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Meet the Engineer: Robin England [video]

What is your name?

My name is Robin England.

What exactly do you do at Kroll Ontrack?

I am a research and development engineer within Kroll Ontrack’s data recovery engineering team. I help develop the hardware and software tools that our cleanroom engineers use every day to recover our customers’ data. I also provide our engineers with technical support and assistance when necessary.

How long have you been at Kroll Ontrack?

I joined Kroll Ontrack 8 years ago but I’ve worked in the data recovery industry for almost 20 years.

What is your most unusual/challenging/interesting recovery to date?

As a senior engineer I get involved in quite a few interesting cases. The most unusual of these is a hard drive from a desktop computer that had been shot at by a police suspect prior to his arrest. The recovery work included mechanically rebuilding the drive, bypassing a drive security feature, repair of drive firmware data tables and decryption of the user data. The forensic recovery work had to be done in the presence of a police officer and took 3 weeks to complete. We were able to recover over 90% of the data. The police were very happy but I’m not sure that the suspect was too impressed!

What new skills & technology are you currently learning about?

I have been learning how to write apps for Android devices. So far I have written a test app and a “more serious” GPS app but have not published anything yet.

I’m learning basic plumbing skills whilst renovating our bathroom at home. I am happy to do most DIY projects but have always been a bit scared of messing with water pipes.

What are you working on at the moment?

I have quite a few projects on the go (or in the queue) at the moment!

Our cleanroom engineers provide regular feedback on the performance of our solutions in real-world cases. This information helps us to improve our existing tools and shape the development of new ones. So I am always updating our data recovery tools and processes for various hard drive and Solid State Drive (SSD) models.

I’m developing a new hardware adapter that will give us direct access to the controller chip within certain types of SSD.

I continue to research new data randomisation algorithms used by many NAND flash controllers. This knowledge helps us recover data directly from the flash memory chips used in devices like SSDs and memory cards.

I am working on a couple of forensic CCTV cases where our client needs video footage recovered from fire-damaged CCTV Digital Video Recorders (DVR). I regularly get to work on CCTV recovery cases; it is interesting to see how the recorded events unfold. Typically these DVRs use a proprietary file system so a custom solution is needed for each different type we encounter.

I am writing a presentation I will be giving on Erasure Verification at the upcoming Flash Memory Summit in Santa Clara.

What type of mobile phone do you have?

Samsung GT-I9100 (Galaxy S2) with custom ROM. Maybe rooted, maybe not…

How do you relax after work/on weekends?

Spending time with my family. Not sure about the relaxing part – my two small children keep me on my toes!

Despite the technical nature of my day job I am a serious electronics hobbyist and I still like to tinker with electronic projects and my collection of vintage computers, TVs, tape-recorders etc! I like to visit the National Vintage Communications Fair when it is in town.

If you weren’t a data recovery engineer, what would your ideal career be & why?

I’ve always been fascinated by Space so I would love to be an astronaut. Even just an hour on the International Space Station would be a dream come true. My favourite film is “2001: A Space Odyssey”. Maybe NASA will need a data recovery on the ISS one day?

What is your top tip for data recovery?

When disaster strikes… first of all don’t panic! Second avoid DIY attempts at data recovery although it may be tempting! It really is true that such attempts can vastly reduce the chances of recovering your data. Make a careful note of exactly what happened and get expert advice.

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