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I need to buy a USB memory stick to create a Windows recovery drive. As we all know, USB drives have serious security issues, and the (slightly) paranoid part of me wonders about the safety of buying from a site like Amazon (but really anywhere), for two reasons:

  1. It seems like selling dirty USB drives via Amazon would be a great vector for a bad actor to distribute malware.
  2. Even if you buy what from what appears to be a well-known brand, I know from my own experience that Amazon sometimes commingles the same product from multiple vendors in their warehouses, and they have had problems with product authenticity verification. So there is a chance a bad actor could be selling fake, bad USB drives into Amazon and getting them sold under a reputable brand name.

So how do you get go about obtaining a clean USB drive that you can trust?

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    Buy a well-known brand directly from a shop run/licensed by the company, or from a specialized retailer that (hopefully) manages their warehouse and vendors better than Amazon. Then overwrite the entire stick with random data (including all partitions) before you use it. Of course this still doesn't guarantee you'll only ever get authentic products, and an attacker who wrote/manipulated the firmware can hide any malware they want. But the risk should be reasonably low.
    – Ja1024
    Commented May 17 at 19:30
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    @Ja1024 I too seem to trust products in store more than online, but of course it depends on the actual brand and retailer as well. For a USB i’d also prefer to buy one in a sealed package instead of from, say, a big bin fulled with ones anyone could drop in! Commented May 17 at 20:36
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    Get it from the same source you got your Windows/PC. If you would not trust this source already to provide a clean system (i.e. not a system with pre-installed malware) you should probably not run your system. Commented May 18 at 14:33
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    Manufacturer websites: western digital (sandisk), Samsung and others. They should be very unlikely to sell fake products.
    – gnasher729
    Commented May 20 at 11:04

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Buy it from a trusted real-life store instead of from Amazon.

Amazon has been known to mix counterfeits in with real products and you have a chance of getting a counterfeit. Other stores don't do this. It's a big scandal if they are selling counterfeit products.

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