Sunday, 8 October 2017

Use floppy disks to expand your smartphone storage (just for fun!)

We never have enough storage on our smartphones. We are taking too many photos, creating too many videos and we want to carry our entire music collections with us. I have a great solution, floppy disks! Probably you've got an old box of them down in your basement or in your loft. Why not make use of them?

In the above photo you can see it actually works. Here's what you need:
  • A smartphone that supports OTG (On-The-Go)
  • I tested this with an Android phone only, I don't know if the iPhone ca, if you know please write in the comments below.
  • An OTG dongle (in my case it's that green thing in the above photo, you can easily buy these, they are not expensive, just search on Amazon or eBay for OTG and you'll find one)
  • External USB floppy disk drive
  • At least one floppy disk (more than one recommended!)
As each 3.5" floppy disk has just 1.44MB of storage space you will need a lot of floppies! ;-)

Just for fun!
Obviously (I hope!) this isn't practical. It was experimenting and I was happy to discover that it works! I was able to copy files to/from the floppy disk. It was funny listening the drive making that iconic zrhk zhrk noise. I think it's rather fast too, relatively speaking.

Seriously speaking
Instead of floppies disks, use OTG and plug in a USB flash drive. That will give you lots of expandable storage that is usable and practical. If you are interested in learning more you can find many demos on Youtube, just search for OTG.

Another real-world application of OTG is to make backups of photos. The following is an article I wrote about this:

OTG is very useful. It's also fun to dig out some old tech and get it to work with modern day kit. Enjoy technology!

Thursday, 24 August 2017

Check files for malware using VirusTotal

Recently I had a fake DHL e-mail and I was interested in the attached Word doc, I wondered what was in it, whether it really was dangerous or not. But I did not want to put myself in any danger, I definitely did not want to open the doc in Word! How could I investigate this file in safety? I saved the e-mail from Outlook as an MSG file. I scanned it using Emisoft's emergency scanner but it didn't find anything. Next I used VirusTotal and that's what I want to talk about in this article today.

VirusTotal is a website. You can upload a suspect file there. It will use many anti-malware software scanners to check for infection. It displays the results and characteristics of the file. It even shows all the different names the different anti-malware companies use for malware.

Here's an example based upon that fake DHL e-mail I received in Outlook.

Open the Outlook e-mail, click File | Save As


You will end up with an MSG file. The MSG file contains the e-mail message text and the attachment (in my case it was a Word doc file - will VirusTotal be clever enough to find the attachment inside the MSG file?).

Browse to

Click Upload and scan file

Select the MSG file

The results will be displayed...

At the top it shows you how many anti-malware engines it used and how many found something nasty inside the file. In my example above 13 out of 58 found malware in the file.

Click on Details to see more information

The above screen shot shows the Details page with the Basic Properties of the file. You can see that it has identified the Word doc and provides some characteristics. This means that VirusTotal is clever enough to read an MSG and see the embedded attachments it might have inside.

Scroll down and there's more information:

Under the OLE section I found some interesting details. The Code Page is Cyrillic. This e-mail was written in German. Why does it have a Word doc written on a PC set to use Cyrillic? It's not conclusive evidence of anything but it does raise suspicions (if we weren't already very suspicious of course!). The template it is based upon is a dotm, that means there could be macros inside - again this points toward it being a dangerous file as macros can be malware. Of course in the above you can also see that VirusTotal has listed the macros inside the file anyway, for sure this is a dangerous file that I will definitely delete.

VirusTotal is an excellent way to investigate possible virus/malware infected files in safety. The website is free but there are some conditions of use, please read those before using it. One thing they do is use the results from your scan in their database. This is a community approach, where they can build up a picture of threats. The best thing is that it uses so many anti-malware engines to scan for malware. You can see all the different names which could help you analyse the threat at an even deeper level. For IT professionals wishing to understand threats to better protect networks and computers, VirusTotal is an invaluable tool.

For a home user, it's also very helpful. However, I would recommend that you are always extra-cautious when handling any suspect file. Make sure you have anti-malware software installed on your computer, make sure your system updates/patches are up-to-date and the most important of all, make sure you have plenty of backups.

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Malware Alert - Beware Fake DHL e-mails and attachments

I received this fake e-mail, it's very well done, it looks almost genuine:

From: DHL Packet <>
Subject: Information uber die Sendung Nr.04128002724453

Guten Tag!

Die Sendung soll an Ihre Adresse am 24.08.2017 zugestellt werden.Im Anhang finden Sie die erforderlichen Informationen zu dieser Lieferung.

Mit freundlichen GrĂ¼ssen


If you open an e-mail like this the first thing to do is STOP!
Do *not* open the attachment.
Do *not* click any links. First read the e-mail a few times:

  • Look at the sender e-mail address, this is the biggest giveaway that this must be a fake. It's not from a DHL address, it's from "" instead.
  • The attachment is a Word doc file - this is a sign of something strange because few people use Word doc files now, mostly they are docx. Also, why would DHL send a Word file at all? Usually they'd send a link or if it were a file it would be PDF (but don't open those either!)
  • Did you order anything? Are you expecting DHL to send you anything? Question it, don't just think Christmas has come early, it hasn't, it might well be the opposite.

Please delete such e-mails. Remember to always think before opening attachments. In this case the Word file has a trojan in it that could've done all kinds of damage if I'd opened it.

The following link is to DHL's website where they warn you against such fake e-mails: