Picture of USB Dead Drops
Dead drops is a project by Aram Bartholl that seeks to create "dead drops" which are cloudless offline storage that anyone can access.

This instructable goes over how i set up a dead drop right in downtown san francisco, hopefully with these instructions you can do you own, anywhere.

Step 1: Concept

Picture of Concept

From Deaddrops.com:

‘Dead Drops’ is an anonymous, offline, peer to peer file-sharing network in public space. USB flash drives are embedded into walls, buildings and curbs accessable to anybody in public space. Everyone is invited to drop or find files on a dead drop. Plug your laptop to a wall, house or pole to share your favorite files and data. Each dead drop is installed empty except a readme.txt file explaining the project.
The term dead drop comes from an old spy term where some information would be passed from one person to another, usually party a would leave something for party b to pick up sometime later. This project takes that same concept and turns it into a peer to peer system where people can share all kinds of random files or ideas. 
mikeasaurus4 years ago
Clandestine, can think of many fun places to 'hide' these.
Depending on how liberal you want to be with the spirit of USB dead-drops, this could easily be expanded to vehicles such as trains, buses and other types of mass transit. The added twist of having to locate the right train/bus/ferry, then right seat. Sort of like e-geocaching.

Is there a method to ensure the readme and manifesto stay on the drive and aren't removed by some cyber-hooligan, or is it just maintenance by users/you.
HayleyD6 months ago

new to all this dont really want to make one myself but more just wondering whether anyone knows of the locations of some in england (south west) would be great if there were some up and running :) think they are a great idea

I am putting some around eastleigh tomorrow not really near you though. Only 2GB too but still usefull.

sue.donim.1445 months ago

weather can get to these. shouldnt the usb plug cover be left behind to,protect from corrosion ? and these arent write protected ... a virus is easily up/down loaded. i would get permission for locations. defacing/destroying property makes it more likely it will be removed soon.

also. becareful removing cover (if you do) static charge can wipe it out before you do much with it. and maybe a nonelectric expoxy would seal better than plumbers tape. is plumbers tape electronically safe ?

yieldlymph9 months ago

You know, I have been using the term "Cocksicle" for many years now, but this is the first time i have ever thought of it as an edible substance. Go figure!

Clandestine, can think of many fun places to 'hide' these.

Depending on how liberal you want to be with the spirit of USB dead-drops, this could easily be expanded to vehicles such as trains, buses and other types of mass transit. The added twist of having to locate the right train/bus/ferry, then right seat. Sort of like e-geocaching.

Is there a method to ensure the readme and manifesto stay on the drive and aren't removed by some cyber-hooligan, or is it just maintenance by users/you.

It's a neat idea but I don't like having the male connector sticking out. I think these should have been implemented as a mini or micro USB female port so that it is completely recessed. It could then be inserted at a 10º angle to keep out water.

As for viruses... WHO CARES! The real problem is that you have chosen to use the 1 operating system that is plagued by viruses. People who choose not to use MSFT software don't share your concerns.
How about wireless USB and wireless power?

The device is concealed inside something and when you arrive, you power it with your wireless power adapter. A logo or some other marking would indicate the device's location.

I was thinking the same thing youmadbro. I was thinking solar, but that would be difficult. A wireless power setup would allow for complete sealing of the device.

Perhaps a Altoids Mint tin type project.

Seal the container, then epoxy it in place. You could stick it almost anywhere and mark the spot with a sticker or other sign.

Maybe a small skull and cross bones with the USB image on the forehead?

I was thinking a pirate box that was hooked up to solar power or wireless charging myself

(1) http://piratebox.de/start

(2) http://laughingsquid.com/piratebox-a-diy-device-that-creates-offline-wireless-networks-featuring-message-boards-and-media-sharing/

That would be pretty cool

jerkey4 years ago
teflon tape is used by plumbers because it reduces friction during the tightening of tapered threaded fittings, known as NPT thread. Friction while tightening pipes can cause problems at the other end of the pipe and cause you to stop tightening before a seal is made with the threads. There is nothing particularly watertight about teflon tape. In fact, electrical tape would be better because it has adhesive to make a real seal. There are tapes out there made for RF engineers who put connectors on cables outdoors, and these tapes contain a gooey adhesive which really oozes out and makes a seal. This could be important because proper cement uses a metal corrosion chemistry to harden. blah blah blah i like the idea of USB dead drops.

personally I would just hot glue the whole thing

jj.inc jerkey3 years ago
Teflon tape and paste is water/airtight, I have built multiple air cannons, and other things with pipe fittings and whenever I forget to put tape on the threads the thing will leak, the Teflon tape is a nice cheap, and thin way to do this, it also kinda streches around the drive more closely.
Years ago when I did electrical work we used a 3M product (can't remember the name, but can ask about), that is used to protect and seal up BUGS that is the giant ubolts that we use to splice big wire in a box or trough, each piece roughly the size of a pepperoni would be stripped bolted then given 1 pad or a piece then wrapped in electrical tape. They take years to dry up,(if ever). They are kinda like black gummy bears that stick to themselves and are stretched out then pulled tight. They have an outer layer of electricians tape and if done perfectly need no outer covering, and are water tight. they are not cheap but you can cut them up and a mem sticks are so small you could do a number of them from 1 piece.
Thanks for pointing this out.
Although moisture in a sealed concrete wall is probably not too big of an issue, Teflon tape is probably about as effective as tissue paper, like jerkey said, it is not at all designed to seal water. Specialty RF seal tape is probably the best way to go with this. One brand of tape is Coax-Seal ( Not a plug or testimonial but just to make it easy to search for, had to go Google diving for a bit to get the right set of search terms). It says tape, but a more accurate description would be a strip of road tar mixed with silly putty. After a couple of days, the individual wraps sort of "melt" together creating a more or less perfect seal, the only thing that damages the seal is direct sunlight, so inside a wall, this could realistically outlive the data retention of the flash chips. At about 2 dollars a roll, you'd probably have enough for 4 or 5 drops, and if you are putting drives in walls, extra 0.50$ a piece isn't significant.

Other thoughts on waterproofing the connection:

-Is there anything other than a few dollars stopping the Dropper from getting a female-female adapter so the jack is of the female type? It could be mounted flush to the wall reducing the chance of accidental damage or direct weather. As well as male-male USB cables are more common for any given random user to have.

-Force a glob of dielectric grease directly into the female connector (stole this one from a friend who does quite a bit of DIY car maintenance). Everything is totally sealed until a mating connector is pushed into the port. Each of the pins shear the grease out of the way and the contacts....well... contact each other. When the cable is removed, the grease smears out and re-coats any open surface.

Sorry, but the preview isn't working right for me. Please forgive the half dozen edits this will probably need to get the formatting right.
another note on that Coax-seal (im a ham radio opp and never knew what it was named) if you put a layer of electric tape and then the seal it makes it so you can take it off if you dont you will NEVER get it all off, the way we do it for ant. connections is to layer it like so

tape -- seal -- tape

i have found that the seal will run in the sun if you dont put the outer layer of tape

BTW very interesting idea



calmlunch1 year ago


clickyummy1 year ago

Gotta get my mouth on some of them cocksickles.

bearblue1 year ago


chimplost1 year ago


IDEA!!! if you really wanted to only share files between friends or people in the know, and at the same time avoid viruses (maybe) is to use TrueCrypt or some other encryption to make an encrypted file or even hidden encrypted file for the flashdrive and put everything on that.
IDEA!!! if you really wanted to only share files between friends or people in the know, and at the same time avoid viruses (maybe) is to use TrueCrypt or some other encryption to make an encrypted file or even hidden encrypted file for the flashdrive and put everything on that.
It might be more in the bit you're using, like you would need a masonry bit for certain materials.
Ok, what's up with the above comments from CarBuyWhiz, irkedcache, Minderwinter, and beautymelody? They always have similar comments and generally comment on the same ibles. Stunning! Curious! Intriguing!
ZacWolf2 years ago
I created a forum thread about something that I'd believe would be perfect to store on these. Take a look, and let me know what you think. :)

In the screenshot filling out the online form - it says to list the size in kilobytes. Hence, the field should be filled in as "4000000" rather than "4gb" (it'd be 4GB, anyways).
It might be more in the bit you're using
smithy.exe4 years ago
And what if someone will put a virus into that? Everyone will plug in, download it and share all over the world!
Just boot your computer off a live linux cd while you browse the files then boot back into your normal OS.
just disable windows's silly "autorun", disable windows's silly "hiding the extension of known file types" and don't run anything looking suspicious.
What kind of drill are you using I only have a 9.6v cordless drill and you don't show much about what kind of drill your using so it would be nice to know.
It might be more in the bit you're using, like you would need a masonry bit for certain materials. Also your drill just needs to have enough power to keep the bit turning while you apply enough inward pressure to keep it chipping away at the surface so it might be hard to say you need at least an x volt drill for drilling hard things, there might be some difference in the torque of different drills in the same voltage class.
pmann12 years ago
If you use Linux, or a similar OS you're pretty much immune to Window$ viruses - and Linux can handle a lot of the same filetypes as Windows. Be safe - use a Linux laptop/netbook.
vegalyre4 years ago
This is such a cool idea! ...But for every nice guy who'd act in the spirit of this project, there would be 10 jerks who'd put viruses on the drive. And really, what protection is there for that?
As long as you have it set to explicitly NOT EXECUTE any sort of autorun program when you mount the drive, and you explicitely set all files you transfer to be NON-EXECUTABLE, and you don't open them with any sort of fancy anything, you will be perfectly safe.
And really, what protection is there for that?

um how about decent av software on the laptop you plug into it !!!!!!!!!!

thats like having a handfull of condoms and saying what protection is there from std's

if you dont like the idea dont do it , simple
jj.inc ascentuk3 years ago
Condoms really don't protect from STD's, just getting her knocked up.
Xenel ascentuk4 years ago

AV won`t stop it.
andrej vegalyre4 years ago
common sense is very good antivirus protection
hintss andrej4 years ago
KadenP vegalyre4 years ago
Linux? OSX? BSD? OpenBox? VMWare? Backups? Decent AV software?
kjones52 years ago
As a (formerly avid) geocacher, I've dealt with property owners' rights concerning placing geocaches. Caches are very temporary by nature. These deaddrops are very permanent. If I were a property owner who had my property defaced in such a manner I'd probably make destroying every deaddrop I could find a hobby. It wouldn't be too hard either. Considering each deaddrop is open to the public, a single wallop of a small hammer or other convenient object would make any deaddrop, well, dead.

I think I'd find a way to place a deaddrop without defacing property and with a way to replace a thumbdrive if it went bad. Otherwise, I see this as a bad idea.
MartijnD2 years ago
Via WIFI on a raspberry Pi I guess somebody could restrict filesize 1mb and amount of files uploaded per unique MAC-IP adress to 3 per day, this way a 32gb card could be filled slowly, retrieving data is much faster via wifi, or only download the changes. the owner could even add a 3G modem to monitor, clean or change the system remotely.
hankenstien2 years ago
I like the female end idea. especialy the mini female end everyone has a few of these I have one from easch of my past 2 3 phones, external hard drives, al sorts of usb devices, and they make adapters for about a buck that will plug into the thub drive and give you a mini female end and is posible tip it slightly down. and all the user with a pc would need to use is a mini female usb adapter, and if you went this format, you could then put tons of storage, because now you have the standard for mini 2.5 hdd you could put that some where hidden and store more than a thumb drive. yeah so I got a little off point, but who doesn't anyway Mini female usb!
ilpug3 years ago
Is this still there? next time I'm in SF I will check it out.
godoggie3 years ago
Well well, what will they think of next? Pretty spiffy idea!

As for avoiding viruses, if you're a PC person, use some decent antivirus, if you're Linux (go Tux!!), you're generally good. Sure they'res viruses out there for Linux and Mac, but they're few and far between.

These could also be shared via word-of-mouth-only to limit who knows about them, thereby lessening the bad stuff.

iamphantom3 years ago
I really like this idea. Im going to try and start doing this a few places around me. I dont know how often it will be used unless someone starts a website for it or something. However if you are going to do this shouldn't it be covered or protected from the elements somehow?
jmiester3 years ago
I have that exact flash drive XD (just 8 gigs, not 4)
shadleyhax4 years ago
These would be an interesting idea for Geocachers :) multicaches are of course an obvious choice. embed one of these into a rock or the side of a tree and pop the cap over it to protect the contents.
Soksume4 years ago
perhaps a female connector would be better and have a small logo flap over it for water proofing
GameNox4 years ago
Is there a way that you make sure they see the README? VBS maybe???
autorun.inf (maybe ini, not sure) is what you want. They are placed in the root folder of the USB, and will follow the commands in it when the USB is plugged in.
I am not sure off the top of my head what the command is, but if you google 'autorun.inf commands' you should be able to find it.
I found the ultamite steal:

I got a CD for pics from target and it had autorun on it. The file type was .inf and the code is this:

autorun is very silly idea of windows creators and should be disabled on all systems. it's great gate for viruses!
GameNox andrej4 years ago
Yeah but if you put it on these dead drops, it will tell people to follow certan rules and even make them agree with terms of use.
If your going to use an autorun file you could use

brad_i20014 years ago

This is what some of you guys are thinking about. I like this idea, and have made a few myself. Enjoy!
your dog4 years ago
Ubuntu sticker :D
Also, is this still in use? I have to check next time I visit SF!
lukeyj154 years ago
For those worried about viruses, GET A MAC!!
and for those who want software to be readily available for their system, get a pc!

until the last few years or so, there wasnt hardly any, if any at all, good software for macs. there still is a much bigger market for good software for windows
GameNox4 years ago
It would be cool if you did some sort of dead drop network. I think there are some wireless USBs out???
@mikeasaurus ... Yes just right click (pc not sure for Mac) and somewhere at the bottom there's an option for it to stay permanently
drykill4 years ago
This is pretty much the equivalent of reusing a needle you just found on the ground.
Not to me. If my computer gets a virus,I'll be ok and my computer will be hurt. Computers should not rule your lives people! Its a tool just like a pencil. If you break your pencil, do you feel like it has hiv?
this is pretty much the equivalent of reusing a needle you just found on the ground but in a world where any body fluid transmitted disease can be fixed for several hundred dollars.
pfred24 years ago
I think Bittorrent is a better idea.
Applebohn4 years ago
I LOVE it!!!!
cyberraxx4 years ago
Nice idea. I'd thought about doing something like this for a Internet Cafe and PC repair & customising business idea I'd had a while ago. I still need to find out about legalities of using it in a business. Only know of two places in the UK that are doing this.

As for viruses and Mal/Spyware use a decent AV.
kaoticsnow4 years ago
Or you could just look for buildings that already have holes, for exampe and older brick building where the mortar may be giving out.
For all who are paranoid about someone rigging a USB cable to a car battery and cementing it in a wall to look like a dead drop, I made this instructable. I tested it with several power sources, and it buzzed accordingly to each one. It works great, and will become handy once Dead Drops becomes more popular.

Kiteman4 years ago
I saw the original project via NOTCOT - goodness me, there are a lot of paranoid people around!

Any hints on what the "special prize" is?
Its not paranoia, its security. Identity theft is increasing quickly and this could open up a whole new way for criminals to gain access to your personal information. My comments in particular were just a warning to inform people that read this about some potentially unknown risks.
Well I guess things can happen when sockets and plugs meet each other through a hole in the wall.

Maybe the danger is part of the thrill.
Ahhh. "The Hole in the Wall". A former watering hole on the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal. A place sometimes populated with pool cue and chain-wielding thugs that was a bar built in a rehabbed brothel in Chesapeake City,MD. I was there from time-to-time but never in the glory hole days of the 19th Century. I have seen its ugly side while enjoying beer and billiards. It was purchased by a DuPont family member and converted into a swank eatery. This is what I envision for the "glory hole" USB port, only in reverse; i.e., swanky-cool ...to...bloody meat and bone fragments with a cool flashdrive lanyard attached.
You mean like some sort of reverse gentrification with a bit of hitech/lotech mixed in?
Sure, but don't forget the lurking thugs around the corner with the bicycle chain ;)
Bicycle chain? Lurking? That sounds exactly like me.
dont use a pc that has personal information on it then

its not rocket science
Not everybody has multiple PCs. So it is best to try and educate people when you see a risk, if nothing else, just so they are aware it is there.
thats a fair point well put :)
If you have your identity stolen because you access an anonymous USB jack in a public space without taking minimum precautions, you deserve to have your bank account swallowed by a Nigerian revolutionary general's trusted aid...

Nice retort. It's pretty much the same risk you take as having your firewall off in a public internet cafe. The fact is, people won't be forced to use these anyways, so there's really no reason to complain.

I'm sure people appreciate your warning, though, Cyborg.
Why would you have personal info on the drive? You can always use SSL encryption and so you'll have to know somebody to gain access.
if your PC doesnt have any personal info, there is nothing to worry about really... but if you use online banking, or anything that requires a login, a hacker could use info on your Hard Drive to steal your identity. Just be careful and know the dangers of having unprotected USB coupling.
100% Risky free
Cyborggold's not just paranoid, he's right. Large companies like Bank of America AAA Michigan and others do drills where they scatter USB drives in the lobby and parking lot, and send employees to meetings when the USB's are plugged into company machines against company policy. A USB key was used as a rogue vector to infect and compromise bank security as well as security at several government facilities. This isn't just identity theft, this is a sexually transmitted disease style metaphor that discusses the positive and negative. Abstinence tends to be heavily reinforced for anything but your personal machine and security on your personal machine is reinforced by the high costs to you personally should one of these efforts turn sour.

I think the idea has some merit, but would like to see a secure reader, that could verify the USB device was not a keyboard driver or even mouse driver in disguise, and software that could containerize this mode of dump and receive in a format that would be less abusable.

All that said, I'd also like to avoid finding one of these formatted in ZFS or something else that wasn't universal. I say these because I find it interesting, but also find it to be a little concerning.
Broom Kiteman4 years ago
Kiteman, have you never had a system infected?
Kiteman Broom4 years ago
Nope - I have decent, up-to-date antiviral and firewall software covering a Linux/OpenOffice/FF system.
Hell yeah, Linux with firefox is near-bullet proof.
nerys bowmaster4 years ago
windows xp with NO anti viral only a firewall and a little bit of "grey matter" has kept my systems clean for at least 15 years ie as long as I can remember.

oh and never use internet explorer :-)
But.... Windows XP was only introduced in 2001...... OMG a time traveller!!!!
Everyone know there was no actual intelligent life before Windows XP...
Everyone knows Windows XP was a downgrade from Windows 98.
Skipping ME of course. That was awful.
Sounds exactly like XP to Win 7 :P

98 did have some things that had to be removed that were leftovers from 95, though.
well so far I have had no compelling reason and or need to goto windows 7 (skipped the abortion that was vista of course)

it does not "DO" anything for me except consume CPU cycles and take more hard drive space. Otherwise there is (so far) nothing that I can do in windows 7 that I can not do in XP.
Exactly my point, comparing it to Tragic's statement of 98 to XP.

I'm a linux fanboy, though, so I only use windows for the games that don't run in wine, and don't have an engine port.
I generally only use Windows when somebody has something wrong with their computer. The rest of the time I use Parallels.

I'm sorry, but like it or not Mac OSX IS a very nice Unix system.
sure if you can afford it. I just have a hard time paying 5 times what a chunk of hardware is worth. When for 1/5th the price I can build a better faster PC with more features.

Don't get me wrong macs are nice they are just way way over priced.
Vengence nerys4 years ago
Everything "Apple" is overpriced...
I haven't seen too many overpriced Macs myself, but then I haven't looked into the cheap stuff. There's no point getting a Mac if you're not going to get a real computer. Those little plastic things are just a yuppie item. They're a status symbol, no more, no less. I would hardly expect it to be cheap. The iMac is for Pro-Tools and movie editing. It's nothing special for the price, but it does the job.

The high end stuff though, you'd be hard pressed to find a better deal. The 17" MacBook Pro is about on par, but try finding a better deal than a Mac Pro desktop.
pathetically easy. Give me a link to your "mac pro desktop" with price and I will link you a PC better than that machine for a fraction of the cost.
You would do well to check prices yourself before making such claims.
Why don't you two fanboys take this boring, decades-old version of "Why MY OS is better than YOUR OS" to another forum, since it has nothing to do with this instructable.
If you looked before you commented you would note that A; There are no fanboys in this situation (Besides Will, who hasn't said anything for quite some time), B; It does have to do with the Instructable, and C; It has near to nothing to do with operating systems.

Do people like you have this radar that searches for words like "Mac," or "Linux," so you can take instant offense? You target me, yet again, if you had read anything, you would notice I was trying to put a cap on the situation anyway. You would do better to simply ignore the situation until it simply died off, rather than actively reviving it.
yeah for me its not the OS its the hardware (and the price of said hardware)

12 core? yeah your talking about a class of computer in a whole nother universe from what I am talking about :-) IE your normal run of the mill computer

WOW they HAVE 12 core now ???

Have to say though I would love to nab one of them gorgeous G5 aluminum cases and put a decent windows system in it :-)

boy they have closed the gap a bit (I have not priced compared apples in a while)

they are now only 3 times what a comparable pc would cost (the imac line not the PRO line)

in the used market however its still pretty bad with macs costing 5-8 times what a comparable PC costs. in fact around here at least buying used macs is stupid since the darned things go for almost what they go for new.
Something tells me you're paying British import tax.
Actually, just for fun I'll let you in on a little secret. You can buy a 12 core Mac for 5 grand. You can buy a 12 core PC for 8 grand. Now maybe my math is a little off, but it seems to me the Mac is just slightly cheaper.

Now it was actually the 8 core I was looking at before. It seems Alienware has come out with a comparable computer for a huge 43 dollars less. Personally I'd pay the 43 bucks and have significantly less chance of my computer spontaneously bursting into flames. I think I'd prefer to pay $3,500 for in inferior computer, rather than $15,000 to compare though. (Believe me, the cheaper one will run Crysis just fine.)
My friend and I discovered that windows 7 works just as good or better than xp sp3 on an older computer built in the days of xp. He did need a ram upgrade though, but xp sp3 pretty much required it as well.
Oh, you mean Windows Mistake Edition? I remember it well, like a bad dream.
The computer I'm using now had it until I whipped the hard drive and installed Xubuntu.
nerys Sparkyrob4 years ago
Nono. Windows ME is a very good name.

Windows: Major Excrement.

No compelling reason to install SP3 either. I use SP2.
SP3 was only put out there to fix what SP1 and 2 did as far as my memory goes.
XP was the last great OS from Micro$oft. If my XP machine had not died of old age I would still be using it. Admittedly I am bi, I use Mac & PC but since the death of my XP box I use Parallels and reluctantly Win7 on my Mac server. The only reason I still use Windows at all is because of enterprise software that isn't available for Mac. For ONE application I need to keep a windows environment.
i guess you forget that xp is still the more secure operating sytem after xp vista was replaced by win 7 so quickly because it crashed and burned and win 7 has some serious issues
kz1o markbellis4 years ago
I helped write The Computer Virus Handbook in 1991, so 15 years of avoiding viruses is easy. This was closer to 20 years ago.

"Know it? I wrote it!"
Bowmaster never vocalize that "my system is bulletproof"! My son is a genius with computers and even his "bulletproof system" was infected while fixing a customer's laptop.

Claiming you are invincible is ASKING for someone to infect you.

I'm most probably old enough to be your mother, if not your grandmother. I've been working with computers since the 80's and have never been infected. I am highly skeptical, and not easily fooled.

Stay safe, clean your room and take out the garbage, dear!
I know, everything has it's weaknesses. But I keep my system up to date, browse the nets smartly, don't download suspect files, and it's linux which is one of the best OS's.
Just because >I'm< paranoid doesn't mean they're >not< out to get me! The real reason so many people are paranoid is because there are so many seriously evil people out there. "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked. Who can know it?"
I bet that it is a coupon code for a 3 month pro membership.
i would think the larger heat shrink tubing would work well. am i wrong?
It would work but it would still allow water through. Epoxy the whole thing and there is no more water issues.
Barrettkg4 years ago
In leui of all of these (somewhat) valid concerns, what would be a good program to protect against autorun programs?
I think this is an amazing idea that will eventually progress but it is currently held back by so many concerns.
You don't need a program to disable autorun.
so i'm not much of a computer software kinda guy, but could something be built to go between the "dead drop" and your computer that would scan for "incoming viruses" ? if this project is to survive, let alone, thrive i think it would be time well spent for the "Dead Drop" community to figure something out for this.
how about just installing some decent av software on your pc.

i still dont understand why ppl see this as any different to connecting to the internet or plugging in a friends usb key , as long as you have decent av you are fine.

no point in over complicating a great and simple idea
zSPNKrz4 years ago
Question: Is it legal to randomly drill a hole on the side of a public building?
Notbob zSPNKrz4 years ago
Probably not, but just like street art - you need to get caught first.
"just like street art" in most cities in the U.S. it would be considered vandalism or graffiti, so it would more than likely be illegal. that being said, it is only illegal if you get caught.
This project not withstanding, there lies the base problem of morals and ethics in this country. Randomly drilling holes in a public building or any other building that YOU do not own is vandalism, graffiti. To say that it is only illegal if you get caught flies in the face of the spirit and letter of the law and our Constitution. This then really calls into question an individual's trustworthyness.
Man up.
Please explain. What does that mean?
It means get over it.
AH...I see, it is ok then for anyone to be dishonest with you and to deface your property of which you are proud or maybe not. With out the laws and Constitution as guide lines to live by society decays to anarchy.
i just typed out a point-by-point reply to each of your arguments but my internet disconnected and i lost it and can't be arsed to re-do it. Suffice to say, i won.

Deal with it.
....man up
Happy Thanksgiving
Archarzel4 years ago
Its trivially easy to highjack one of these drops, since anyone can read and write the drive, is there a way to secure it, make sections read only? separate, encrypted partitions maybe?
it will over heat find another way this wont work.....
This is not something that will be used for long periods of time. I seriously doubt it will be connected to any one computer long enough to overheat.
desertdog4 years ago
I love the concept. Sorta geo-caching electronically and more urbanly (is that a word?)

Unfortunately, there are too many people who don't play well among us. You would need a cheap, throwaway device since it would probably be rendered useless soon.

Try wrapping the end of the drive with masking tape when filling the hole with patch or epoxy.
cleetus4 years ago
I LOVE this idea...that being said...it kind of seems like the glory hole of USB ports, and as much as I like the IDEA of the glory hole, I'm not brave enough to use it =P Now If I had a computer just for this sort of activity...like an old hacked cell phone, or iPad type device...this could be a new way of tagging things in the real world...very creative.
Jak25 cleetus4 years ago
Well-said! Terrifically visual analogy... hmm... glory hole...
ariekaptein4 years ago
A litle blue wallpaint might do and maybe a USBdrive cap to protect the contacts from rain.
the drive cap would probably be stolen, i know im constantly looking for covers for my flash drives, seeing as i dont have any retractables or anything "nice" like that.
Truffuls4 years ago
This might be cool in concept but within 24 hours of it being set up I can promise you that it will be infected with a virus or trojan, used for identity theft, stolen or otherwise used for illicit purposes.

Anyone who would chance connecting to that gets what they deserve.

Bad, really really bad, idea.

On a positive note: Imagine this bringing Geo-Caching into the 21st Century! If a card reader with an Eye-Fi card was attached to the location end of the cable a person who finds the "cache" could immediately upload the successful find to one of the geo-caching sites.
"bringing Geo-Caching into the 21st Century!"

Isn't geo-caching an invention of the 21st century anyway?

Agree with you about the viruses / malware. Also, if I were to make one of these, the USB port would get wired up to a 120 volt outlet, frying the hippie-freeloader's computer. Which gives me a great idea for an instructable... :{
Hey, I AM a hippie, an original, tie-dyed hippie! And, I'm not a freeloader! :-) ☮ ✌

Scavenger hunts have been around a very long time. GPS added a new twist and changed the term to "Geo-caching".
npmaier4 years ago
Suweet idea and implementation. For how to hide things in public, "How to Hide Things in Public Places." Also, for mapping, I'd like to add them to, "Open Street Maps."
fbmar4 years ago
I´m afraid this woudn´t here in Brazil... somebody would stole or break the drive, fillout with porn or viruses...
sparkchaser4 years ago
I wouldn't recommend drilling a hole in a random building. Besides the possibility of breaking the law, you don't know if there might be a gas/water pipeline or electrical wiring on the other side. Better to play it safe and stick to your own buildings so you can verify the blueprint first.
JTomM1294 years ago
Next idea - recessing the drive all the way into the wall and trimming down the receiving USB cable end as much as possible so there is no drive connector sticking out and the hole is as small as possible (plus angle it so water will not pool into the works). Then place the hole to be as inconspicuous as possible.

I would also snuggest coating the USB PCB (maybe even just WD-40) to keep oxidation/corrosion down (the tape alone may not be enough over a long term in nasty weather).

Also: fake covered "outdoor" 110VAC outlets, fake RF cable system connectors/splitters, fake telephone connectors . . .
Perhaps a custom-printed plastic shroud large enough to accept the female end of a USB extension cable with the bottom angled down to prevent pooling liquid. Makerbot or equivalent for printing. Maybe even a group buy on an actual injection molded one?
i would use a male to male adapter, i just come across them every once in a while so i kep them never knowing when i would need them
imbignate4 years ago
Isn't overheating an issue when you're wrapping something like this?
docnova4 years ago
I like the female port idea, its more practical and easy to conceal. If the wall was hollow (as in cinderblock) you could use a female to male cable attacthed to the drive and "fish" it into the wall. Also it wouldn't hurt to additionally add plastic around the drive to protect it from the weather. Then you could leave the femlale end of the calbe out. If there was damage the end of the cable could be replaced. Also it would be cool to either cap the end of the cable or glue a hinged cover to the wall. Basically the weather will rape this thing eventually. The more protection/ability to repair that can be devised the better.
mrmath4 years ago
We should point out that you should only do this on buildings/structures/thingies that you have permission to do it on. People might consider this vandalism, and that could get you "dead dropped" into jail.

I don't think I'd ever hook up my computer to one of these. Too risky. Sorry, Kiteman, but I'm paranoid about random USB drives I might find cemented into a wall.
sonsum mrmath4 years ago
Yeah, if anybody put up a USB Hacksaw, or any sort of device like that, we'd be screwed.
Lol just what i was thinking, didin't know many other ppl watch "hak5"
I'm so glad that was an "inside" joke. I had no clue what you were talking about!
Inside joke?? I think you are mistaken. Hak5 is a webcast show on revision3.com. The show's hosts created a USB hacker tool called the 'hacksaw' where as soon as a user plugs the USB into their computer the USB drive completely owns the machine. In fact, they are in the process of working a new type of USB hacker tool that will completely circumvent anti-virus software in order to take over a computer.
would this not only work if you EXECUTE something on that usb drive?

only a skxwang would execute random files found on random thumb drives

and if your newb enough to have auto execute enabled and not know what the SHFIT KEY does you should not be plugging into random drives.
chrwei nerys4 years ago
there are some atmel microcontrollers that can show up as both a flash drive and a USB hid keyboard at the same time. it would be fairly trivial to program one to auto-answer the windows "what do i do with this drive" dialog. Here's an example http://www.irongeek.com/i.php?page=security/programmable-hid-usb-keystroke-dongle he also has a video of one with a usb hub embedded into a mouse.
nerys chrwei4 years ago
Just hold the shift key when you insert. completely disables all that.

good to know about the amtell and potential sneaky code though! devious!
I'm not sure if shift would work or not, I would try it but I dont have a USB drive that I can edit the firmware on to see if shift worked. Even if it did though, what common user knows about that function, and if the ones that do, how many would remember to use it?

I was just pointing out a SERIOUS security issue that could arise here, the code could be written to copy a users documents onto a hidden partition on the USB drive, so every time a user plugged in the person that controlled the USB drive could gain access to sensative documents from average users.

In a perfect world this device would be great fun and nobody would use malicious intent to scam people or steal their identities. However, this world is far from perfect.

A more secure way of implementing this project might be working with businesses and having them connect to a secure server hosted at the originator's home. When users connect to the business' WiFi, they would be prompted to see if they wanted to connect to the Dead Drop server. The server would only take connections from designated IP addresses, since most businesses have a static public IP, this would be fairly easy to set up.
You are correct, the shift key would not save you from the amtel(or other chips) solution. Some of the cooler versions demoed at a few of the security cons, install a USB keyboard and wait for a Linux shell sudo command before rooting the machine. You can even unplug the USB key after the install of the keyboard and you're still boned.

This is an interesting idea, but it's too easy to abuse. Something as simple as plugging this thing up to a significant power supply could be used to burn out an unsuspecting user's USB port.

A nice enhancement, however, might be to make this instead copy files from an existing thumb drive, and copy dumped files to it, and alert with a simple red or green light. Issues might include power, but might avoid the whole "hardware is not really a USB drive" issue.
I don't see this lasting very long once companies start getting sued for having Copyrighted material on their servers.

This would take a ton of policing for the companies.
chrwei sonsum4 years ago
well, the whole point of this is that no "network" is used.
Understood, but adding a network, and thus protection, is the only way to keep the users of the system secure.
The companies couldn't get sued for what is on the server since they dont own or control the server, the server allows or blocks the internet users at specified IP addresses to connect to it. Add in a disclaimer that users would have to first agree to before connecting to the server saying they will not use the service to share illegal, copyrighted, or protected material and everybody would be legally protected from users misusing the server.
mrmath nerys4 years ago
If the device isn't a drive, but is an auto-typing keyboard, will the shift key stop that? Before you know it, your computer could be surfing the web via wi-fi, and downloading malicious code.
chrwei mrmath4 years ago
true, but you'd see it doing so, and could unplug it to stop it
nerys chrwei4 years ago
Not sure either way don't risk what your not willing to lose. I keep a Drive Image backup of my hard disk at all times in the case. If some code fraks my system I yank the battery put the disk in the drive an in 12-15 minutes I am 100% restored to where I was before.

This is about fun and creativity. System security is "your" problem (ie the user plugging in) not mine.

If you do not know how to protect yourself you should not "do" insecure things with your system :-)

but either way YOU DO raise a valid point. is there a "fix" anywhere to prevent "auto typing" hid drivers from "auto typing" ?
Not that I know of. It is left as an open and unsecured system intentionally for the obvious reason that humans need to be able to interact with the machine in some way to interrupt the computer when things go wrong. As far as the computer knows, a person is typing the commands in manually. The software bit of the attack actually takes place on the USB drive. As long as the USB drives used are not the type capable of doing this (not all of them are), its not an issue.
it's not a USB drive at all, it's a microcontroller that implements a USB HID keyboard. You'd have to block USB HID support.
nerys chrwei4 years ago
ahh ok so how about a program to intercept ALL "interface" request and demand approval first ?? IE something tries to install a new HID something the equivalent of a firewall pops up and says hey new HID device wants access yes or no.

you clearly realize you did not intent to connect to an HID device and select no.

anything like that exist?
Theoretically anything is possible, but by doing that if anything should go wrong with your keyboard/mouse already on your device, you would not be able to plug in another device to troubleshoot the issue, as there would be no way to approve/deny the pop up. You would be limiting your troubleshooting possibilities simply to avoid one specific type of attack that may or may not even happen.
actually pretty easy solution to that too. Have it DELAY installation say 10 seconds. long enough that if you plug into a usb drive and it pops up you just UNPLUG but if you really did plug in a keyboard just wait the 10 seconds. Easy as pie.
Mere semantics. I was trying to not get too technical for people that aren't tech savvy. It looks just like a USB thumb drive would, and if this project were to take place, there would be no visible difference to the user once it is seated in the wall. A smart hacker could even wire up a USB splitter to insert an actual thumb drive in with the microcontroller. As long as the end accesable to the public is only a USB port, they would be none the wiser. I think I read about a USB thumb drive that also contained a microcontroller as well... or maybe it was a hacked USB drive... its been a few weeks since I heard of it.

Either way, it is a risky project. Very cool, and it could be a lot of fun, there is just too much potential for ID theft, cyber vandalism, etc. IMHO.
qorlis nerys4 years ago
...or maybe you should... muahahahah! (Joking) Sometimes people have to learn the hard way, though. Please don't be one of them.
That's why I put it in quotes. I'm sure it's not a true inside thing, but I'm not familiar with Hak5, or their hacksaw, so to me, it kind of is an inside joke.

I guess my point was that I was clueless, and was glad you had to know something to understand that comment.

That hacksaw sounds scary!
I think stumbleupon let me know about it. But yeah, it's made me forever wary of random USB drives. Unfortunately, thisll be magnet for stuff like that :(

Otherwise, it's an awesome idea though!
HeyJD4 years ago
Aren't you going paint the wall blue again?
yamon4 years ago
This is a cool idea, but I think it would be sabotaged very quickly. I for one would also never plug my computer into a random usb on a wall downtown. Would there be some way to password protect the drive so only people already in the know could access it? I think it might do more for safety.
Icalasari4 years ago
Aren't there any ways to make it so you can only download stuff and alter only one file (names?)
Andyman3k4 years ago
Would it be better to solder on a female usb port instead, so that way it's even LESS obvious? Also so you don't risk breaking the connector if your computer isn't perfectly level, as you'd be using a short male-male usb cable to connect.
You would think if you are going through so much trouble a female port would make more sense.
buy a male to female usb cord... but i like ur idea better...
Great, another way to spread viruses.
This is awesome, I like all kinds of treasure hunts.
drakesword4 years ago
Couldnt you also use electrical tape? I would think the Mu value of electrical tape would be slightly higher then teflon
better yet, just use some fairly viscous 2-part epoxy. Waterproofs and increases strength.
3DMHuff4 years ago
Great idea and great 'ible. I might just get the old laptop out and plug into one of these. I would suggest making a note that says something about getting permision from the building owner. Other than that, good job getting more people to participate in your hobby.

And for everyone that is complaining about virus, spyware, ect., don't play along. Thank you for warning the newbs but really, anything farther on that subject is a bit trollish.
bunhead4 years ago
Maybe the next stage of progression would be a wi-fi equivalent using a mini wind turbine, solar cells, or such like. Some might even hide the unit in street ware such as lamp posts, comms cabinets and the like, wiring into a mains supply (naughty). If you were to source your parts from junk sales, car boot sales, or your very own stash box in the loft/attic, it could be done for very little cost or free.
Imagine the games that could be played along the lines of treasure hunts, geo-hunts with clues to the location of the next drop. The list is endless.

I love the idea behind this but it go's without saying, keep your security up to date Windows users.
Pe-ads bunhead4 years ago
I love your ideas! Though the Wi-Fi bit would go against the manifesto (it being all about hardware connections). I soooo want to do this in my town!
bunhead Pe-ads4 years ago
Fair point about being against the manifesto, but rules are made to be bent / broken. As I said in my main reply, this could be progression taking it to another level.

More to the point, you go man, you go do it in your town, cos I sure as hell am. I live about 30 miles east of London, Uk.

It'll be fun just finding what other people leave on there. I think I'll use a live Linux distro to be on the safe side.

Let me know if you get around to getting your project on the go.
Pe-ads bunhead4 years ago
Cheers, dude!

Whilst I take your point about bending rules, I think it would go against the main point of Dead Drops. However, as you said, I think a WiFi version could be an awesome offshoot. Or even better, a new form of wireless on illegal radio frequencies O.o

Reminds of the stories you hear about New York and the like when hobby radio first came in in the 1910s/20s. Loads of people in the evening, with little blips flying round the aether...

I live in the UK as well (in a suburb of a town in south Manchester). I really hope the UK community takes off with this.
menahunie4 years ago
Beside the obvious dangers of casual USB use; great way to get malware into your system by people out there who get their kicks messing people up.
It would be allot better to have a "Dead Drop" cyber locker; can you see your self standing there for x number of minutes?
cecilsaxon4 years ago
I really like the idea in principle and in a better world would be a fun little Boo Radley kind of thing but in reality it would soon become an electronic glory hole.

“There’s something in our world that makes men lose their heads- they couldn’t be fair if they tried. In our courts, when it’s a white man’s word against a black man’s word, the white always wins. They’re ugly, but these are the facts of life”

To Kill a Mockingbird
If you don't want to be exposed to this so-called 'glory hole' then don't use it.

Simple as that.
You miss the point, but I suppose that happens frequently with some. I said I liked the idea and in fact could see it being great fun, but an open public dead drop will inevitably turn to the base nature of man.
What was your point... How about you explain what you mean, rather than use a quote from a book to explain yourself.

What I got from your post was this:

Things can be used for good, but eventually people will start to use it for bad.

Is that correct?
True, true.

However, I do feel that anyone who has decent antivirus could use this and not have bad stuff happen. However, I think the issue comes with certain images...

Until this becomes well known, though, it can be a little fun thing that techies (like me!) do: sort of like Twitter before it exploded into spam-land like most areas of the internet.
cablemonkey4 years ago
Why teflon tape? Regular black vinyl tape with adhesive would work much much better. Better than tape would be a few layers of conformal coating or an epoxy or resin dip.

Leaving the connector sticking out and exposed like that is a recipe for disaster. Need to swap the gender and recess it into the wall so it can't be cleaned off by an accidental swipe.
Phoenix174 years ago
This would be the equivalent of stabbing yourself with used needs from a hospital.
No offense. But like emails and spyware on websites, people wouldn't treat it like it should be treated.
bunhead4 years ago
Maybe the next stage of progression would be a wi-fi equivalent using a mini wind turbine, solar cells, or such like. Some might even hide the unit in street ware such as lamp posts, comms cabinets and the like, wiring into a mains supply (naughty). If you were to source your parts from junk sales, car boot sales, or your very own stash box in the loft/attic, it could be done for very little cost or free.

Imagine the games that could be played along the lines of treasure hunts, geo-hunts with clues to the location of the next drop. The list is endless.

I love the idea behind this but it go's without saying, keep your security up to date Windows users.
Pe-ads4 years ago
I love it how it says 'Size: in kilobytes', and you've gone and put in '4gb' :D
depotdevoid4 years ago
I think this is a great idea! Kind of like geocaching, but more geared towards city folk like myself. I may just have to pick up some drives and put my little town on the dead drops map.

There's a lot of negativity about the whole thing in the comments, talking about glory holes, viruses, paranoia about the government . . . I think people should realize this is all for fun and see it as such!  If you're nervous about viruses, just disable autorun or do what they suggest in the dead drops FAQ and use a Ubuntu live CD.  If you're worried about opening the drive and seeing something gross, don't play the game! 

I for one think it's a really cool idea, thanks for the 'ible, frenzy!
Mike444 years ago
This is a great idea! I like it! Although your drop could use a little bit of TLC, I think it still gets the point across as a first prototype.
I like the idea but a few things that need to be done for compatibility and safety of all users.
1) format as FAT all OS's can read a FAT file system
2) Do Not Allow computer to run an autorun file set up computer to ask you what to do and do a virus scan on any drive that gets plugged in
Flash drives cannot normally utilize an autorun feature anyways unless they have a fake CDROM partition (i.e. U3 found on some flash drives)
Seems to me that windows default is to autolaunch any usb drive, usually to ask you what you want to do with found photos & such. There's a file called autorun.inf that can be installed at the root of any flashdrive, windows by default looks for this file. If it finds it, it runs whatever is in this file. This became relevant to me one day after taking a flash-drive to the print shop to get some nice photos done up, and when I get home there's a virus alert as soon as I plugged that drive back into my system! Turns out, the print shop had antivirus, but it wasn't setup to scan removable drives! They got hit from another customers flash-drive, no telling how many machines without adequate defense were infected....I was using Threatfire. I've now set all of my machines to never autorun anything removable. I had two files added to my drive, one the autorun.inf, the other was the 'payload'
JTomM1294 years ago
Make some central storage with GPS locations with a few left off the list and do a "Da Vinci Code" kind of play off. Hide stuff in plain sight. Cool concept over all but the great world powers that be will not be too happy with it. But one place Uncle/EU/China and company(s) might have to actually work a little to find anything. This could get interesting . . . wow!
Vahmp4 years ago
WOW! Great Idea!!!
But with all the hacker and A-holes out there now a days...
What a way to catch a virus!
Reguardless of all the safety measures, there are always new viruses comin out!
Thanx, but I'm not tryin or playin it.
Gilkar4 years ago
This is a great idea. I am a geocacher. A small usb drive in a geocache site would be a welcome alternitive to the usual junk that is left in them. To find out more about geocaching go to http://www. geocaching.com. One negative thougt. . . Since dead drops would be random how would one know if the files to download are something that is wanted. I wouldn't want to waste my time downloading a song if want i rewally wanted was a photograph.
BtheBike4 years ago
VIRUS . like licking a public doorknob . I'd plug in with a wipeable os .
Isn't there lead in dongle drives ?
red-king4 years ago
this could end up being a new kind of geocaching.
I was just thinking the same thing! Makes me wonder how malware-free it would be... Not just people purposely putting viruses on the drives, but those who aren't aware they have Trojans encoded into their files O.o
KD7WHQ4 years ago
Another waterproofing method is "conformal coating". Floor quality Varathane would do well for the purpose. Just submerge the circuit board up to the solder points for the connector, and hang to dry. Repeating builds the layer up.

This is something the electronics industry does to water proof circuits that get submerged.

There are other coatings for the purpose, but Varathane will do nicely..
This is a very romantic, but dangerous idea. The DOD was attacked successfully by someone who spread a few memory sticks around one of their facilities.

eydryan4 years ago
two comments:

1. I'd use poxipol instead of cement http://www.poxipol.com/ . It is basically glue and hardens pretty seriously tough but more importantly it's a lot more portable than cement. just squeeze both tubes into the hole and use the usb thing to somewhat mix the chemicals.

2. I'd use a huge capacitor connected to a usb slot so that when someone tries to connect to it they'd get 600V and about 2 Fahrrads into their usb port. not saying I'll do it but given the simplicity of the plan I'd think twice before connecting my poor laptop to a wall-mounted bomb. not paranoid but that's a possible scenario
jproffer4 years ago
look at what mowdish said. He is dead on with the issues.

An extension with a cap won't make it as "discreet" though, and I can totally see kids yanking at it or it catching on people's clothes or machinery, or the cord wearing out where it connects to the cement.

Probably the best way to do this would be to add a wireless bluetooth dongle at the end, and tie it into the building mains. That way you can install it inside the building rather than drilling a hole somewhere, and multiple people can access it at once from within N feet.

It's easy enough to track these "access points" via an online map (google maps + address or lat/lon)
ozindfw4 years ago
It would also be a good idea to mount it with the connector at a slightly down angle so water runs off. Even if it's sheltered you'll have condensation to deal with. I'd also use epoxy rather than concrete which is corrosive.
This is a fantastic Idea, there are already some in the US and Europe, but none in Britain, so I urge all Brits to install one if you can!
Going to organise this with some geekhead mates and hopefully get some arranged
Aerospaced4 years ago
We use a substance called "Potting Material" to protect components from moisture. They are much more effective than tape.
There are many different types and some are quite simple.
2 part epoxies are cheap and easy to use.
Silicone caulk is a bit messy, but just as cheap.
Conformal Coat is expensive, but effective.
Fiberglass resin is also used to protect components from moisture.
Any of the above will protect the board from moisture intrusion.
These would be a great addition to Geo caches!
i think this is a great idea, a new way to socially network and share information what about rain though?
NXTreme4 years ago
You could wrap some tape around the part you don't want to get cement on. When the cement has dried just pull off the tape. This way you don't have to worry about messing up your connector.
mowdish4 years ago
Cool idea. However, I see a couple of problems for your USB drive. First, although the electronics are protected from rain, plugging into a wet connector will cause shorts. Second, if the drive gets any real traffic, the connector will wear out quickly. I can imagine someone without a usb extension cable plugging in and using your drive to help support the weight of their laptop while they type.

A semi-permanent extension with a cap on the end would solve both problems.
How about indenting the USB drive some more so it is flush with the outside surface? Then add a flexible plug/cap over the USB connector to make it waterproof.
Opcom4 years ago
I like this. A perfect way to share some information discreetly. Also a perfect honey pot. I suggest instead of plumbers tape, use 3M type "23" self bonding rubber tape, or use a non corrosive silicon or potting compound. About paranoia of computers, if it is a pc and autorun is set OFF, then should be OK. If worried, try a different O/S than usual for your mission, maybe one that is not affected by viruses or worms? Yes there is at least one, not sure it will load or emulate on a notebook.
chuckr44 Opcom4 years ago
You could also use Sugru around the USB drive. It is an air-hardening silicone, but the silicone stays flexible when it "hardens". http://www.sugru.com
chuckr444 years ago
Wow! This could turn into a fun game like geocaching. Instead of signing a paper log, you hook up your computer and sign an electronic log on the USB drive, and maybe the USB drive copies a tiny validation file to your computer or cell phone which proves you found it.

Don't let the police find out about this. They'll think you are storing drugs in there!