According to the International Telecommunication Union, the number of mobile phones worldwide is expected to exceed the world's population by 2014, with overall penetration rates reaching 96 percent globally by the end of this year. Consistent with the widespread adoption of mobile devices, Kroll Ontrack, the world leader in data recovery and edisclosure software, saw a 55 percent increase in mobile device recoveries for phones and tablets from 2010 to 2011, and a 161 percent increase from 2011 to 2012. With more and more people storing valuable personal and business data on their mobile devices, there is no doubt the demand for recovery when something goes wrong will continue to climb.
"For mobile devices, physical damage is the most common cause of data loss we see, representing about two-thirds of data recovery cases," said Phil Bridge, managing director, Kroll Ontrack. "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. The other third are from logical failures, such as accidentally deleted files, corrupt software, password lockout and OS upgrade issues."
Mobile device failure breakdown
Ontrack Data Recovery engineers report that in 2012, for recovery resulting from physical failure, 31 percent of cases were electronics-related physical damage, 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.
Mobile device recovery process
"In most cases, recovery can be attained by way of physical repair or bypassing a corrupted OS," said Robert Winter, chief engineer, Kroll Ontrack. "Once repair or OS bypass is successful, Kroll Ontrack 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, Ontrack Data Recovery 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.
"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. "We had never made a backup of his phone and thought the data was forever lost. With Kroll Ontrack's expertise in mobile phone recoveries, all his data was recovered and restored to his new phone for a very reasonable price and we backed up the information to our family computer."
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 your data to another device, such as a laptop, the cloud or an external drive. If you get an operating system error, 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.