AES Encrypted Recovery

Although data can be recovered from encrypted drives where the password and / or key files can be obtained, one should be very wary of any data recovery company that simply tells you “sure, we can recover that with no problem”.  Where an encrypted drive is not mounted on a running computer system, it would take approximately 5.6 times the current age of the universe to break 128 bit AES encryption – given that every person on the planet has 10 computers concurrently working on the problem.

Seagate corporation released a white paper entitled “128–bit Versus 256–bit AES Encryption” which posits this calculation, and there’s an informative article which describes the unbreakable security of this AES encryption system from the viewpoint of estate planning entitled “Data Encryption and Estate Planning for Incapacity and Death“.  This article goes on to explain:

So, by multiplying by the number of seconds in a year instead of dividing by that number, it would take about 77 billion years to guess the password of a single 128–bit AES–encrypted file or hard drive (77,022,341,629.5 years).

According to NASA, the age of the universe is about 13.7 billion years, give or take 0.13 billion years. So, with the example above, it would take about 5.6 times longer than the age of the universe to guess the password of a single 128–bit AES–encrypted file or hard drive. If we want to guess the password of a second 128–bit AES–encrypted file or hard drive, it would take an additional 77 billion years! That’s why I say that a strong password plus strong encryption can make it practically impossible to access a person’s data if you don’t know the password.

The morale of the story here is you should know who to trust when you call a data recovery company, and be wary of anyone that gives you a simple answer just to get your drive through their door so they can poke around and use trial-and-error methods with something they’re not familiar with.