Man buys "new" HDD filled with pirated movies, malware

In what is a big mistake for the retailer, an Australian documentary maker Darryl Mason bought a hard drive labelled as new to find it filled with pirated movies and malware. According to The Age, nationwide tech retailer Dick Smith sold Mason a (supposedly) brand new external 1.5 TB drive for AU$129 that was filled with said questionable material, and apparently caused the corruption of some of his movie footage stored on his laptop’s hard drive.

For some reason the hard drive was labelled as new by Dick Smith, who have since apologized and admitted that they sell returned, or effectively second-hand hard drives as “new”. In this case, the retailer stupidly forgot to wipe the disk after it was returned, and so Mason discovered nine pirated movies on a disk that only registered as 30 GB.

Mason, who was filming a documentary at the time, hoped to back up his footage to the hard drive he had bought, but the hard drive also appeared to be loaded with malware as it caused the corruption of up to 6 hours of footage stored on the laptop. The laptop had never been connected to the internet, and Mason said the feeling of having his footage lost due to the incident was “absolutely sickening.”

This kind of thing really should not be happening. Not only should Dick Smith have actually wiped the drive, but they should have informed the buyer that the disk may have been used previously, as even if the disk had been wiped after the return, he could potentially have discovered files through data recovery programs.

If you ever purchase a hard drive from a store, we highly recommend you check it to make sure they haven't sold you an already used drive.

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How is a 1.5TB drive, partitioned to only have one 30GB volume, "filled with pirated movies", when in fact there were only 9 of them? You should remove the "filled" from the title.

What do you expect when you go to Dick Smith or Harvey Norman. For US people, this is like going to Best Buy. Everyone knows that the service and the knowledge stinks, but somehow people keep buying there? Boggles the mind.

My question is what if the problems with the drive never surfaced and he used the drive as he intended but for some other reason he gets investigated because of being suspected of piracy. If they find any minute trace of those files on the disk, they have their case sealed in their eyes………”You can deny it all you want but we DID find this on your drive”

Tut tut on that retailer being dishonest with it's customers. AND for not wiping the drive.

Just shows that their quality control and customer service is bad. Not a good sign.

pixelpixel said,
He should have backed up his work. That will teach him.

Just a guess, but I imagine that was the reason for buying a new external drive ;-)

pixelpixel said,
He should have backed up his work. That will teach him.

Magpie said,
Just a guess, but I imagine that was the reason for buying a new external drive ;-)

It was. The article clearly says that was the purpose of him buying the drive.

pixelpixel said,
He should have backed up his work. That will teach him.

1.) Read
2.) Form thought
3.) Read again to be sure
4.) post

You failed in there somewhere.

"...hoped to back up his footage to the hard drive he had bought..."

It's it common practice for anyone who buys a new HDD to format it first? Even if I know its a fresh drive, I always do...

Conjor said,
It's it common practice for anyone who buys a new HDD to format it first? Even if I know its a fresh drive, I always do...

Yep, DBAN + Stress Testing before a drive even goes near one of my systems!

Conjor said,
It's it common practice for anyone who buys a new HDD to format it first? Even if I know its a fresh drive, I always do...

Anyone != most Neowin readers. Average users plug it in and if it works, run with it.

I would be super ****ed, even consider legal action when I buy something "new" I expect it to be untouched and never used. Otherwise it should be classified as refurbished or used.
It's pretty bad down in OZ when their major electronic retailers are Dick Smith, Harvey Norman, JB Electronics, all of them are way overpriced.

Mason, who was filming a documentary at the time, hoped to back up his footage to the hard drive he had bought, but the hard drive also appeared to be loaded with malware as it caused the corruption of up to 6 hours of footage stored on the laptop.

How is this possible? The only way I see it is if he opened an executable or perhaps some of the media that was pre-installed on the drive. Either way, I think that it is far more likely that his data got corrupted due to a hardware failure or glitch, which is probably why the driveways returned in the first place. I have had dud hdds before.

Anyway, if the footage was so important then where was his backup. I have done extensive amounts of video aquasition at remote locations before, and video went from camera to my laptop and 2 external drives and then verified before deleted off the camera.

Shadrack said,

How is this possible? The only way I see it is if he opened an executable or perhaps some of the media that was pre-installed on the drive.


Auto Run.

Easy way virus's get onto systems tho im not aware of one which "Corrupts media files" They normally just activate downloads etc (Which in this case would not matter too much as he does not connect to the internet

brent3000 said,

Auto Run.

Easy way virus's get onto systems tho im not aware of one which "Corrupts media files" They normally just activate downloads etc (Which in this case would not matter too much as he does not connect to the internet


Since Mason seems not to be an IT-savvy, maybe what the malware does is to hide the original file and put up shortcuts with the same name, thus making him thinking the files corrupted? Sounds logical to me.

brent3000 said,

Auto Run.

Easy way virus's get onto systems tho im not aware of one which "Corrupts media files" They normally just activate downloads etc (Which in this case would not matter too much as he does not connect to the internet


Autorun has been disabled in XP SP3, Vista, and 7 ... ho wait, that guy never connected his laptop (probably running XP), hence it wasn't probably up to date.

Shadrack said,

Anyway, if the footage was so important then where was his backup. I have done extensive amounts of video aquasition at remote locations before, and video went from camera to my laptop and 2 external drives and then verified before deleted off the camera.

Read the article much?

"hoped to back up his footage to the hard drive he had bought"

Actually the fact that his machine was never connected to the internet, probably meant he had some vulnerabilities on his machine which let the infected hard drive infect him when plugged in.

warwagon said,
Actually the fact that his machine was never connected to the internet, probably meant he had some vulnerabilities on his machine which let the infected hard drive infect him when plugged in.

That was also my first thought!

warwagon said,
Actually the fact that his machine was never connected to the internet, probably meant he had some vulnerabilities on his machine which let the infected hard drive infect him when plugged in.

How is this his fault? How is he supposed to keep is PC which is never connected to the internet protected? Manually download antivirus signatures and security patches to another computer and transfer it to his laptop? How often do you think he should do this? Maybe if the hard drive sold to him was new as advertised as new it would not be a problem if his PC was not up to date.

the guys like "ANd it only had 30GB of storage!!!!" im guessing he never checked the drives partitions

Personally i think the issue is DS accepted the drive as a return in the first place -_-
Too many AUS retailers accept returns for stupid reasons in my books...

brent3000 said,
the guys like "ANd it only had 30GB of storage!!!!" im guessing he never checked the drives partitions

Personally i think the issue is DS accepted the drive as a return in the first place -_-
Too many AUS retailers accept returns for stupid reasons in my books...

True, but in Australia there's a "cool-off" period which applies to pretty much any sale. In most cases it's ten days. Also, you only have to say the words "not fit for purpose" and they pretty much have to take it back...

It's a problem today. Of course, having salespeople that generally know nothing about the product they're selling doesn't help this...

Edit: correct me if I'm wrong about the cooling off period please...

CrimsonBetrayal said,
It's a problem today. Of course, having salespeople that generally know nothing about the product they're selling doesn't help this...

Edit: correct me if I'm wrong about the cooling off period please...


You are correct but DS's own "What ever the state 7 days return policy" is what im reffering to...

Example or retailers just being lazy is when i worked in Big W we had people buying DVD/Bluray or PC games when their drive didnt even support the disc type....

Sales person not knowing? Or Customer being a retard and not checking what they buy...

brent3000 said,

You are correct but DS's own "What ever the state 7 days return policy" is what im reffering to...

Example or retailers just being lazy is when i worked in Big W we had people buying DVD/Bluray or PC games when their drive didnt even support the disc type....

Sales person not knowing? Or Customer being a retard and not checking what they buy...

Little from column A, little from column B. Really, it's a bit of both, and there's nothing in there to stop it from happening. It used to be called "Buyers Remorse". lol.

CrimsonBetrayal said,

True, but in Australia there's a "cool-off" period which applies to pretty much any sale. In most cases it's ten days. Also, you only have to say the words "not fit for purpose" and they pretty much have to take it back...

It's a problem today. Of course, having salespeople that generally know nothing about the product they're selling doesn't help this...

Edit: correct me if I'm wrong about the cooling off period please...


No there is NOT a cooling off period in Australia for products you buy. Cooling off periods only apply to contracts which have been initiated from a Telemarketer or Door to Door sales (ie: They initiated it).

Retailers may choose to return products if you don't like it in a certain time frame, but only if they choose to do this under their store policy, there is no LAW that requires them to do this, this is purely from a customer service perspective.

Australia is quite good in that there are strong consumer protection laws. The case of a "not fit the purpose" applies if the retailer ADVERTISED that it is fit for a certain purpose but it is not. For example, if you bought a Blu Ray Movie but only have a DVD Player, if you "just assumed" it would work and the retailer did not give you any wrong information, then this does not fit under a "not fit for the purpose" return.

And also, why should the customer be expected to know how to partition their drive? it should work out of the box.

Edited by Simon-, Dec 22 2011, 1:30pm :

He should be happy he didn't have to pay extra for those nine movies, given the price of entertainment these days!

But yeah, bad practice, I see it all the time here in Oz. All the big retailers do it (JB, HN, WOW). If they can pass it off as new (returned items), they will sell it as new. It's a totally crooked practice, but it's how they seem to do it here.

CrimsonBetrayal said,
But yeah, bad practice, I see it all the time here in Oz. All the big retailers do it (JB, HN, WOW). If they can pass it off as new (returned items), they will sell it as new. It's a totally crooked practice, but it's how they seem to do it here.

I personally NEVER buy games from either JB or EB etc unless they are fully originally sealed... I know what the employees do to the games that are open -_- so not running the risk...

CrimsonBetrayal said,
He should be happy he didn't have to pay extra for those nine movies, given the price of entertainment these days!

But yeah, bad practice, I see it all the time here in Oz. All the big retailers do it (JB, HN, WOW). If they can pass it off as new (returned items), they will sell it as new. It's a totally crooked practice, but it's how they seem to do it here.

I'm not sure how it works worldwide but I'm 99% sure such practice is illegal in the U.S. (not that it would necessarily prevent people from still trying it). My understanding is that once a product has gone to a consumer that has opened or otherwise broken the original seal that it cannot be resold as 'new' and must be marked as anything other than 'new' such as 'open box', 'display model', 'refurbished', etc. I originally learned about this years ago when I worked consumer support for a major computer manufacturer. The topic came up when discussing how to avoid having angry customers return their new computers or sometimes the customer wouldn't want to troubleshoot it and instead asked for a new one which inevitably resulted in a company loss due to them eating shipping charges (both ways) and being stuck with a computer that may be perfectly functional but cannot be sold as new. Instead they were forced to mark it as 'refurbished' even though nothing may have been wrong (such as a software or driver problem). They stressed the importance to avoid such returns and taught techniques to persuade the customer away from the idea of simply getting a new computer.

How can a virus cause corruption to videos? If it did then those existing pirated movies would have been corrupt as well!

Open Minded said,
You know people can call world-wide these days?

And you can sue people from other countries as well. RIAA and MPAA have done it before. Isnt hard.

Unrelated to the article.. you know that Tim Schiesser (the author) your surname sounds very similar to the German word for sh*t? haha
Which is spelt Scheiße or it can be spelt Scheisse. I only just made the connection reading this article haha.

Ently said,
Unrelated to the article.. you know that Tim Schiesser (the author) your surname sounds very similar to the German word for sh*t? haha

Oh I know, I get it all the time. The actual translation for "schiesser" is "shooter", however the slightly different "scheiss" means "shit"

Scorpus said,

Oh I know, I get it all the time. The actual translation for "schiesser" is "shooter", however the slightly different "scheiss" means "****"

Ah ok man, heh I didn't mean any offence by it either! I really enjoy your articles

Ently said,

Ah ok man, heh I didn't mean any offence by it either! I really enjoy your articles

None taken; many many people mispronounce my name "scheisser" so I'm used to it. Luckily a lot of people don't know the translation of the mispronunciation.

Good to hear you enjoy my articles as well

Scorpus said,

Oh I know, I get it all the time. The actual translation for "schiesser" is "shooter", however the slightly different "scheiss" means "****"

Wow and I thought my last name, Wurtzel, was bad. In German, it stands for "root" and our Family seal is a stump with an Acorn on top. I always wished it was something like bloody crossed swords.

briangw said,

Wow and I thought my last name, Wurtzel, was bad. In German, it stands for "root" and our Family seal is a stump with an Acorn on top. I always wished it was something like bloody crossed swords.

That's awesome! We had our kids design a "new" coat of arms for our family. They did a pretty good job of it, and it involves a tree, a river, stars and an eagle.