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Even in the age of cloud computing, USB flash drives are pretty important. Some USB flash drives are more important than others. You might be storing private information on them that you don’t want anyone else to get their hands on.
Unfortunately, a USB drive itself isn’t that secure, even if you add some basic password protection to it. Instead, go ninja and hide in plain sight by making a masterful USB drive disguise.
Which USB Flash Drives Can You Use?
If you’re the DIY kind, you can work with any standard flash drive. But it’s ideal not to go for the best or most rugged USB keys. What you need is something cheap and tiny.
If you’re buying new, look for a flash drive that has a simple silicon moulding, instead of a hard plastic case. It’s fine to use a plastic case too, if you have several of those lying around. The 16 GB Super Talent Pico-C (UK) meets the requirements perfectly.
No matter which USB key you use, you’ll need to crack or peel its case open. What you need is just the PCB with the USB port, nothing else. As long as you can manage to get to that, it doesn’t really matter what type of flash drive you have.
1. Disguise as a Broken USB Cable
When you see a broken cable with its wires frayed out, you think it’s time to throw it out. You won’t ever think of connecting it to your computer. That’s why it’s the best hiding spot for a USB flash drive.
EvilMadScientist’s guide shows you how to make this disguise. Take any old cable you have lying around. Cut along the side of the USB port deeply enough so that you can peel back the rubber.
Using a small screwdriver, remove the tabs and pieces that hold the USB key in the wire. If you’re using a compact flash drive like the Super Talent Pico, insert the drive into the USB port. If you’re using a flash drive with the PCB and USB port together, then remove the frayed wire’s USB port and shove in your drive.
Seal everything back up and test the drive once. If it’s working, it’s time to seal it permanently. Apply some heat-shrink tubing or electrical tape for insulation. Then fill the remaining space with five-minute quick drying gel-style epoxy.
Voila! You got yourself a flash drive that looks like a broken cable. Make sure the edges of the cable look frayed, with a few wires jutting out, to complete the trick.
It’s the kind of disguise that has multiple uses. You can even turn the USB drive into a lock/unlock key for your PC. No one will suspect it’s the key, even if it’s lying next to your computer.
2. USB in Lipstick or Chapstick
The easiest way to hide a USB key in plain sight is to put it into an old case of lipstick or chapstick. Most people aren’t going to open your lipstick to check if it’s actually lipstick inside.
You’ll need an old lipstick or chapstick, as well as moldable and gel-style epoxy for this. First, make sure the lipstick case is completely cleaned out, so that only the shell and the cap remains. Of course, your USB drive should fit in the case for this to work. You might even be able to use a full-sized fast USB 3.0 flash drive, so check the size before you start the project.
Take your USB stick and apply moldable epoxy around it, so that the surface is covered but not submerged. Place this into your empty lipstick case, such that the USB port comes out neatly. Fill the remaining space in the case with gel-style epoxy. Wait for everything to dry up, and clean off the edges with an exacto knife.
Place the cap back on, and you have a hidden USB key in a lipstick case. Check out WonderHowTo’s guide for a chapstick USB drive, in case you get stuck along the way.
3. Hide in Plain Sight With a Wall Dead Drop
The USB Dead Drop project is a pretty cool way to participate in a global geek movement. In it, people hide a flash drive in a wall somewhere on a street, and post its location on deaddrops.com. Anyone is then free to come and get whatever is on that drive.
We’ve shown you how to create a dead drop and participate in the project, but a wall-based dead drop has more uses. It needn’t be public, first of all. It also can be two way, so that you and a group of friends can exchange files on campus without anyone else finding out.
Instructables user frenzy put together a simple, step-by-step guide to create wall drops. You’ll need a stripped down USB drive, plumber’s tape, quick-dry patching cement, and something to chip away cement with. If you can get a cordless drill, that’s best.
Wrap your stripped USB drive with plumber’s tape so that it’s waterproof. Then dig a small hole in the wall using the drill or any other tool you got. Put your drive in there, apply the cement to patch it up. There you go, you just got your own USB wall dead drop!
Please don’t go around making holes in walls that don’t belong to you, or you’ll be liable for property damage.
Buy, Don’t Build
Sometimes, you don’t need to roll up your sleeves and take out your tools. All you need is your credit card. Here are some cool disguised USB drives you can buy without building.
Condom Wrapper USB (UK) — In case of emergency, you reach into your wallet and take out a condom wrapper. You open it. And it’s a USB flash drive, ready to copy whatever you want. No more floppy disks.
How Would You Hide a USB Key?
For me, the frayed USB cable is the most ingenious way to hide a USB key from unsuspecting people. No one is going to try and plug that into their computer.
What about you? Which disguised USB flash drive caught your eye?