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Anyone want to lay claim to the USB drive found in seal poo?

It still works, you know. And there are photos and videos on it.

It’s hard to imagine anything good coming out of littering the landscape with USB thumb drives.

If you’re a crook, it can lead to getting busted for whatever incriminating stuff is on there.

If the drive is unencrypted, whatever’s on there is up for grabs.

If you’re a border agent at a US port of entry, you risk getting taken to task by the Office of Inspector General for fumbling the data you’ve copied when searching travelers’ seized devices.

Then again, it could become a snack

If you’re a seal, you could eat it and poop it out.

That can’t have been comfortable for whatever leopard seal passed a still-functioning USB stick, which was found in a lump of scat collected in New Zealand. However it felt for the seal, the photos on the drive got through their journey just fine, according to the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA), which tweeted out one of their videos as it searches for the drive’s owner:

As NIWA tells it, the frozen slab of seal poo has been sitting in a freezer at the Crown Research Institute since November 2017.

The lump is about the size of two bread rolls. It was collected by one of a network of volunteers who search the country for leopard seal scat that they then send on to NIWA marine biologist Dr Krista Hupman and her team at It’s “as good as gold” to researchers, NIWA said, yielding up data about what the Antarctic predators eat, a little bit about their health, and how long they may have been in New Zealand waters.

This particular thumb-drive-enriched sample was collected by a local vet who was out checking on the health of a skinny leopard seal that was resting on Oreti Beach, Invercargill.

It’s a dirty job, but…

It stayed in the freezer for over a year. Then, in January, it was removed and defrosted by volunteers Jodie Warren and Melanie Magnan, whose jobs include pulling apart seal globs. NIWA quoted Warren:

[After defrosting a sample] we basically have to sift it. You put it under the cold tap, get all the gross stuff off, smoosh it around a bit and separate the bones, feathers, seaweed and other stuff.

In this particular case, “other stuff” included the intact USB drive – yet another of an increasing number of instances of plastics found to have been ingested by marine animals. Warren:

It is very worrying that these amazing Antarctic animals have plastic like this inside them.

The volunteers left it out to dry for a few weeks. Then, they plugged it in to see what it held.

That, of course, is exactly the opposite of what we advise here at Naked Security. It’s not safe to plug in random USB drives, be they “conveniently” scattered throughout a parking lot by who knows who or handed out as prizes at – SEVERE IRONY ALERT! – a cybersecurity expo.

But plug it in they did, and this is what they found: photos of sea lions and a video of a mother and baby sea lion frolicking in the shallows. Their only clue to the drive’s owner: the nose of a blue kayak seen in the foreground, as depicted in that video they tweeted.

NIWA is open to reuniting the thumb drive with its rightful owner, but there’s a cost involved: namely, they say they’ll swap it for more poo.


“NIWA is open to reuniting the thumb drive with its rightful owner, but there’s a cost involved: namely, they say they’ll swap it for more poo.” presumably the owners poo…..


> random USB drives, be they “conveniently” scattered

I see what you did there…


Am I the only one curious of the brand of USB stick? If it can navigate a seal’s digestive tract and survive a year in the freezer, *after* (presumably) being soaked–wouldn’t that be a great marketing testament to its longevity?

At SanDisk, we care about the environment.
[visual: snowy mountainscape; rain forest canopy; a baby chimpanzee]
We truly hope your media never gets swallowed by wildlife.
[a koala; yellow ducklings; a sugar glider]
But we make our storage durable, so if it does–we’re confident your digital content will endure.
[two bread loaves of seal poo]
And boasting on this makes us about as happy as flies on sh*t.


This is a geeky comment, but I’m curious why the author switched from referring to the critters in the photos/videos as leopard seals (seals) to sea lions (completely different species & even in different families).


The story is about a USB stick found while collecting leopard seal scat. The only references (two, to be exact, both in the same paragraph) to sea lions are statements regarding what images/videos were found stored on the USB stick.


Yes, that. The sea lions were represented in the images found on the drive, not as the producers of the USB drive-amended scat.


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