While doing some cleaning at work, I came across this old dodgy Ativa flash drive and decided to try an experiment.
How does it cope with a deliberate static discharge?
I have an old piezo ignitor from a gas barbecue and noticed it makes a substantial spark when the button is pushed, about 3cm or just over an inch. So I placed the USB stick in-between its two metal contacts. The spark went in one part and out another part. I plugged it in and it appeared to open fine with still the same ~500MB of bad blocks in H2testw.
I took out the stick and struck the ignitor button a few more times along the length of the USB stick. This time when I plugged it in, the PC did not detect it. After a few seconds, I unplugged it and noticed it got rather warm.
With a USB meter and a power bank, I checked the power consumption. Whatever failed in the stick, it is now drawing about 700mA!
I know people that had USB sticks unexpectedly fail before where the stick was working before they unplugged it and no longer worked again. I had an SD unexpectedly fail a few years ago also where it worked fine before unplugging it the final time. So it wouldn't surprise me if a static discharge when grabbing the USB stick or memory card caused a similar failure.
As with handling bare circuit boards, touch a grounded surface (e.g. PC metal case) before inserting or removing a USB stick or memory card.