Software capable of reassembling deleted photos

Chicago (IL) – Images can be deleted accidentally, or even willingly, but most individuals are under the impression that once their photos are gone, they are gone for good. However, this is not always the case. In fact, retrieving images, though it’s difficult at times, is sometimes quite possible — even after they’ve been cleared out from your recycle bin.

With ever advancing technology, it is now possible for software to find and reassemble photos which have been fragmented, even if the directions for locating the files have been deleted. Nasir Nemon, a professor at the Polytechnic Institute of New York University, and also a computer scientist, has developed the software.

The software uses a sophisticated file carving technique, which restores the contents of a file after the identifying information which goes with it has either been lost or removed.

For consumer use, the software can be purchased via Digital Assembly, which sells the program Adroit Photo Recovery for $39.99. The software cannot recover partial images if parts of the original image have been overwritten with new data, but it can recover photos where all of the data is present, even if it is scattered across the entire hard drive.

This software serves not only the purpose of recovering photos which have accidentally been deleted by consumers, but also could aid law enforcement in the restoration of photos which have been purposefully deleted — for instance in child pornography cases, where forensic analysis by police officers could help gather information for cases.

Typically, when a photo need to be restored and all of the data is present it is quite simple and standard forensic software can accomplish it. This program would be able to recreate images that have lost some data and stored location information on the hard drive.

A version of the program will be incorporated into Forensic Toolkit, which is software designed for digital investigators from the AccessData Corporation in Lindo Utah.

Programs such as this are not typical. The program Dr. Memon has created reassembles the JPEG format for digital images, though the method can be applied to other image types.

JPEG uses a lossy compression algorithm which, in modern digital cameras, allows photographs to be 50% or smaller relative to their uncompressed size, but without sacrificing much notable picture quality except in extreme close-ups. This lossy compression also mandates that an internal file structure be maintained throughout the image file, otherwise some portions of the file may be damaged and will decode improperly — often visible as miscolored blocks when decoded. This new software compensates for that loss as best it can, leaving out damaged portions, allowing somewhat damaged files to be reconstructed with as much uncorrupted data as possible with the fragments which remain.

This program has both its pros and cons, as latent images could potentially raise issues for individuals who have made poor choices either legally or personally. For example, although a consumer deleted photos from their memory cards and cameras prior to selling them or giving them as a gift, it may be possible to reconstruct the images. People typically assume that when they have deleted their images, they are deleted. But they have actually only deleted the table of contents, meaning with the proper software, image of a potentially personal nature could be quickly and easily restored.