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Read all about the latest work that has arrived in our offices, how it has tested us technically and what we had to do to recover the data!

New offices in Croydon and Glasgow

Posted on 19th May 2015 by Ryan Farell
With a positive development in our data recovery business, we are seeing an increase in demand for our services from private companies, government organisations, public bodies and not forgetting individual users. As part of our growth strategy we want to get even closer to our clients and partners. We recognise that when data loss strikes, this can be very stressful. Often the user wants a professional company within easy reach. This is why we have opened new offices at Airport House in Croydon and Bath Street in Glasgow, with new offices planned for other UK regions this year.

Performing data recovery on solid-state drives

Posted on 30th April 2015 by Ryan Farell
There are fewer data recovery tools generally available for solid-state devices; however we have been working on our own proprietary tools to overcome vendor specific solid-state drive designs and built-in encryption technologies. We can now boast data extraction tools for almost every solid-state controller. As a result, this last month has seen a record for successful solid-state drive data recoveries!

Recovering data from encrypted volume

Posted on 16th April 2015 by Geraint Jones
Recently we have completed a data recovery from a self encrypting HDD further protected by BitLocker, which had failed mechanically. Before even starting the process we needed the user's BitLocker credentials and the original self encrypting hard drive with the laptop (as the encryption was hardware dependent). Nevertheless we managed to overcome the physical damage and de-crypt the device. Thankfully we achieved a 100% clean sweep as there was no platter damage, otherwise the outcome would have been very different!

Badly Damaged OST File

Posted on 1st April 2015 by Aran Pitter
Received a very badly damaged OST file. Moreover, it was 6GB in size and recovering it and converting it was a lot of work!    The PST file was checked 100% using Outlook 2010. No major corruption apparent anywhere.  It's been copied to a DVD and dispatched to a very happy client.

Infotrend Server Recovery

Posted on 15th March 2015 by Ryan Farrell
Work is progressing slowly on our recent Infotrend server recovery with 12 x 1TB drives - massive!  The RAID is an Eonstor A12F-G2422.  This RAID had just one logical drive configured, being RAID5 using all 12 disks with no o information on stripe size.  The RAID was attached to a Linux server, with an XFS filesystem. 2 of the disks were very badly damaged and not repairable.  This has been running for three weeks, but we are now having some success!

TAR Format on a SUN System

Posted on 20th February 2015 by Geraint Jones
I’ve a customer who sent me two ½” mag tapes, with data written in TAR format on a SUN system.  They wanted the data lifted off and put onto CD. They have a Pertec I/F ½” drive, but this needed a SCSI drive.  The tapes were good (although written about 14 years ago) and they gave us a list of the files they needed.  The tapes had already been looked at with no success by a leading data recovery company!  Even so we have managed to restore everything!

Firmware failure on Western Digital drive

Posted on 16th February 2015 by Aran Pitter
Duncan has been working on this trying to rebuild the firmware on a failed drive, but to no avail.  The firmware resides in the motor chip that has blown and the chances are not good.  The problem with these Western Digital drives is that the firmware is built into the motor chip. The chances of success at this stage are not overly optimistic.  If you imagine the firmware as the “brain”  without this the body cannot function.  A certain amount of work can be done on the “brain”, but this one has completely burnt out.

Forensic data recovery in employment dispute

Posted on 22nd January 2015 by Aran Pitter
Data Recovery Specialists was contacted by a large public sector organisation following an employee deliberately formatting a hard disk drive on a standalone system in an alleged attempt to cloak their activities. Using our forensic data recovery service, we were able to recover all the data and then search for specific activity by keyword and text string. Our subsequent forensic report was presented to an employment tribunal which resulted in an successful outcome for our client .

Virtual storage fails after detaching a volume

Posted on 15th January 2015 by Aran Pitter
A client's server was not responding and attempts to re-boot failed. The client's IT support disassembled the virtual machine to prepare for launching a new server; however after one of the virtual storage volumes was forcibly detached and re-connected, Windows found the volume to be corrupt. Given the timescales to rebuild the environment, the clients asked us to intervene. After a one hour diagnosis, our engineers were able to rebuild the virtual server in less than 36 hours.

Flood damaged hard drive

Posted on 14th November 2014 by Aran Pitter
Flood damaged hard drives are becoming much more prolific and knowing how to treat them is crucial to the oputcome of any data recovery attempt. Do NOT DRY the hard disk drive out. Although this may seem paradoxical - this will nearly always destroy the platter of the hard disk thus making your data irretrievable. When hard disk drives get wet then dry out, there is nearly always a residue of contaminant left on the platters and heads. Any residue (including a piece of dust), causes physical degradation of the hard disk's platters and loses more data. DO keep the hard disk WET. Ideally, keep the hard disk drive in a sealed container to keep the hard disk drive wet. This stops the hard disk drive corroding and allows our technical staff to clean and dry the platters correctly with minimum damage to the platter surfaces.

USB cable not supplying enough power for hard drive

Posted on 13th November 2014 by Ryan Farrell
External portable hard drives are powered by a USB cable alone. As they spin much slower than 3.5 inch hard drives they do not consume as much power. If you have a faulty USB cable, you may notice that the drive clicks when you connect the power. Clicking is normally associated with a head failure, but we are receiving many portable external hard drives that are completely healthy. Make sure you always check the USB cable before assuming you have a major hard drive problem!

EOT markers missing from 9 track tape

Posted on 15th September 2014 by Shaun Weston
In the eighties, Compact Floppy Disks CF2s were popular giving 180kb per side. We were sent seven Maxell CF2-D disks for recovery and conversion. With our stock of Amstrad floppy disk drives, we were able to extract the raw data and rebuild it back into the native LocoScript files in MS-DOS format. Using handlers that our developers have written specifically for converting this file type, we were able to convert the text data into Microsoft Word.

Developing new data recovery tools

Posted on 12th September 2014 by Ryan Farrell
In our quest to ensure the best possible service for all media types, we are constantly developing our own data recovery tools and handlers. Recently we were sent a Travan 40Gb IDE interface dating back to the early 1990s. There are no data recovery tools for the IDE, only for SCSI interfaces. Therefore our own developers are writing handlers to extract the data from the raw image that we have obtained. This is a lengthy process and for our client, the recovery is likely to be a while longer. Our company policy dictates that we never give up on a recovery simply for economical reasons. If we think the data is recoverable we will spend the time and effort required, even if this may seem uneconomical in the short term.

EOT markers missing from 9 track tape

Posted on 10th September 2014 by Shaun Weston
In the eighties, Compact Floppy Disks CF2s were popular giving 180kb per side. We were sent seven Maxell CF2-D disks for recovery and conversion. With our stock of Amstrad floppy disk drives, we were able to extract the raw data and rebuild it back into the native LocoScript files in MS-DOS format. Using handlers that our developers have written specifically for converting this file type, we were able to convert the text data into Microsoft Word.

Computer making a grinding noise

Posted on 7th August 2014 by Aran Pitter
There are two possibilities that come to mind. Firstly it might be a fan issue. Many computers will run all the fans at full speed for a few seconds. They do this at start up to make sure that the fans work and to dislodge any dust or dirt that may have accumulated that a low speed wouldn’t just blow out of the way. If there is something partially obstructing the fan, the blades could be hitting it and that could easily sound like a grinding noise. Secondly it could be the hard drive. If you suspect this - backup immediately. Sometimes, when a hard drive is failing or about to fail, it can make those kinds of grinding noises. It’s a precursor to something much, much worse. Internal destruction is usually what’s next. That grinding noise is something loose inside the hard drive, where there simply shouldn’t be anything loose. That typically means that when that thing becomes completely loose, it’s going to go flying around in there and cause all sorts of destruction within the drive itself. And that kind of destruction is typically irrecoverable.

The next generation of hard drives?

Posted on 6th August 2014 by Geraint Jones
A quick look through the bus speeds and data rates available in a PC system soon tells you where there is a bottleneck: it's your hard drive. Hard drives have been a fundamental part of the PC for yonks. The interface has changed and capacities and speeds have marched ever onwards, but essentially its pretty much the same device that graced IBM's new-fangled computer things in 1956. We are now seeing hermetically sealed, helium hard drives. Helium has only one-seventh the density of air. Replacing air with helium inside a hard drive dramatically reduces the turbulence caused by the spinning disk, cuts power consumption and results in a lower temperature within the disk drive. The reduction in turbulence for the spinning disk allows allows up to seven-disk design in a traditional 3.5-inch form factor offering up to 6-terabyte capacity.

High heat may not harm hard drives

Posted on 25th July 2014 by Shaun Weston
Temperatures exceeding 100 degrees Fahrenheit may not be damaging to disk drives, according to research by Google engineers. After studying five years worth of monitoring statistics from Google's massive data centers, researchers say they could find no consistent pattern linking failure rates to high temperatures or high utilization levels. Temperature, they write, is often called the most important environmental factor affecting disk drive reliability. They found negative effects from high temperature only for the higher end of the temperature range (104 degrees Fahrenheit or more) and even at those temperatures the negative effects were only observed for drives at least 3 years old.

RAID data saved after fire damage

Posted on 27th June 2014 by Aran Pitter
We received a RAID-5 array which had failed following a fire. There were four hard drives in the array and two were showing signs of physical damage to the PCBs. Each fire damaged drive was carefully cleaned to prevent contamination of the platters by soot and smoke particles. Where the hard drive electronics were damaged, it was necessary to completely rebuild the circuitry, which required delicate and precise microcode repair. The next stage was to attempt to read the raw data from the drives. Three of the four were fully recovered, whilst we had to nurse one through the process. The challenge was to reconstruct the missing data and fortunately RAID-5 makes this possible thanks to data redundancy.  By creating a virtual RAID, we rebuilt the data and extracted 90% of the files successfully.

Breach of copywrite through domain names and metadata

Posted on 4th June 2014 by Ryan Farrell
On this case we were tasked with establishing the extent of passing off and/or breach of trademark claims in regard to a competitor’s e-marketing campaign. The client had developed a cosmetic procedure, trademarking it to protect the brand. However, the client became aware of a competitor, who was marketing a similar procedure, using domain names and website metadata containing the trademarked name to connect interest to its own website. To undertake this task we used a variety of tools. IBS Standard Edition Version 11.7.9, a powerful search engine optimisation software tool, allowed us to research and analyse keywords and links for a particular website and compare these with nominated competitors. Domain White Pages, an online resource that allows the user to investigate domains and IP addresses, was used to investigate domain records, DNS records, network records and service scans.

Recovering data from a Nokia mobile device

Posted on 28th May 2014 by Aran Pitter
A client came to us requiring a full mobile phone forensic investigation on a Nokia device. We were tasked with retrieving all available information on the device, including contacts, sent and received SMS messages (including deleted ones), emails and any other data we could find. In addition to this, we had two specific requests; information relating to several phone numbers and key words. The main tool utilised during this case was Oxygen Mobile Forensics Suite 2011, which is a thorough extraction tool used to retrieve data from smart phones in particular. The second tool we used was MOBILedit Forensic Lite, a trusted phone investigation tool that is highly rated by the National Institute of Standards and Technology. These two tools were used to investigate the phone’s internal memory and memory card.

Identifying hard drive activity in a specific time window

Posted on 19th May 2014 by Ryan Farrell
We were asked to establish whether or not there was sufficient evidence to show that activity was performed during a seven day window, and whether the evidence of this activity had been forensically wiped. The main tools used were AccessData Forensic Toolkit FTK and FTK Imager. We were given access to a hard drive. We performed imaging on the hard drive, taking care to maintain the integrity of the evidence and adhering to Association of Police Chief Officers (ACPO) guidelines at all times. The data recovered clearly identifies signatures for forensic wiping programs, namely CCleaner and DiskWipe, which are used to clean hard drives and to destroy data permanently. Due to the health of the files recovered using FTK, however, it is unlikely these forensic wiping programs were ever used successfully, if at all, and almost certainly not in the period in question.

Identifying electronic evidence from a damaged server

Posted on 13th May 2014 by Geraint Jones
After our client’s mail server was maliciously damaged by one of their employees, we were instructed by their solicitor to conduct a full forensic examination of the evidence. It was suspected that the server’s hard drives were concealing inappropriate correspondence. The hard drives had been removed and the circuit boards, physically destroyed. To exasperate the situation, backups had been securely erased and could not be retrieved.

Our technicians removed the server from site to ensure preservation of the evidence. Before acquisition and analysis could begin, it was necessary to render the hard drives serviceable in order to take an exact sector level duplicate. We are one of the few computer forensic experts that also specialise in data recovery. The hard drives were dismantled in our clean room and rebuilt using donor parts. Thankfully there was no media damage to the platters and we were able to image the drives without error.  The acquired images were verified using hash functions and the data parameters calculated in order to rebuild the data on the server.

Plasmon UDO disks

Posted on 24th April 2014 by Geraint Jones
UDO or Ultra Density Optical is the second generation of magneto optical disk which was adopted by Plasmon. When Plasmon went into receivership seven years ago, this archival format became redundant overnight. Since then, we have converted hundreds of UDO archives into latest generation media. Our latest project involves over 400 UDO2 disks. The client's hardware is failing and they need a robust solution that will serve them for a decade or more. We are reading these disks and converting proprietary technical data into PDF, before integrating into the client's new system. The project is likely to take a further month; however, the first conversions have been QA'd and integrated seamlessly.

DIY data recovery

Posted on 27th March 2014 by Geraint Jones
Following instructions from a YouTube video, a victim of data recovery attempted a platter extraction on their failed hard drive. Worthwhile if the data is not of critical important, but dangerous if this essential data for the operations of your business - which is exactly what this was. The user brought us the components of the hard drive in separate pieces, distraught at their failed attempts. Although we managed to rebuild the hard drive and get this spinning, platter aligment was a real issue. We use a highly specialised "platter jig" working to tolerances of hundreds of a millimeter for platter extraction and alignment. Despite weeks of realignment, we were just not able to recover the data even though the platters were fundamentally sound.

Data recovery in just 15 mintues!

Posted on 17th March 2014 by Aran Pitter
A large solicitors practice approached us over a year ago to provide a disaster recovery solution after they experienced a server failure. Although very rarely experienced twice, a server failure can be catastrophic for any business. However they were prepared for the second server failure caused by a malware attack. Thankfully they had choosen our "Shadow Protect" business continuity package which takes a snapshot of your server every hour. All company information, emails and client data amounting to 2 terrabytes, was restored successfully in just under 15 mintues!

Finding data on water damaged hard drive

Posted on 21st February 2014 by Aran Pitter
TOne of the most serious problems a hard drive can face is water damage. Simply put, water and electronics don't mix, and the issue can be compounded if water is allowed to reach the delicate platters of a hard drive (where data is stored). A client sent us their hard drive which had been completely submersed. The drive had subsequently been connected to a power supply and all the electronic were literally fryed! We managed to firstly dry the drive in our curing ovens, before swapping all the components. Essentially there was nothing left of the old drive except the platters. Spinning the repaired hard drive up using our specialist data extractor, we were able to retrieve all the files for the client.

JPG JFIF file format

Posted on 16th January 2014 by Andrew Seegolun
We were sent some JPEG files by a client, who could not see the EXIF information in the meta-data.  The creation dates were important to an ongoing claim.  JFIF is a file interchange format for JPG images.  EXIF and JFIF are not compatible, which is why you cannot see EXIF information in a JFIF format JPEG.   The metadata colour profiles are ICC and with the exception of a few high-end cameras, cameras do not generate ICC Profiles. ICC Profiles are added by applications as the file is edited or converted.  Our conclusions showed that the images had been edited or processed and this was confirmed by the compression characteristics which are altered each time the image is saved. Furthermore we could elaborate on the creation dates from the ICC Profiles.

Extracting individual PST files from an Exchange Database

Posted on 9th January 2014 by Aran Pitter
A client came to us to recover an Exchange 2007 database from tape, and specifically a mailbox from the DB.   The extraction of the specific mailbox was requested in the form of a .pst file.  The database was backed up using Symantec Backup Exec on DLT 80 tapes.  Cataloguing and restoring the tape was complicated due to the DLT leader which had failed.  The leader that would normally drag the tape leader loop into the take up spool had disappeared inside the cartridge and was wrapped around the spindle of the takeup spool. We reattached the leader and repaired the drive, before restoring the users specific mailbox for the client.

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