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Data Recovery Method – Chip Off and JTAG

2019-04-09 Technology No comment

There are two main techniques for handling mobile data recovery and flash recovery. Both techniques allow data recovery engineers to access low-level images of data by interrogating NAND memory chips, although they are very different. Mobile phones, flash drives, and solid-state drives rely on memory chips to store information compared to hard drives that use rotating disks and read/write heads.

For hard drives, they all tend to use a common method to store data, which means that data recovery tools can be generic. On the other hand, flash devices vary a lot, with a rich variety of data formats, file structures, algorithms, memory types and configurations, and data extractors are often "device-specific". This means that the only way to obtain a bit copy of the original data is to directly interrogate the memory chip, effectively bypassing the operating system. This is where the chip off and JTAG technology come into play.

The first method is the chip off method. This technique requires the memory chip to be soldered from the circuit. In order to remove the chip from the device without causing any damage, precise skill is required under the microscope, because any minor error can permanently lose all data. After the chip is removed, it can be read using the data extractor. NAND chips are usually easier to read than other types of chips, usually SD cards and iPhones. This is due to the fact that the memory architecture and pin configuration are standardized. The pins are on the outside, meaning there is no need to rebuild the connector. Other common types of chips [such as BGAs] have multiple connectors on the underside that are soldered directly to motherboards with thousands of different configurations and are therefore more difficult to remove.

The second method is JTAG, which does not require the chip to be removed. Data recovery engineers can sometimes access memory through the JTAG port. This is a much longer process and will not damage the media. This means that it can remain in working condition, which is sometimes a key requirement for forensic investigations. The downside of this approach is that it is not always so successful and may be a more risky option.

Both methods generate a low-level image, then "decode" and reconstruct the user's data. Both chip shutdown and JTAG technology are evolving and becoming more reliable, which means that the success rate of data recovery for mobile phones is almost as good as that of hard drives.

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