Getting Back Lost Data

— April 07, 2013

“When my son dove into a pool with his iPhone in his pocket, he lost hundreds of contacts and two years’ worth of photos that were very important to our family,” said James Smith of Virginia. “We had never made a backup of his phone and thought the data was forever lost.”


Smith used Kroll Ontrack’s mobile phone recovery services to restore data to his new phone. He then backed up the information to his family computer. With the widespread adoption of mobile devices, Smith’s problem is becoming a common one for mobile employees.

Kroll Ontrack, a data recovery service firm, has seen a 161% increase in mobile device recoveries for phones and tablets from 2011 to 2012. Across all types of recovery scenarios, data loss incidents were found to be platform independent, occurring within iOS, Android and Windows devices.

“For mobile devices, physical damage is the most common cause of data loss we see, representing about two-thirds of data recovery cases,” said Todd Johnson, vice president of operations, Kroll Ontrack. About 31% of those cases resulted from electronics-related damage, 23% from water damage and 7% from damage to the device’s exterior.

“Inherent in their purpose, mobile devices are simply on the go, and therefore more susceptible to human error, including drops, which can cause electronic failure, and water damage,” he said. “The other third are from logical failures, such as accidentally deleted files, corrupt software, password lockout and OS upgrade issues.”

Of recovery cases specifically related to logical failure, 26% were because of deleted files, 7% to software corruption and 6% due to password lockout.
Mobile Device Recovery Process

“In most cases, recovery can be attained by way of physical repair or bypassing a corrupted OS,” said Greg Olson, senior vice president of data storage and recoveries, Kroll Ontrack. Once the repair or OS bypass is successful, the company uses specialized software tools to target critical files and provide customers with comprehensive evaluations and detailed file reports of which files can be recovered.

In instances of physical damage, engineers open the device within a cleanroom environment and assess the condition of the circuit boards and parts. The mobile device’s printed circuit board (PCB) parts are examined and repaired as needed to get the device to a state where data can be read. When there is logical failure, such as a corrupt operating system or failed OS update, engineers use specialized software to bypass the identified issue and then access and extract the data.

Tips for Handling Data Loss
The most requested data to be recovered from mobile devices are photos/videos and contacts, followed by notes and text messages. To promote the best chance of success in recovering this valuable data, Kroll Ontrack suggests the following:

Time is of the essence.
Power off the mobile device immediately and get it to a reputable data recovery provider. The longer you wait, the more likely critical data will be overwritten (deleted files) or the drive will corrode (physical damage such as water).

Backup, backup, backup.
Before disaster strikes, back-up data to another device, such as a laptop, the cloud or an external drive. In cases of operating system errors, this backup is often the saving grace in the recovery process.

Know what you want.
The key to recovering data quickly is to know what data to target. Communicate to your data recovery provider what data is most critical to better ensure a timely and accurate recovery.

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