Investigations

Can evidence be salvaged from Lanza's computer?

Friday, December 21, 2012

It's at an FBI computer Lab in Virginia where Adam Lanza's damaged hard drive is undergoing electronic analysis.

Whether investigators can salvage any information will depend on the extent of the damage to the discs or platters inside the drive.

"If these platters are intact law enforcement can read data from those platters," Eric Friedberg of Stroz/ Friedberg said.

He said even if hardware and electronics are damaged, data can be retrieved.

Friedberg is a reknowned computer forensic crime expert. His company Stroz/Friedberg has retrieved information from damaged hard drives in big criminal cases and in terrorism investigations. His firm is not involved in this investigation. However, Friedberg says even if reports are true that Lanza took a hammer or screw driver to his discs, retrieval of some information is still possible: "Still theoretically possible to get information off that disc, so may not get a whole file or whole email but partial email," Friedberg said.

But what if Lanza destroyed those discs? Does his digital trail disappear? : "The digital footprint is not erased because the hard drive goes," Tony Fish, computer expert, said.

Fish, author of the book Digital Footprint, says while Lanza did not have a Facebook or Twitter account, he likely had an email account, such as G-Mail or Yahoo!

"It means they have a copy of that data as well and because they have a copy of that data, it's available to be searched and indexed and recovered. So the data is there," Fish said.

Lanza liked computers. He belonged to his high school tech club. While he reportedly tried to destroy his digital clues, it's nearly impossible to erase completely one's web footprint: "Having snippets of information can put you on a good enough lead allowing you to unlock things," Fish said.

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