DIY Hacks & How To’s: USB Dead Drops

DIY Hacks & How To’s: USB Dead Drops
Screen Shot 2013-06-24 at 7.01.42 PM
Instead of ears, this wall has a USB drive.

What is a USB dead drop? “Dead Drops” is an anonymous, offline, peer to peer file-sharing network in public space. This network is made up of USB drives that are embedded in walls, buildings and other public places. Anyone is free to access, download, and upload. It is very similar to geocaching but with data. The first USB dead drop network of five locations was created by Berlin-based artist Aram Bartholl in 2010. Since then, there have been over 1,000 dead drop locations that have been registered at

This is and interesting project, but up until now, it has been mostly restricted to urban locations. In this project, I show how to expand this network beyond city limits by embeding USB drives in natural fixtures such as trees and rocks. Here’s the build on Instructables.

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See the full series here.

44 thoughts on “DIY Hacks & How To’s: USB Dead Drops

  1. wayne westeram says:

    Also called “littering”.

    1. Edris Tabibian says:

      Except this is not the case of waste products being disposed improperly..

      1. wayne westeram says:

        Putting a USB key into a rock or a tree in the forest is ridiculous. I don’t care how clever or interesting people think they are being by doing stuff like this, they are still littering. And yes this applies to people who leave regular geocaches everywhere. Why do humans feel the need to spread garbage into every nook and cranny on the planet?

        1. DV says:

          Been in tech my whole life- and I agree. We are pretty self righteous about how our technology improves everything. This is kinda cool in the urban world- but lets leave the cyberpunk out of the forest. Leave nature unaltered to enjoy as she is.

          1. John Farmer de la Torre says:

            My guess is you would change your tune if a whistleblower, from say a timber industry giant, attached a USB dead drop somewhere in a forest that contained design schematics for a Death Saw designed to cut down the whole Amazon Forest.

          2. Panjok2 says:

            We could use a little tech out here in the sticks! If anyone feels so inclined they can bury a macbook pro in my woods and you don’t have to put anything on it. I can find my own porn! lol

        2. Shini says:

          Litter denotes harm to the environment. Sticking a 1x1cm USB stick into a crevice in a tree is not going to harm the environment. Now dumping 3,000,000 in a small forest is a different matter. Now get off your stupid little high horse, I am sure our precious forests are more to worry about then a USB stuck between a couple of rocks.

          1. Mounatineer says:

            I just don’t want people drilling holes in rocks the same way I don’t want them spray painting them. A dead tree whatever, as long as you don’t over do it, but leave the rocks alone.

        3. LT says:

          Geocaching actually promotes CITO – Cache In Trash Out – and encourages its members to pick up litter on their way through nature.

          1. Joby Elliott says:

            I, personally, practice “pack it in, pack it-plus-whatever-other-garbage-you-see out.”

  2. Archibald Tuttle says:

    Or sex without condom

  3. Devourda says:

    Spreading viruses much!?

  4. Adam Steidl says:

    Sort of like the idea for urban environments, but leave it outta forests and the wild.

  5. Alan Dove says:

    Just be sure to include a file that can be traced to you, so the park rangers know who to arrest for vandalism.

  6. Huxley says:

    Seems like the worst idea in a while. Unless you really want malware on your computer I guess..

  7. Bob says:

    Is there a way to waterproof the connector?

  8. senorwences says:

    The Museum of the Moving Image in New York has a piece called “DVD Dead Drop” embedded somewhere in the side of the building, in which visitors can walk up any time a day and jam in a DVD-R and receive a limited edition collection of digital artwork in return.

  9. Dave Chappele says:

    Anyone who calls this littering but has driven a car anywhere, ever, needs to shut the f**k up.

  10. Corset Training Kirsty says:

    Does the end of the USB device open to the weather not, er, get dirty/impossible to use?

    1. Panjok2 says:

      That was my first thought when I trad about this! I would think they would unless they are a water proof, anti rust and corrosion proof?

  11. anonymous says:

    If you are worried about malware, then use a live Linux CD. I think it is a great idea. I just want them away from cameras and other prying eyes. I have installed one close to downtown, out of plain view, in a public park.

  12. Shane says:

    USB Location #1: Providence, Rhode Island


    N 41° 49.81198′ W 071° 24.44203′


    On the highland
    Many wander alone
    Go there yourself and
    Look beneath the throne

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My name is Jason Poel Smith. I have an undergraduate degree in Engineering that is 50% Mechanical Engineering and 50% Electrical Engineering. I have worked in a variety of industries from hydraulic aerial lifts to aircraft tooling. I currently spend most of my time chasing around my new baby. In my spare time I make the how-to series "DIY Hacks and How Tos."

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