How to Recover Data from Mobile Devices

The International Telecommunication Union reported in May that the number of mobile phones worldwide is predicted to exceed the global population by next year. It’s not surprising that Kroll Ontrack has seen a commensurate rise in demand for data recovery from mobile devices, which are increasingly used to run small to medium businesses. Indeed, we saw a 161 percent increase in demands between 2011 and 2012.

mobile data recovery
photo credit: Hervé Corcia via photopin cc

Physical damage is the most common cause of data loss we see, representing about two-thirds of data recovery cases. Mobile devices are simply always on the go, and therefore more susceptible to human error, including drops, which can cause electronic failure, and water damage. The other third are from logical failures, such as accidentally deleted files, corrupt software, password lockout and operating system (OS) upgrade issues.

Ontrack Data Recovery engineers report that for recovery resulting from physical failure, 31 percent of cases were electronics-related, 23 percent were the result of water or moisture damage and seven percent were related to damage to the exterior of the device.

For recovery resulting from logical failure, 26 percent were the result of deleted files, seven percent were software corruption and six percent were cases of password lockout. Across all types of recovery scenarios, Kroll Ontrack has found that data loss incidents are platform independent and occur within iOS, Android, and Windows devices.

In most cases, recovery can be secured by way of physical repair or bypassing a corrupted OS. Once repair or OS bypass is successful, specialised software tools are then used to target critical files and provide customers with comprehensive evaluations and detailed file reports of the files that can be recovered.

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

Tips for handling data loss

  • 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).
  • 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.

And of course…

  • Backup, backup, backup. Before disaster strikes, back-up your data to another device, such as a laptop, the cloud and/or an external drive. If you get an operating system error, this backup is often the saving grace in the recovery process.

About the Author: This article is written by Phil Bridge, managing director, Kroll Ontrack