Dr. Greg Gogolin—Recovering Lost Data

We have moved forward in terms of refining what is possible.

Dr. Greg Gogolin, Information Security and Intelligence Professor at Ferris State University has been conducting research to recover lost data.

CD’s and DVD’s are data known as Optical Data. With the availability of CD’s, DVD’s and burners, it is possible to create many copies to be made by consumers. Damage to optical data can become tragic if the only copy of the data was destroyed or damaged. Researchers are currently working on recovering data, but they have discovered a process that may be able to recover lost data.

Dr. Gogolin said, “While we haven’t solved all of the challenges necessary for efficient data recovery from damaged optical data, we have moved forward in terms of refining what is possible.” He also stressed that his research team at this point was aimed solely at demonstrating “proof of concept”.

Funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), Dr. Gogolin conducted research along with colleagues James Jones, associate professor of computer forensics at George Mason University; Charles Bacon, professor of physical science at Ferris State University; Tracey Boncher, associate professor of pharmacy at Ferris State University; and Derek Brower, a Ferris State University student at the time of the research. They theorized using a three dimensional digital laser microscopy to capture a 3-D image of the disc to provide a roadmap of the data.

“If the disc is broken in half, you’ve still got 99 percent of the data still there,” Gogolin says. “The media is quite elastic and that data is pretty much intact up to the cut line. There is, of course, a region that is destroyed near where the disc has been cut. But for the most part, you didn’t destroy the data you just made it unreadable because you can’t spin the disc”.

The NSF funded the researchers with a $356,318 grant back in 2011. They tested their research by breaking a disc, putting it back together, and taking a photo of it using the high-powered 3-D digital laser microscope. The goal of this research is “to expand capabilities of the recovery program to be able to recognize all the different types of data and encoding that could be present on an optical disc.”

The researchers are trying to decide if they want to test their ideas on other types of memory, like flash-drives. “Like that in your phone,” he says, or solid state drives, rather than hard drives. “That’s were everything is going, ‘Would time be better spent trying to perfect a way to recover material from a flash or finishing what is needed for the optical.'”

The team is far from making the process widely available. “We wanted to prove the concept that it could be done, so that every time you see a broken disc, you won’t think, “Oh, its lost forever,'” Gogolin says.