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Forensic Analysis Challenges: Shifting from HDD to SDD Storage



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Journal of Information Systems Security
Volume 12, Number 3 (2016)
Pages 131149
ISSN 1551-0123 (Print)
ISSN 1551-0808 (Online)
Allen Benusa — Ridgewater College, USA
Shajive Jeganathan — St. Cloud State University, USA
Mark Schmidt — St. Cloud State University, USA
Information Institute Publishing, Washington DC, USA




The standard for built-in storage in personal computers (PCs) since the mid 1980’s has been the hard disk drive (HDD), also known as a “spindle drive”. HDDs have a hard disk controller that writes data to the surfaces only when the host device, typically a PC, sends specific write commands to the drive. Fast forward 30 years later to 2015 where there is now a rapid shift towards solid state drives (SSDs). Unlike spindle HHDs, SSDs have an intelligent microcontroller that performs read/write operations to the flash storage autonomously from the PC host device. Therefore even when a SSD is not receiving write commands from a PC, the flash memory controller may perform write operations. To complicate matters, the flash memory controller implements a wear leveling algorithm where data may be shuffled from memory block to memory block. The rapid change from spindle drives to SSDs pose new challenges to the forensic investigator in retrieving information. Traditional HDD forensic methods have limited use with SSDs. This paper and accompanying presentation will present the differences between HDD and SSD technologies, differences between HDD and SSD forensic methods, and where the future of mainstream storage technologies and forensic analysis are headed. We will also present results of an experiment of writing and deleting identical data to a spindle drive and a SSD and show the resulting forensic analysis.




Digital Forensics, Solid State Drives, SSD, Hard Disk Drive, HHD, Forensic Analysis, Experiment




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