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Recovering and deleting data from SSDs

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The latest generation of laptops and hybrid devices use solid state disks to boost performance and speed up the time it takes for the operating system to boot. In this guest blog post, Robert Winter from Kroll Ontrack writes about some of the challenges on attempting to recover data from a damaged SSD.

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When choosing a storage media type companies should understand how this decision can affect the ease of retrieving data when there is a data loss.

A lot of businesses are investing in Solid State Drives (SSDs) to leverage its numerous benefits, but users beware. Although SSDs are more robust than traditional hard drives (HDDs), data loss can still occur - and in the event of a data loss, it's also more complex to recover the data.

Unlike HDDs, SSDs store data in memory chips which have no moving parts, eliminating hardware damage like head crashes or motor defects. Yet, data loss can occur with SSD storage devices because the flash chips are susceptible to physical damage and the way data is stored is complex. SSDs are also exposed to the usual traditional data loss events such as human error, computer viruses, natural disasters, and software/programme corruption.

Recovering data from the common sources of SSD failures requires expertise in overcoming technical challenges that are unique to SSD and flash technology, such as decoding complex SSD data structures, specialised controller chips and numerous other SSD specific issues.  Data is stored on SSD dynamically, and this complexity makes data recovery highly specialised and time consuming. Also a single SSD memory structure can be as complex as an enterprise RAID (redundant array of independent disks) with eight, 16 or even 32 drives!

Only a handful of data recovery experts have data reconstruction programmes in place to identify, separate and reassemble SSD memory so that data can be extracted and achieve high quality results.  At Kroll Ontrack the recovery process involves the following actions:

  • Accessing and reading the data at chip level
  • Overcoming any encryption
  • Rebuilding data striping (much like RAID)
  • Overcoming any file system problems such as corruption or parts missing

The time it takes for Kroll Ontrack to recover data from an SSD is difficult to determine, because the recovery time is dependent on factors including the extent of data loss and the effort required to decode the data from the particular SSD in the device- which is the biggest challenges in the recovery process for SSD.  The way data is configured also varies greatly between manufacturer and models of SSD.  Each model requires Kroll Ontrack to work-out the configuration before data decoding can begin.  In most cases this is done with no help from the manufacturers.

Performing secure data disk sanitisation techniques on SSDs is equally tricky since it's difficult to specify the exact location of where the data is stored to overwrite it.  Therefore, the best way to permanently destroy the data is through physical media destruction.  This typically involves shredding the media into small pieces so not a single chip escapes destruction. If the shredding process misses a chip, it's still possible to recover data from it, so care needs to be taken to destroy everything.

SSDs are durable and it's difficult to assess their lifespan because they vary depending on the manufacturer. To get an idea of how long a solid state-drive will last in application, the following calculations can be used to determine its life span:

It should be noted that these calculations are valid only for products that use either dynamic or static wearing levelling. Use the solid-state memory component specifications for products that do not use wear levelling.

There are various things a user can do to attempt to maximise its lifespan. The best way to find out the right methods is to look at reliable chat rooms and manufacturer recommendations here too.

SSD is a new technology and very few people have learned enough about it to expertly navigate through its RAID and the SSD layers and successfully find data when there's a failure. Best practice is that before choosing to use it, contact a data recovery specialist for more information about the impact on data recovery for the specific environment and technologies you are investigating.

Robert Winter is responsible for all operations within the area of disaster recovery in the Kroll Ontrack labs, based at the UK headquarters in Epsom. 

Oracle should heed warnings from the trends in enterprise

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The findings from Forrester's latest research on Oracle point to a worrying trend in the enterprise software landscape. Businesses are not generally doing large, transformational IT projects built around traditional enterprise resource planning (ERP).

The key suppliers are adapting their enterprise software portfolios in a bid to drive more sales. But the CIOs Forrester spoke to are not convinced it is a strategy that is working for Oracle.

In Forrester's Oracle's Dilemma: Applications Unlimited report, many people are happy with the software they are running and have no real plans to migrate onto Oracle's future enterprise platform.Since Oracle is a strategic supplier to many, there is little interest among CIOs for migrating away. There are concerns that Oracle may turn some of the products they have deployed into cash cows, potentially with high, annual maintenance fees and licensing costs.

Members of the IT director's group, the Corporate IT Forum, are angered by the changes to Oracle licensing. Head of research Ollie Ross told Computer Weekly that members were being pushed into taking certain technical directions like OVM (Oracle VM), rather than VMware. The forum's executive director, David Roberts, believes many CIOs are reacting negatively to Oracle's exceptionally high-pressured sales techniques. This is reflected in the supplier's poor software licence revenue when compared with its nearest rival, SAP. If businesses are not upgrading at a rate that looks good on the company's balance sheet, Oracle will need to take a different approach.

Newham Borough CIO Geoff Connell is concerned that Oracle (and other top tier vendors) will increase licensing, because their customers are "locked into" their products due to historical investments.He argues that many software suppliers appear to be ignoring the financial climate and are attempting to make up for reduced sales volumes with higher unit costs.

Coercing customers to buy more software is not the right way to go. But Oracle executives have not shown much willing to go wholeheartedly down the software as a service (SaaS) route, or even offer a roadmap for integrating SaaS and on-premise enterprise IT. Nor has Oracle been willing to adapt software licensing to make it more virtual machine friendly. The research shows customers are unhappy and the time for Oracle to make some tough decisions is long overdue.

Connell believes if Oracle and other leading suppliers continue to hike prices, users will abandon commercial enterprise software for open source alternatives.

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Lessons from a lost Kindle

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Two days ago I left my Kindle 3G somewhere - probably in the pub or or the train - and of course it is most likely now gone for good. 

We hear a lot about IT consumerisation, and the biggest issue with the Kindle, apart from the loss of the actual device, is that it is connected to a credit card thanks Amazon's One-Click purchase feature. So someone finding my Kindle, would instantly be able to start buying ebooks on my credit card.

Fortunately, Amazon provides two ways to prevent this. First, through the Manage your Kindle portal, it is possible to deregister the device. Second, by calling Amazon (it's 08445456508 in the UK), Amazon can block the device completely, stopping it from being reregisterd under a different account. Amazon customer service then sends a confirmation email:

Hello xxxx,

I'm sorry to hear that your Kindle was lost. I've deregistered this Kindle from your account and noted this in our systems so that it can't be registered by another person. 

Your Kindle's Serial Number is: xxxxxxxxxx. If you find your Kindle, please contact us again and we can reinstate your registration.


I have now downloaded the Kindle app from the Android Marketplace - and while the screen is rubbish compared to E.Ink on the Kindle, I have full access to my library of books - which is quite amazing really.

So here's the lesson: the Kindle is only valuable because of the books (ie content)  that are installed. Once the Kindle is deregistered and blocked, the hardware is actually worthless (good luck to any hacker willing to take it apart and install a new OS). The Kindle is essentially a one application thin client that connects wirelessly to the Amazon bookstore.People will inevitable ask why such devices exist because the new iPad can do everything. But it just goes to show how a simple operating environment can be locked down and secured, reducing data theft should the device be lost or stolen.

3D or not 3D

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Having paid good money to watch Tron Legacy in 3D at the Odeon, I have to admit that I was certainly not wooed by all the effects, The best 3D I've experienced is the Renault environoment ad - ther was actually some kind of story to follow, unlike the really poor script for Tron Legacy.

 

3D is best experienced at the cinema, but not until the film industry starts making half decent 3D movies that don't just throw in the odd  3D effect.

 

So I hope no one has wasted good money on a 3D TV this Xmas.

 

 

Don Tapscott Macro Wikinomics podcast

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Last week Don Tapscott, co-author of Macro Wikinomics, was in London to promote the new book. Tapscott says the existing ways businesses are run and goverrnments operate must change. Through global collaboration, across communities connected via the internet, Tapscott believes the biggest problems facing society can be tackled. Listen to the podcast interview >>

Windows 7: 12 Months On

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The 22nd of October 2009 represented one of the most eagerly anticipated dates in the history of desktop computing. The launch of Windows 7 promised easier, faster and more secure computing for all. And, boy oh boy, did Windows 7 deliver.

Over the past 12 months, we've worked with more than 200 global organisations to assist them in their Windows 7 migrations and during this time, we've started to see a number of emerging trends.

To celebrate the anniversary of Windows 7, we've put together a brief report, which you can request a copy of here. In the report we look at the emerging application compatibility trends, the primary issues and give some suggestions on how organisations can best approach their Windows 7 migration.

Over the past 12 months I experienced a number of situations with organisations that have made me really think again. Here is a quick synopsis of those surprises:

  • Windows 7 adoption rates have been higher than expected, which has been led by 64-bit as the primary delivery platform.
  • The introduction of IE8 has added another layer of complexity into the migration. Organisations need to address compatibility issues for core web applications and browser presentation and rendering issues for internal and external websites and portals.
  • Virtualisation has not been embraced as quickly as expected and organisations are looking towards a hybrid model of virtualised platforms to suit application capabilities
  • Windows 7 migration is easier than previous migrations, such as XP to Vista
  • Shims are not the answer to application compatibility issues
  • You need a level of technical expertise to fully use Microsoft's application compatibility issue fixes

And, as you have probably seen already, we are still seeing the same top five application compatibility issues across all verticals and industry sectors including:

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So, now that Windows 7 is a year old, has it met market expectations? In my view, Windows 7 has been a great success, with a rapid adoption rate, good industry acceptance, a stable OS, a small number of resolvable issues and it delivers some great benefits such as increased security.

Given these factors and our experience to date, we estimate that at least 60% of global organisations will have fully deployed Windows 7 in the next three years.

Kindle first look

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I got my Kindle today. This is my first experience of an eReader and I bought the 3G version because it would be really useful to browse the web.

Like most techies, I plugged in the power adapter to charge it and switched it on without checking the instructions. Amazingly, the device was already regisered at Amazon.co.uk, with my account details, and was set up for One-Click payments. It showed three bars for 3G access so I went to the MENU button and made my first purchase - Stieg Larsson's great trilogy, then browsed the periodicals and magazine Kindle site to check if anything took my fancy.

Wi-Fi was pretty easy to set up, although users need to use the SYM button to enter numbers, which can be a tad time-consuming. But once set up, Wi-Fi is seamless.

The browser is available via the Experimental option from the HOME menu. It's very basic, quite slow, but does allow you to access non-Flash web sites. So I was able to access the train times from National Rail, get directions via Streetmap and book a car on Streetcar. It is even possible to access GMail, but be warned: the Kindle browser is very slow and it takes ages to redraw the screen, so it's really only suitable for occassional use. You can't open Google Docs, because the hrowser does not allow you to open multiple windows.

 It's easy to plug the Kindle into your PC to transfer documents to the avrious folders on the device, and thanks to the built-in PDF reader and MP3 player I could transfer music and Acrobat files directly to the Kindle. So far everything seems to be working well. Tomorrow I'll try emailing the Kindle via the free.kndle.com and kindle.com device email addressses, which should provide wireless delivery of personal docs.

 

 

 

Microsoft Patch Tuesday - 10th August 2010

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With this Microsoft Patch Tuesday update, we have the largest release of security and application updates that the ChangeBASE team has dealt with. Nine of the updates rate as 'Critical' and the remaining six updates are rated as 'Important' - a very significant release by Microsoft standards.


As we have seen in many other Microsoft Patch Tuesday releases, all of these patches will require a system restart for both workstation and server environments.


We have also included a brief snap-shot image of some of the sample results from the AOK Workbench with a single application and Patch Impact Assessment result for MS10-053, the IE browser security update;

MS10-053: Cumulative Security Update for Internet Explorer:

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Testing Summary

MS10-046

Vulnerability in Windows Shell Could Allow Remote Code Execution (2286198)

MS10-049

Vulnerabilities in SChannel Could Allow Remote Code Execution (980436)

MS10-051

Vulnerability in Microsoft XML Core Services Could Allow Remote Code Execution (2079403)



MS10-052

Vulnerability in Microsoft MPEG Layer-3 Codecs Could Allow Remote Code Execution (2115168)

MS10-053

Cumulative Security Update for Internet Explorer (2183461)

MS10-054

Vulnerabilities in SMB Server Could Allow Remote Code Execution (982214)

MS10-055

Vulnerability in Cinepak Codec Could Allow Remote Code Execution (982665)

MS10-056

Vulnerabilities in Microsoft Office Word Could Allow Remote Code Execution (2269638)

MS10-060

Vulnerabilities in the Microsoft .NET Common Language Runtime and in Microsoft Silverlight Could Allow Remote Code Execution (2265906)

MS10-047

Vulnerabilities in Windows Kernel Could Allow Elevation of Privilege (981852)

MS10-048

Vulnerabilities in Windows Kernel-Mode Drivers Could Allow Elevation of Privilege (2160329)

MS10-050

Vulnerability in Windows Movie Maker Could Allow Remote Code Execution (981997)

MS10-057

Vulnerability in Microsoft Office Excel Could Allow Remote Code Execution (2269707)

MS10-058

Vulnerabilities in TCP/IP Could Allow Elevation of Privilege (978886)

MS10-059

Vulnerabilities in the Tracing Feature for Services Could Allow an Elevation of Privilege (982799)

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Security Update: Detailed Summary

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*All results are based on an AOK Application Compatability Lab's test portfolio of over 1,000 applications.

The problem with Apple

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The media seems to love the iPhone and iPad. TV gadget shows, celebrities and  journalists feed the hype over a new Apple product. An iPhone or iPad launch is a big event, which drives more and more people to  buy products on Day One of launch, before anyone has even reviewed the product.

 

This means that products are not properly beta tested, such as the left-handed problem on the iPhone 4. It is entirely Apple's fault - for not running extensive quality assurance and product tests. If Apple is such a great brand, the it should offer customers the very highest quality products. Unfortunately, this is not hw the Apple marketing machine currently works. Let's hope that today its execs have to admit they were wrong, and agree to recall millions of products to fix the ridiculous iPhone 4 problem, which could have been spotted by any beta tester.

Learning to live with MeeGo

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I have been using MeeGO 1.0 for almost four weeks. My first impression is that, out of the box, MeeGo is an excellent OS for Net Book users. It boots up quickly and has a clean desktop user interface, which makes it very easy to see running apps. It is nice to see that Intel is now demoing a version with touch functionality, which will make the UI truly excellent for mobile phone and Net Book users.

 

The main problem with MeeGo - and for that matter any Linux distro - is that if you want to do something not included in the distribution, things can become increasingly difficult.

 

I spent last weekend hacking the MeeGo OS to try and get Audacity, the open source sound editor, to work. You'll need a load of source code/dev.lib packages, to provide the development tools and various libraries, in order to ./configure audacity successfully. My estimate, is that a make compilation takes around 40 mins. Installation through make install puts the Audacity icon on the MeeGo desktop, which does save an awful lot of time figuring out how to do this.Here's a screenshot of it running on MeeGo...but it's not quite working yet. I still need to figure out how to configure Audacity to use my sound device.

 

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