In Rhode Island divorces, lawyers are finding that much of what they may be looking for regarding marital infidelities, finances, investments, and other crucial information is often found on the family computer.
Yet technology isn't the easiest thing to understand. If you were to look at a computer motherboard with all its wires, diodes, slots and soldered circuits, you'd probably wonder how it does what it does. In many respects it is like creating an engineered human brain that is designed to perform certain functions.
All in all, computers do amazing things. Emails are sliced up into manageable units called "packets" and sent around the globe in different directions only to be reassembled at their intended destination where for the user to read. Photos are transferred from one computer to another via peer to peer networks. Computer programs are downloaded from internet servers where we type in words or a numeric address and within seconds we are transported to a personal or company profile or website half way around the world. Computer programs such as Excel, Peachtree or Quicken are installed on our computer to help us maintain our finances, investments and even work with our banks to complete transactions between bank accounts.
Much of what I have described in the prior paragraph occurs through computer hard drives that contain discs spinning inside our computers in small metallic boxes at high speeds. Based upon your computer keyboard commands and the program(s) you may be running, these drives record, save, delete, move, compress, and duplicate information. Hard drives operate programs and store vast amounts of data of all kinds for all kinds of purposes. These "hard drives" are currently the epicenter for all long-term data storage on your computer by virtue of magnetic impressions placed on the hard drive/disc.
These magnetic impressions may be located in a single location of the hard drive or scattered over several sectors of a hard drive disc. The magnetic impressions are, in essence "memorized" or "tracked" by the computer to form a cohesive impression of any one piece of information.
You may have heard this before but it is worth saying again. Nothing is ever truly deleted from a hard drive. Why is this and why is it important?
First, nothing is every truly deleted from a hard drive because the impression created by any given piece of data is magnetic. Though the computer can "overwrite" a file (a peice of data) with another peice of data, it does so by creating a counter-magnetic field or a stronger magnetic field that is "more readable" by the computer in the same location as the first file's (i.e. data's) location. The computer, in turn, essentially says. . . . hey . . . don't recognize the old magnetic impression, the user has told me (the computer) that the old information is not important anymore (i.e. the user of the computer has deleted it) thus I (the computer) can use this space for something new.
Many Rhode Island divorce lawyers will not find this fascinating or even interesting. Yet even as boring as it may sound, it is crucial for today's divorce practitioner. Why? Because crucial data that could be used by or needed by your divorce lawyer may be right on that family computer's hard drive.
You see, even though you may have told your computer to delete a file, it's not really deleted. It is actually marked as . . . hey, this area can be used for something else when it's needed. So, the computer just doesn't recognize that the old file is there anymore. At least it doesn't recognize it on the screen of your computer. Yet I can assure you that it's still there and it can be recovered.
Even if your divorce lawyer needs information that you know was on the computer and the computer has said . . . hey . . . here comes a new file . . . the user/operator of this computer told us we can use the space where finances.xls used to be. Although the computer then writes a new file or part of a file to that same space, a magnetic impression still remains there. Yes, it may be a little fainter but it's still there.
So what do you do about it. Well, there are multiple levels of computer experience right now and multiple levels of technology that can help you. This is where knowledgeable computer professionals like myself come in. There's no real name to each level of technology professional but for the sake of this article I'll define them in levels.
First, you have your Level 1 Forensic Computer Analyst. These guys are the real pros of the computer technology world. They know all the technical terminology behind each and every aspect of hard drive creation, how it works, how things are saved, how things can be recovered and so on.
A Level 1 Forensic Computer Data Recovery Specialist can pull just about anything that ever existed off a hard drive if there was ever a chance of doing so and they can testify in court with a level of expertise that you would find so mind-boggling that your brain cells might actually overload from the technical information they know. Typically they prefer to work with the original hard drive, they track each step with precision so that there is no question that the data retrieved was from the exact hard drive that has been examined and that there is no doubt that the information you have been, or will be shown is from the hard drive at issue in the court case. Everything is meticulous and usually involves the actual technical dis-assembly of the hard drive itself to place the hard drive discs (often called "plates") in special machines in order to read the magnetic impressions with high-end technology that costs more than most people make in a lifetime. The hard drive is examined, verified, data is retrieved and the hard drive discs are preserved for the hearing or trial. The hard drive itself is not susceptible of being put back together again but rather remains in a disassembled state, therefore all information is backed up before the process begins so that the data the user doesn't mind you seeing is still preserved.
A Level 1 Forensic Computer Data Recovery Specialist must spend considerable time and resources to get the information you may need. It may cost as little as $20,000 or in excess of $100,000 to get the job done without question and with qualifications that place the information without question before the divorce court as authentic.
A Level 2 Forensic Computer Data Recovery Specialist has a differing level of expertise. This individual has the background to know the ins and outs of hard drives, computer storage, erasure, recovery and the various levels or retrieval achievable. Usually, he or she has the knowledge and expertise to testify as an expert at trial and is capable and confident that he or she can verify the data retrieved from the computer hard drive and testify as to its reliability on the witness stand to a reasonable degree of scientific certainty such that the information is usable in a courtroom.
The Level 2 Forensic Computer Data Recovery Specialist differs in that he or she does not disassemble the hard drive itself but uses one or more methods of obtaining information from the drive without damaging the original data or disassembling the hard drive for examination by complex magnetic examination retrieval tools. This may (or may not) involve a retrieval of the information directly from the drive by means of a recovery of only of those files containing specific information sought using direct criteria provided by the party employing the specialist to recover the data. Usually, the Level 2 Forensic Computer Data Recovery Specialist will hook up a separate computer with advanced software and/or hard drive analysis programs or complex algorythms designed to identify magnetic impressions on the drive and restore them to their original coherent form on a brand new and never used drive containing no data whatsoever so as to prevent any confusion or issues with magnetic impressions from a prior user.
As with a Level 1 Forensic Computer Data Recovery Specialist, the Level 2 Forensic Computer Data Recovery Specialist possesses the level of knowledge, education experience and ability necessary to testify in a Rhode Island divorce matter regarding the recovered information. A Level 2 Forensic Computer Data Recovery Specialist may prove costly and may reasonably range from $10,000 to as much as $40,000 due to his or her level of experience, the time-consuming nature of the work that needs to be performed, and the specialist's ability to testify in a professional capacity as a qualified expert before the Rhode Island family court.
A Level 3 Forensic Computer Data Recovery Specialist fills a very important gap that the other two specialists do not adequately address. The process used by the Level 3 Forensic Computer Data Recovery Specialist provides substantial value to the client while still addressing two important factors that are important to many clients regarding more recent computer usage and/or deletions that may have taken place on the computer, these factors are . . . price and knowledge.
The Level 3 Specialist has enough knowledge and information through education and/or experience to properly create a forensic duplicate of the hard drive to be examined for the Rhode Island lawyer who has engaged him or her.
The Level 3 Specialist has enough knowledge to allow the lawyer seeking to compel the computer to make representations to the court that nothing will be added to, removed from or otherwise modified on the original hard drive and that upon completion of the forensic copying process the hard drive will be returned to the computer owner completely intact.
This unique process for the Level 3 Specialist enables the Rhode Island lawyer to make a stronger argument for the production of the computer or simply the hard drive from the computer because the computer user suffers no prejudice except for a nominal loss of time while a forensic copy of the hard drive is being made.
The Level 3 Specialist then has a forensic copy of the original computer hard drive, complete with all magnetic impressions literally in layers throughout the hard drive. Using the forensic copy of the hard drive the Level 3 Specialist is able to use modern day advanced recovery programs to examine as many layers of the forensic drive capable by each software program based upon the format of the forensic drive.
The Level 3 Specialist can then perform a complete recovery of all data files whose magnetic impressions are sufficiently intact for the data in the magnetic impression to be retrieved. This will always be done to a new drive that is at least one and one-half to two times the size of the original forensic hard drive being examined in order to account for the recovery of countless files on varying magnetic layers of the forensic drive. Many times the software may endeavor to identify the particular layer the magnetic impression exists on and help the forensic specialist determine by the recovery program's standards whether the file was a recent deletion or an original file from the first installation of the operating system or perhaps an upgrade overwrite of a system file.
The Level 3 Specialist's job is often times very time consuming since the creation of a forensic copy is a tedious process and the specialist may want to identify areas of damage on the drive during the copying process. Additionally, the recovery process is extensive and requires a sector by sector analysis of the forensic copy. The amount of time that may be expended by the specialist in the forensic copying process as well as the recovery process depends upon several variables including but not limited to, the size of the hard drive to be duplicated, the power of the computer performing the duplication process, the speed of the new hard drive accepting the forensic information, and the type of connection it has to the processing computer.
Likewise, the amount of time necessarily expended by the Level 3 Specialist in the forensic recovery process depends upon the the size of the forensic hard drive being recovered from, the processor power and memory of the computer
allocated to performing the recovery process on the forensic hard drive, the acquisition speed of the new hard drive
for accepting the forensic data being recovered, and the type of connection both between the forensic hard drive and the processing computer, and also the connection between the processing computer and the target recovery drive, the sophistication and number of recovery programs the Level 3 Specialist uses to recover the data, and lastly the number of layers that are recoverable from the forensic hard drive.
The drawback of a Level 3 Specialist is that he or she has the knowledge to perform the work necessary to determine whether information is readily available and to recover that readily available information, but he or she is not likely to have the knowledge or experience the court requires to testify as to the information recovered. Thus the Level 3 Specialist is primarily for a cost effective benefit for the client perhaps as to a settlement posture or to determine whether further action should be taken but not as an expert to testify at court.
As I mentioned previously, the two beneficial needs filled by the Level 3 Computer Data Recovery Specialist are price and knowledge. A Level 3 Specialist will cost between $2,000 and $6,000 depending upon the size of the hard drive. The price is considerably less than either the Level 1 or Level 2 Computer Data Recovery Specialists and thus this price difference may make a Level 3 Specialist the right choice for a client who believes that information about the marriage and/or finances (or whatever you may be looking for) was on the hard drive within the last six (6) to eight (8) months.
Generally speaking, the more recently the data existed on the hard drive, the more likely it is to be recovered.
The second benefit filled by the Level 3 Computer Data Recovery Specialist is knowledge. Sometimes a party may not know if there is anything on the computer that will be helpful to him or her, or the difficulty of recovery of information known to exist at one time on the computer.
Ultimately, a Rhode Island divorce client may want to spend less money to have a software recovery performed to give him or her more knowledge about whether helpful information is readily retrievable before deciding to hire a higher level specialist. It makes sense. Why pay more for a retrieval specialist simply because he or she can testify about the findings by virtue of his or her credentials? You may be paying only for credentials because the process is helpful to you, if and only if, information helpful to your case is actually discovered on the computer hard drive.
The Level 3 Computer Data Recovery Specialist is able to give you the knowledge as to whether there is readily obtainable information that will help your case on the computer hard drive. While this is certainly no guarantee that the Level 3 Specialist has found all data that is possibly retrievable on the hard drive, you are able to do a cost/benefit analysis as to whether it is beneficial to you to engage a more costly specialist who will retrieve even more information and also have the ability to testify at the time of trial.
Recently a divorce colleague in Rhode Island used a forensic computer data recovery specialist who retrieved information showing that one spouse had concealed millions of dollars in marital assets from the other spouse. A substantial portion of the information leading to the discovery was contained on the spouse's computer. Without using a computer data recovery specialist, one spouse would have been cheated out of millions of dollars.
What is the true value of a Forensic Computer Data Recovery Specialist at any level?
Priceless ! ! !
Christopher A. Pearsall
Level 3 Forensic Computer Data Recovery Specialist
70 Dogwood Drive, Suite 304
West Warwick, RI 02893
Call (401) 632-6976 Now for your low-cost consultation.
Rhode Island's Most Affordable Divorce* Lawyer & Family Law* Attorney
Copyright 2008. Christopher A. Pearsall
A New Rhode Island Divorce Lawyer for a New Millenium!
*The Rhode Island Supreme Court licenses all attorneys in the general practice of law.
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