrutiny from anyone; it has been known to wipe entire hard drives clean to prevent anyone learning the code.

Researchers Ben Baker and Alex Chiu kept a blog of their investigation:

Once the unpacked version of Rombertik within the second copy of yfoye.exe begins executing, one last anti-analysis function is run — which turns out to be particularly nasty if the check fails. The function computes a 32-bit hash of a resource in memory, and compares it to the PE Compile Timestamp of the unpacked sample. If the resource or compile time has been altered, the malware acts destructively. It first attempts to overwrite the Master Boot Record (MBR) of PhysicalDisk0, which renders the computer inoperable. If the malware does not have permissions to overwrite the MBR, it will instead destroy all files in the user’s home folder (e.g. C:\Documents and Settings\Administrator\) by encrypting each file with a randomly generated RC4 key. After the MBR is overwritten, or the home folder has been encrypted, the computer is restarted.

The Master Boot Record starts with code that is executed before the Operating System. The overwritten MBR contains code to print out “Carbon crack attempt, failed”, then enters an infinite loop preventing the system from continuing to boot.

The MBR also contains information about the disk partitions. The altered MBR overwrites the bytes for these partitions with Null bytes, making it even more difficult to recover data from the sabotaged hard drive.

Once the computer is restarted, the victim’s computer will be stuck at this screen until the Operating System is reinstalled:

Effectively, Rombertik begins to behave like a wiper malware sample, trashing the user’s computer if it detects it’s being analyzed. While Talos has observed anti-analysis and anti-debugging techniques in malware samples in the past, Rombertik is unique in that it actively attempts to destroy the computer if it detects certain attributes associated with malware analysis.”

The malware also has some less destructive cloaking measures, to evade sandbox tools, it writes random data to memory 960 million times; The delay from that can trip up a sandbox tool.

“If an analysis tool attempted to log all of the 960 million write instructions, the log would grow to over 100 gigabytes,” the Talos researchers explained. “Even if the analysis environment was capable of handling a log that large, it would take over 25 minutes just to write that much data to a typical hard drive. This complicates analysis.”

Well, that sounds like a nasty bit of programming. I’ll admit, I have been stung by malware a few times, most recent being around a month ago with those shopping aid ad extensions. Have you ever been snagged by malware? What are your preventative measures? Let us know in the comments.

Thank you to ArsTechnica for providing us with this information.

Check Out This HDD and Floppy Rendition of Smells Like Teen Spirit

Nothing says epic waste of time like a plethora of old hard drives and floppy drives playing a cover of a classic Nirvana song. I’ve always loved these crazy projects, not only because they’re fun, but also because I wish I had as much time to waste as the people who actually do them.

Also, at least there’s still some great uses for old floppy drives, certainly better than throwing them in the bin.

Has the NSA Been Hiding Viruses in Hard Drive Firmware?

A new report from Kaspersky Lab suggests that the NSA might just have developed quite an interesting way to hide viruses. They say that they may well be hiding malicious software inside the firmware of Hard Drives, including those made by a host of famous manufacturers, such as Seagate, Western Digital, Maxtor, Hitachi, Toshiba and Samsung.

The ‘Equation’ report says that the malware included on the drives would be almost impossible to detect and to remove, giving the NSA an unprecedented way to access many millions of computers across the globe. The report also ponders how the organisation would be able to install such malware, suggesting that while the NSA could full well reverse engineer hard drive firmware, they say that it may be possible that the US government has secretly approached the hard drive manufacturers and worked with them to include the malware with their products.

So far, only Western Digital has spoken out about the report, denying to Reuters that they have any involvement with the NSA. The others all declined to comment.

This makes quite a significant story, with repercussions that will surely develop over time.

Source: Reuters

3TB Seagate Hard Drives Have 43% Failure Rate, According to Backblaze

Cloud storage provider Backblaze, in its 2014 ‘Hard Drive Annual Failure Rate’ graph, reports that the 3TB Seagate Barracuda drives it used for its storage service had a 43.1% failure rate over 2014. Other Seagate models also performed badly, with the 1.5TB Barracuda 7200.11 failing 23.8% of the time.

It must be noted that Backblaze exposed the drives to heavy stress, using them 24/7 to support user data. Seagate’s drives, designed purely to serve as home external storage devices, are not expected to handle more than eight hours use a day, nor be used as part of a massive vibrating enclosure, so it is baffling why Backblaze would continue to use Barracuda HHDs for a task they are so ill-suited to.

Not every hard drive manufacturer fared as badly as Seagate, though. HGST drives in particular proved to be very reliable under heavy use, with its 2 to 4TB drives boasting only a 2.3% rate of failure for the year, and the 2TB 7K2000 model leading the pack with a 1.1% failure rate.

Source: Ars Technica

Synology DiskStation DS115 Launched

Synology’s DiskStation DS115, the latest in its series of network storage devices, was released on Tuesday. The DS115 1-bay network-attached server (NAS) sports a dual-core processor and boasts such features as centralized data storage, borderless file sharing, easy cloud synchronization, multimedia streaming, home surveillance.

Jonathan Wang, Product Manager at Synology Inc., says of the NAS, “DS115 makes it easy to work, play, and share files from anywhere. With its speedy performance, intuitive interface, and diverse ecosystem of add-on packages, DS115 is a great NAS server for homes or small businesses – especially for people who still rely on external hard drives, flash drives, or cloud services to swap and share files.”

The DS115 offers transfer speeds of over 111MB/s read and 104MB/s write – a 36% speed increase on its predecessor – through its USB 3.0 connector. The device also gives impressive energy efficiency, using 5.44W in hibernation and only 10.21W when in use.

Last year, Synology was named “PC Mag Business Choice Award 2014 winner” for the second year in a row.

Source: Tech Power Up

Samsung’s New Super-Fast SSD Consumes Nearly Zero Power in Standby

Samsung has revealed its new solid state drive, the SM951, designed to be a high-performance, low-powered PCIe for notebooks and workstations.

The small SM951 – its dimensions of 80mm x 22mm are around 1/7 the size of a 2.5-inch SSD – can pack in as much as 512GB storage.

Using a PCIe 3.0 interface, the SM951 can perform at speeds of up to 2.15GB/s read and 1.55GB/s write, four times as fast as a SATA SSD. Through a PCIe 2.0, speeds are still an impressive 1.6GB/s read and 1.35GB/s write.

Remarkably, while hitting such accelerated speeds, the SM951 uses 50% less power than the nearest SSD, and only consumes 2mW when in standby mode.

Samsung plan to release the SM951 PCIe SSD later this year.

Source: Digital Wack

Nyko Databank Connects 3.5-Inch Drives to Your PS4


Peripheral specialist Nyko has produced a custom dock for the PlayStation 4 that allows a 3.5-inch hard drive to be connected to the console. The internal drive in the PS4 can be replaced, but only with a 2.5-inch drive, limited to 500GB capacity.

Nyko’s add-on, the Databank, makes it possible to connect a larger, and generally cheaper, 3.5-inch drive. The Databank has a similar aesthetic to the Sony console, slotting on top its lefthand flank.

No price or release date has been announced, but the Databank is expected during the first half of 2015.

Source: Gamespot

Samsung Reveals Tiny External 1TB SSD

At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas on Monday, Samsung launched a new external solid state hard drive called the T1. Weighing little more than an ounce, and with dimensions the size of a credit card, the T1 SSD packs up to one terabyte of storage inside its tiny case.

Since most external hard drives are third-party – they use existing controllers and NANDs and package them within their own case – this marks the first time in which a tier one hard drive manufacturer is releasing its own external SSD.

The T1 will be available in 250GB, 500GB and 1TB capacities, priced at $180, $300, and $600, respectively, and units ship later this month.

Source: AnandTech

Toshiba Introduces Canvio AeroCast Wireless HDD and Adapter

Toshiba has introduced the Canvio AeroCast Wireless Hard Drive (HDTU110XKWC1), a device that blends the benefits of 1TB external storage with the wireless freedom as well as having a built-in SD card reader. The AeroCast drive supports up to 6 simultaneous users and has its own hotspot integrated making the need for internet or router connection unnecessary. Users can also connect the drive to their Chromecast device to experience their personal digital content with Toshiba’s Google Cast Ready app.

“Storage needs are changing. By understanding the importance of mobility, we have taken storage to the next level. With integrated wireless capabilities, we empower our users to share and stream their personal digital content the way they want, wirelessly,” said Maciek Brzeski, vice president, Branded Storage

The AeroCast Wireless HDD has pass-through mode, so you don’t have to lose your internet or other wireless connection just because you connect your wireless HDD. It also comes with a built-in rechargeable battery with up to 5-hours of truly wireless storage. The maximum wireless speed is 150MB/s with the support for 802.11b/g/n. It also comes with a default micro USB 3.0 connector and cable to connect it directly and get all the speed the drive inside can do.

The size of just 121.4 x 86 x 24.4 mm and the weight of just 280 grams makes the Toshiba Canvio AeroCast Wireless Hard Drive highly portable. It comes with a 1 year limited warranty and an MSRP of $219.99. The official support list includes iOS 6 or newer, Android 2.3 or newer, Windows 7 or newer, and Mac OS X 10.7 or newer. Mac OS X users will however need to download the free NTFS driver as there isn’t any Time machine support.

Toshiba also introduced the Canvio Cast Wireless Adapter that can make any USB storage medium wireless. This is basically the wireless functions of the above hard drive but without the own storage. Attach any USB hard drive you might have to the adapter and enjoy the content on your Chromecast, Android, iOS, Windows or Mac OS X device.

Where the Wireless Hard Drive used the USB 3 interface, there wasn’t really any need for it on this device as it only supports 150Mbit/s via the wireless connection anyway. So instead Toshiba added a USB 2.0 interface to the adapter. It measures just 63 x 48 x 10 mm and weighs 24 grams.

While some might argue that it’s weird Toshiba didn’t add a direct connection feature to the micro USB charging port, there really isn’t any need for it as you could just use the drive directly. Only time it would be useful would be a firmware upgrade.

The Canvio Cast Wireless Adapter (HDWW100XKWU1) comes with a $79.99 MSRP and a 1-year limited warranty.

Thanks to Toshiba for providing us with this information

Images courtesy of Toshiba