Crimewatch: Austin company helps solve crimes

Crimewatch: Austin company helps solve crimes

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An Austin company is helping more law enforcement agencies solve crimes.

Flashback Data specializes in data recovery and computer forensics. Vice President, Russell Chozick, says his company also focuses on research and development, describing the process as a bit like building Frankenstein.

For example, he says his company is coming up with a way to extract information from Android devices and read it in its raw format. Most of what Flashback Data does is extract data from damaged hard drives or flash drives.

"There's tons of data recovery companies out there that aren't equipped to handle investigations and all the way up to testify in court and on the other side of the spectrum, there are tons of computer forensic companies that don't have the technology and know how to recover damaged media," said President Damon O'Connell.

They conduct corporation investigations, civil litigations and increasingly more, criminal cases.

"Child pornography cases, kidnapping cases that we were involved with, we've actually had two homicide investigations that we've assisted with this year," said Director of Forensics, Will Ambruzs.

For security reasons, the company says it can't name exact departments but they include law enforcement from Texas and across the country, the department of defense, and foreign governments, like Mexico.

"They've been coming to us because what's taking six to eight months or longer to get turned around at some of the regional computer forensics labs, I think there is less than ten in the U.S., we can turn that stuff around in days," said O'Connell.

Such sensitive information requires security. One door has to shut before a second door opens to the first lab. A fingerprint is needed to get into a second lab and the evidence room. Evidence is stored in a metal cage under lock and key.

As technology changes, encryption becomes a challenge.

So as Apple is set to release its highly anticipated iPhone 5, Flashback Data plans to buy several and take them apart.

"Because their encryption is the same as our government's to protect sensitive information, information sensitive to national security, same standard," said O'Connell.

"Apple rigidly controls its back end. They make it an interesting challenge for us," he said.

What started out with three employees in an Austin home in 2004, the company is now in its third location.

Flashback Data is also one of the few private labs that is internationally accredited. The same accreditation the FBI uses.

The company's growth is on track to continue as more law enforcement agencies seek its help.

Depending on the complexity of the case, Flashback Data generally charges about $250 an hour.

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