The field of data recovery involves the process of extracting data from various storage devices such as mechanical hard drives, solid state drives, USB flash drives, CD/DVD/Blu-Ray/UHD and other discs, RAID servers, and magnetic tapes. The data can be on computers, tablets, or smartphones, and it can be password-protected, encrypted, corrupted, erased, hidden, overwritten or damaged.
Data recovery experts are usually brought in when computer files can no longer be accessed and a backup is not available. Common causes are a lost password, a user error such as accidental deletion, a software or hardware failure such as bad sectors or collapsed RAID partition, a malware, ransomware, or virus attack, or intentional locking or hiding of files by suspects in criminal cases.
The use of specialised industry disk-imaging procedures can harvest every last byte of data off the drive. Once the data is recovered, it might still be encrypted, and law-enforcement authorities have access to tools that can crack passwords, such as “brute-forcing” using trillions of rapid password attempts.
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Expertise in Action
The often conflicting and controversial issues of enforced data recovery and the right to privacy have been in the news recently where critical data pertinent to a criminal case is contained on a password-protected or encrypted computer or locked smartphone. Tech corporations such as Apple and Facebook are asked by law enforcement authorities for assistance to access and turn over data on a suspect’s device. This data may contact lists, call history, and messages linking the suspect to other suspects, browsing history revealing the planning of a criminal act, and location data that can dispute alibis and place suspects at the scene of a crime. In perhaps the most high-profile case to date, the United States Department of Justice requested that Apple assist the FBI in accessing the data on the Apple 5C phone owned by San Bernardino mass-shooter Rizwan Farook. Apple refused but the phone was eventually hacked by the FBI in 2016 with the assistance of data recovery experts.
A recovery data expert can give information of how data has been hidden, locked or encrypted and reveal ways it can be accessed by law-enforcement authorities undertaking investigations. Experts can assist in court during legal cases by explaining the forensic methods used to reveal critical evidence.
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