Volatile USB Storage?

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Volatile USB Storage?

Postby Zilog8 » February 8th, 2011, 6:55 am

Hey, I had an interesting but probably unfeasible idea recently, and I thought it'd make an interesting thought experiment.

How would one create a USB memory device whose storage is provided by a volatile source, such that upon disconnecting it, it would be erased? Basically, like a Gigabyte i-RAM, but USB instead of PCI.

It'd have interesting security characteristics, and could also possibly be useful as a ReadyBoost drive.

Just a cool thought.
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Re: Volatile USB Storage?

Postby MS3FGX » February 8th, 2011, 7:16 am

Seems pretty illogical to be perfectly honest. I can't imagine a practical use for such a device.

The whole point of the i-RAM is high performance read/write, so to take that idea and choke it down on the USB bus is getting you nowhere. I suppose you could use USB 3.0, which would help with the speed issue, though eSATA would make more sense.

But the bigger question would be...why? Why would you want a volatile storage device to be removable? Just to save the trouble of installing an I-RAM type device (or just using tmpfs), or additional physical RAM (in the case of ReadyBoost)?
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Re: Volatile USB Storage?

Postby wellernumber7 » February 8th, 2011, 9:04 am

You'd need a rock solid USB connection to avoid data loss every time it jiggles.

"They" (the attackers) would just squirt it with liquid $VERY_COLD_GAS; which would keep the contents stable just long enough for them to forensic it.
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Re: Volatile USB Storage?

Postby Zilog8 » February 8th, 2011, 9:38 am

MS3FGX wrote:Seems pretty illogical to be perfectly honest. I can't imagine a practical use for such a device.
But the bigger question would be...why? Why would you want a volatile storage device to be removable? Just to save the trouble of installing an I-RAM type device (or just using tmpfs), or additional physical RAM (in the case of ReadyBoost)?


Well, that's assuming that a) it's a desktop system, b) the system runs Linux, and/or c) physical RAM can be expanded.

For example, one practical use would be as a place to put the page-file in a netbook.
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Re: Volatile USB Storage?

Postby Mussen » February 8th, 2011, 11:31 am

How bout Storage with an expiration date?

What if you kept the drive 'alive' with a super cap, and with some kind of low power micro/rtc set it to disconnect said cap after a certain amount of time. Kind of a James bond Self destruct function.

On second thought I almost don't want to post this....This is a flavor of DRM i never, ever want to see in real life.
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Re: Volatile USB Storage?

Postby bluewraith » February 11th, 2011, 10:23 am

Mussen wrote:How bout Storage with an expiration date?

What if you kept the drive 'alive' with a super cap, and with some kind of low power micro/rtc set it to disconnect said cap after a certain amount of time. Kind of a James bond Self destruct function.

On second thought I almost don't want to post this....This is a flavor of DRM i never, ever want to see in real life.


Rental DVDs at truck stops have a similar idea. They come in a vacuum sealed case, and once you open the case the disc will undergo a chemical process from exposure to oxygen until it cannot be read anymore. Usually 48 hours or so.
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Re: Volatile USB Storage?

Postby wellernumber7 » February 11th, 2011, 11:06 am

Zilog8 wrote:For example, one practical use would be as a place to put the page-file in a netbook.

Swap space over USB would suck. And it would have no need to be volatile.
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Re: Volatile USB Storage?

Postby bluewraith » February 12th, 2011, 8:56 am

I had this thought before, but I was wanting to see what others would say before I spoke up.

It may be for the more then a bit paranoid, or useful for high risk situations, but a USB drive that erases itself as soon as its removed from the computer would be very useful for those who are doing some.. questionable activities. Similar to the thermite lined harddrive with a panic button.
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Re: Volatile USB Storage?

Postby MS3FGX » February 12th, 2011, 2:38 pm

So we are talking about a "self destruct" type of situation? Wherein you can pull the device and have it clear all the data that was on it if...say...you heard government representatives beating at your door?

I suppose in that case I can see a use, even if it is rather Hollywood-ish. But having that kind of thing as a simple removable device is just begging for it to jiggle lose or accidentally get unplugged. I would take the same idea and make it internal, maybe even use the i-RAM that was already mentioned and wire a toggle into it's battery backup line. That way you can flip the switch, shut down the machine, and everything is gone.
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Re: Volatile USB Storage?

Postby wellernumber7 » February 12th, 2011, 3:26 pm

bluewraith wrote:I had this thought before, but I was wanting to see what others would say before I spoke up.

It may be for the more then a bit paranoid, or useful for high risk situations, but a USB drive that erases itself as soon as its removed from the computer would be very useful for those who are doing some.. questionable activities. Similar to the thermite lined harddrive with a panic button.



1) "They" would just squirt it with very cold gas; thus keeping the data stable enough for them to forensic it.

2) If you think "they" are going to bust the door down then you have bigger data leakage to worry about than a "volatile USB drive". They'll just send you to Guantanomo and beat you with rubber hoses.
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