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PGP (.pgd) file opens with passphrase, but contents are no longer there.

Posted on 2007-11-20
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I have been using a PGP virtual disk for over a year that has grown to over 25GB in size.  This file resides on a 1TB RAID-5 array on a system that is protected by redundant APCs and routed through 3 switches to protect it as much as possible from any anomalies such as lightning / surges / blackouts.  I do this because I rarely have time to maintain my own stuff.  Onto the point - - All has been well until last night, at which point I opened this file using my passphrase (which was cached because I had opened the file the night before), it mounted to drive M: as usual, but there was only a single Word document on M: - None of my folders or files were to be found.  Everything had been there the night before, and nothing was shutdown or restarted, nothing automatically updates on my systems, and I am the only person with physical access.  My systems all use independent randomly generated passwords that are roughly 20 characters long, so a "hack" is an extremely doubtful probability.
To check the file as much as I knew how, I copied it to an external drive, and then ran a "Compact Unused Space" action on the copy, which did not change its file size at all, leading me to believe there is something there, but for whatever reason, it no longer shows up, no matter which system I use to open the file.
I have spoken with PGP's Tech Support, to which their only answer was "pull from your backup copy" - which is unfortunately 2 months old due to the fact that the system reliability made me feel comfortable to the point of letting backups go to the back burner.  The worst part is, is that performing backups more frequently could be a bad thing - Considering the file was working when I used it last, if it had backed up that night automatically, then my backup would have been replaced by this file that magically emptied itself.
So the question is, Has anybody ever experienced this situation, or otherwise know of a solution to the problem?  The folks over at PGP cannot explain this and say they have never had this exact problem before, so they were largely unable to help out.
Thanks in advance for any answers that do help!  Matt
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Question by:MNTTS
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4 Comments
 
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Dave Howe earned 2000 total points
ID: 20333514
once mounted, you can run conventional disk-recovery tools against the mounted volume. I would suggest you mount a *copy* of the pgp drive, then run tools such as GetDataBack against the logical drive letter.
I have successfully recovered deleted files from a truecrypt volume using that method.
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Author Comment

by:MNTTS
ID: 20347549
DaveHowe,
I have attempted such recovery using EZRecovery with no luck, but I will try the software you recommend and post back with my results.... EZRecovery wouldn't allow me to select the drive, as it apparently only "sees" physical drives and their partitions.
Thanks,
Matt
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Author Comment

by:MNTTS
ID: 20347952
This worked successfully for me - The software recognized the virtual disk as a logical drive... The only (slight) downside is that the software had a pricetag, but that's minor considering it recovered 23.9GB of data (the entirety it would appear).  Thank you for your comment and providing the solution to this nagging problem (which appears to be very common, unfortunately).  A piece of advice I will share that I have found - rather than backing up the encrypted file itself, as I was doing, it is more wise to create a second virtual disk on another media, mount both, and do a file synchronization between the two virtual disks.  This helps ensure the backup copy is populated, and you're not copying a potentially corrupt file over the last backup that was good!  Thanks Again, Matt
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LVL 33

Expert Comment

by:Dave Howe
ID: 20348843
yeah. Downside - its commercial software. Upside it isn't EXPENSIVE commercial software (compared to the cost of a data recovery center), and its worth every penny. my copy has paid for itself at least a dozen times over.

one of the problems with encryption is that a lot of data recovery places won't touch it - I suspect that will change now vista has drive crypto bundled in, but I also suspect the prices will reflect the fact that you can't just download a cheap tool from the internet to compete against them :)

perhaps you can sell your services as an experienced *encrypted partition* data recovery expert now? :)
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