May 30

Stranger Data logo done in the style of the Stranger Things tv show logo

Data loss can turn your life upside down.

Lots of different storage devices lose data and in the CBL data recovery lab we see both the run-of-the-mill and the odd cases. Here’s a few tales of the stranger things you’ve sent in.

crime scene security cam vids

It was a dark and stormy night, or rather a dark and grainy video

Security cameras had recorded a crime. However, the perpetrator knew there were cameras, and had access to the DVR storing footage. Left with a body and a smashed video recorder, eventually lawyers contacted us for help and sent the unit in for investigation.

The hard drive inside the recorder was damaged but our hardware team worked diligently and finally made a nearly perfect clone. But upon access we found the drive contained no file system, no video stream for us to interpret. The only thing that could read back the raw data from the drive was the DVR unit but it was smashed, it’s brand and model number beyond recognition. The family went through years of business receipts and found the manufacturer, which had unfortunately gone out of business. Armed with minimal information we scoured online and found a model with the same front panel, same number of inputs. Our destination: eBay.

Some days later a large package arrived at our door from a seller in Russia, as-is, final sale. Unboxed and connected to a monitor we pressed a red button with fingers-crossed. The unit sprang to life prompting for date and time input (In English even!) Installing the cloned drive into the unit, again the red button was pushed. Would all the effort thus far be rewarded with the lost incriminating footage?

A new message appeared: Enter Passcode.

All hope was almost lost. Lawyers, the victim’s family or employees of their company all did not know. Too many wrong attempts and we would likely lose the video forever. Dejected, the lawyers asked for the DVR unit to be returned until maybe one day someone could locate its code.

As we were assembling the original unit in its smashed state and fitting it back into its original packaging we spied a small, yellow square of paper. A Post-It note, once attached to the DVR, had come off in shipping. The scrap of paper read: 1234.

Straight to the new DVR unit which was still on the lab bench with cloned drive inside we flew.

Powered up to the prompt: Enter Passcode.

1 2 3 4

Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep.

Wrong Passcode Entered flashed for a second before Enter Passcode re-appeared. That heavy feeling lay on us again, worse than before after having that moment of hope. Maybe if the numbers were entered…

4 3 2 1

Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep.

It worked! The number was backwards! It was 4321!

We suppose the original owner didn’t want to leave the Passcode out in the open, so left themselves a hint. The videos were extracted, the lawyers happy, and we hope the family found justice.

dam control system files

No one really viewed it as a “computer”

The floodwater control group had gotten some scary quotes on upgrading and modernizing their infrastructure. One little industrial computer had been controlling the water flow for over 15 years. As PC technology progressed, spare parts for the little-computer-that-could were getting harder and harder to find.

But no one really viewed it as a “computer”. It was industrial equipment. It controlled an entire dam! Industrial equipment may need regular maintenance, but backups?

Of course one day there was a dam problem. No (dam) boot disk was detected. No (dam) MS-DOS with its (dam) software. No (dam) backups. No (dam) replacement drive. So they brought the drive in to us in the middle of the night. The water was high, and the pressure was rising. Literally.

The drive was old but luckily we have been working on hard drives since the days of double digit Megabytes. After cleaning and then cleanroom work we had a clone ready the same day for a successful recovery. In fact, the customer took our clone with them at the end since finding a 300MB IDE drive for the dam computer would be pretty, um, darned hard.

The client said they would look into modernizing now after starting to learn their lesson, but as far we know to this day the thing is still running.

capsized ocean research vessel

Data overboard!

The story of a small rowboat’s almost world-record voyage across the Atlantic until disaster struck requires its own post. Visit here to read the ocean epic about CBL’s successful recovery of hard drives, camera cards from water-damage and corrosion.

Stranger Data

As you can tell we’ve been watching some of Netflix’s Stranger Things and were inspired to write this post. We hope you enjoyed some of our own lab’s stranger things success stories!

Stranger Things tv show characters with walkie talkie looking at each other with concerned faces. Search box dropdown overlay text:

Category: data recovery, case studies

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