New tools ease iPhone data rescue but cloud-data recoveries rising

Careful analysis of low-level procedures has helped data-recovery specialists significantly increase their success rate when attempting to recover data from damaged Apple iPhones, according to the local head of data-recovery firm Kroll OnTrack.

With many devices sent to the company in desperation after going into an infinite loop, APAC general manager Adrian Briscoe told CSO Australia that a growing body of more than 500 proprietary recovery tools had boosted the chances of getting back data even from phones that had been physically compromised.

“We're very good at pinpointing the thing that's not working, replacing it with a known working component and then extracting the data,” he said. “But new proprietary tools allow us to recover from devices that are in recovery mode.”

That capability had proven to be a lifesaver for many iPhone owners, who have variously lost personal and business information through accidents involving devices that have become “extensions of their personalities.”

“Everyone's lives revolve around their phones,” Briscoe said. “We have some very emotional customers that phone in to say that all their contacts, text messages and photographs are on there. And, because a lot of phones are used as independent devices away from any iTunes library, there are always gaps in backup.”

Recovering data that had been intentionally deleted by the user was another matter, he added, “because there is so much encryption built into the phone. If you do a factory reset on your phone and the encryption key has been overwritten, that data will be gone.”

With the launch of each new iPhone changing the devices' architectures, the launch of the new iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus will naturally present new challenges for Kroll OnTrack and other data-recovery specialists. But with smartphone file structures having remained relatively constant for a long time, Briscoe is confident the company can make the jump by adapting its recovery techniques.

Conventional hard drives and solid state disk (SSD) drives, however, are another matter: with aerial density increasing rapidly and new data-storage algorithms being frequently invented to accommodate new storage media, conventional storage continued to present fresh challenges – especially when data is being stored in cloud environments.

“In the past it was always about a failure in local RAID storage, or customers that couldn't restore from tape backup sets,” Briscoe said. “We don't see a lot of RAID in the traditional sense now, but we are seeing an increase in clients who are storing their data with a cloud provider and then something happens and they need to recover the data.”

Such issues may arise when a snapshot has not been applied to a virtual machine correctly, for example; recovery in this case involves the use of proprietary tools to correctly marry up the snapshot with the new virtual machine in order to correctly transfer the data.

“We are seeing a lot more activity where clients have gone into the cloud, then had some kind of data issue,” Briscoe explained. “We work with the cloud provider and client to get that data back, using that same mode of recovery where we set up a peer to peer connection between the host machine and our engineering team.”

Such incidents are few and far between – but when they arise, the consequences can be significant for organisations that are increasingly looking to cloud environments to reduce costs and increase reliability.

“It works really well 99.9% of the time,” Briscoe said, “but there's that 0.1% where something goes astray just totally out of the blue. This is where we have to come in and where we are virtually thinking outside the box.”

Read more: Businesses, governments value local skills in joint malware fight: BAE SAI

This article is brought to you by Enex TestLab, content directors for CSO Australia.

Tags Enex TestLabsmartphoneKroll OntrackApple iPhonesSolid State Disk (SSD)cloud dataiphone 6CSO Australiadirectors for CSO Australiadata-recoveryAdrian Briscoe(APAC general manager)iTunes library

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