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Arizona Counter Terrorism Information Center

March 25, 2009 Situational Awareness Bulletin
(602) 644-5805 y (877) 2 SAVE AZ or (877) 272-8329 y Fax (602) 644-8718 y ACTIC@AZDPS.GOV

Officer Awareness: USB Devices Creatively Concealed, Hard to Detect During Searches
According to a November 2008 FBI report, US Intelligence Community analysis indicates Universal Serial Bus (USB)
high-capacity flash memory devices are becoming increasingly concealable making them difficult for law enforcement
officials to detect and identify during searches. Data can then be stored on these devices and then transferred between the
concealed USB device and an external device, such as a computer, via a modified USB cable.
Law enforcement reporting indicates USB flash drives are being produced and disguised as jewelry, pens, lip balm
containers, cigarette lighters, wristbands, poker chips, credit cards, calculators, multi-purpose utility knives, emergency
medical pill containers, lanyards, a wide variety of children’s toys, and other inconspicuous items. Open source research
shows USB flash drive lighters are readily available on the Internet and come in a variety of shapes, colors, and sizes. One
such item currently advertised on the Internet describes a lighter that is “made to look like a Zippo – a refillable Zippo
with an 8 GB flash drive and retractable USB connection that slides out of the bottom.” Additional disguises for USB
devices include: cuff-links, food items such as gum or BBQ chicken wings, lip stick and frayed USB cable as pictured.

Case in Point
On March 12, 2009 a TSA inspector at Tulsa airport discovered a torch cigarette lighter in an identified passenger’s
checked luggage. The lighter had been converted to conceal a Universal Serial Bus (USB) flash drive device. Upon
inspection of the device, TSA officials discovered information of bomb making, suicide bombings, poisons and adult
pornography. Further investigation and questioning of the passenger determined the files contained on the USB device
did not contain any threats and most of the information could be obtained directly from the Internet. The files could be
indicative of someone with a military or bomb disposal background. TSA indices checks of government and commercial
databases revealed no derogatory information on the passenger. Photos of the lighter in this incident are pictured below.
ACTIC Analyst Comment: Although criminal
predicate was not a factor involved in the Tulsa
incident, the type of information contained in
the disguised USB device serves as a great
example of the information terrorists and
criminals could easily use in an attack plot.
Criminals with a need to hide or conceal
electronic information, documents, photographs
(child pornography, surveillance photos of
critical infrastructure targets) and other
incriminating information may attempt to hide
incriminating data in concealed USB devices as
well as other disguised electronic devices. Criminals will continue to develop and employ different concealment methods
to minimize the possibility of identification and detection by law enforcement.
This information is provided as situational awareness for officers and other responders who are responsible for conducting
searches of individuals, luggage, vehicles, residences, businesses, etc. If you encounter suspicious or noteworthy
concealment devices in Arizona, please report the incident to ACTIC@azdps.gov or (602) 644-5805 for compilation and
Sources: CIAC Monthly Activity Summary November 2008, #08-216; FBI Situational Intelligence Report, (U) Technique to Modify and Utilize a Universal Serial Bus (USB) Flash Drive as a
Hidden Mass Storage Device dated 3 November 2008; TSA/SD-03-1739-09
This document is “CONTROLLED UNCLASSIFIED INFORMATION” Secondary dissemination or public and media release is not authorized.
Strategic Analysis Unit, 602-644-5927/5860/5922/5842, intelligence@azdps.gov