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Case Closed: Seagate Recovery Team Helps Solve Gold Heist

By Steve Pipe

It sounds like something from a TV cop show.

Two men break into a gold store, kill two of the shop’s employees and leave with merchandise valued at nearly $200,000. The police turn to high-tech forensics techniques to crack the case.

This crime wasn’t concocted in a Hollywood writers’ room—it really happened. But Seagate was honored to play a key role in helping law-enforcement authorities capture a pair of killers.

The crime occurred recently in Changwu county, located in the northern Chinese province of Shanxi. Changwu police found themselves at an impasse. The robbers made sure there were no witnesses to identify them, and they smashed the store’s surveillance camera and DVR. Although the DVR’s hard drive was badly damaged, police knew the data on that  drive was probably their only chance at bringing the criminals to justice.

Police Contact Seagate Suzhou
After a failed data-recovery attempt by another agency, the Changwu police traveled to Seagate’s Suzhou facility to see if the company could assist. Seagate’s Suzhou engineering and security teams quickly ascertained that they didn’t have the necessary tools or expertise to salvage data from the damaged surveillance drive, so they reached out to the company’s data-recovery experts in the U.S.

Suzhou site security manager WeiWei Feng and her colleague, Jin Hong, helped expedite shipping the drive to Seagate’s U.S. recovery team.

After receiving the drive from China, the Seagate Recovery Services team found media damage in the form of “head slaps,” which are small scratch marks caused by contact with the read/write heads “like divots on a golf course,” explained Craig Jones, senior manager, data recovery client services.

The SRS team also found damage to the drive’s firmware modules, further complicating the recovery job.

SRS Team Goes to Work
Seagate’s recovery team first repaired the damage to the drive’s firmware modules. Next, they performed a “transplant” of the read/write head, putting a new head in place. Once that was done, the recovery team made a sector by sector duplication of the data, Jones explained, placing the “good” data onto a cloned external drive. In all, the SRS team obtained 395GB of intact data (or 5,586 files) and 49GB of damaged files (674 files).

“It was definitely one of our more difficult recoveries,” Jones said.

A little more than two weeks after receiving the drive, the SRS team shipped the recovered data back to Seagate Suzhou, which delivered the drive to Changwu police.

“We accessed the data and looked for the surveillance video clips on the day of the crime,” said a Changwu police official in a subsequent letter of appreciation to Seagate Suzhou. “We were able to identify the suspects and dispatched two teams of elite agents to apprehend them.”

One suspect was arrested in Inner Mongolia and the other was captured in Henan Province, located in central China.

“We believe that Seagate played a key role in helping us crack the case and made great contributions in the investigation,” said the Changwu official. “The teamwork, energy, interdepartmental cooperation and outstanding professional skills exhibited by Seagate greatly impressed all the police officers in the investigation.”

SRS General Manager Paul Steele  said it’s particularly gratifying any time the company can lend a helping hand to solve crime.

“So many times, police officers have to sit down and talk with family members who’ve lost their loved ones, and that’s a very difficult thing to do,” he said. “For us to make their jobs a little easier and make society a little safer, that’s a really cool thing to be part of. I’m really proud that our company can reach across organizations and get the job done.”

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