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Murder suspect released after 8TB lost in botched police network migration

A murder suspect was released from prison ahead of their trial after a US police force deleted terabytes of data — including critical case files — during a botched network drive migration project.

Worse: the total number and identification of case files deleted in the migration remains completely unknown.

The migration’s failure was revealed in a letter [pdf] from the Dallas County district attorney’s office quietly published on August 11. This revealed on August 6, 2021, “the Dallas Police Department (DPD) and City of Dallas Information and Technology Services Department (ITS)… discovered in April 2021 that multiple Terabytes of DPD data had been deleted during a data migration of a DPD network drive.”

“Approximately 14 Terabytes of data were recovered, but approximately 8 Terabytes remain missing and are believed to be unrecoverable”, the public letter noted, suggesting that “as we understand it today, this data loss applies to cases with offense dates before July 28, 2020. Additionally, this issue does not affect “direct file” cases, i.e., cases without a detective…” (in short, it is the more serious ones that are missing).

Among those facing a temporary reprieve as a result is murder suspect Jonathan Pitts — accused of shooting and killing Shun Handy in 2019. As CBSN reports, he was released on bail because prosecutors were reviewing their records to see if any evidence in this case had been erased and weren’t ready for trial.

Fortunately for prosecutors, they seem to have found the files they need. In court filings August 20, prosecutors in Dallas said they will be ready to move forward at the next trial setting, CBSN reported.

Both to avoid such incidents and to mitigate the risk of ransomware attacks, it is vital to keep multiple backups and to logically separate them. The most common method for creating resilient data backups is to follow the “3-2-1” rule; at least three copies, on two devices, and one offsite.

Earlier this year the UK’s Home Office managed to lose 400,000 criminal evidence records from a Fujitsu-provided mainframe backup appliance. In a letter, National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) deputy chief constable Naveed Malik said some 213,000 offence records, 175,000 arrest records and 15,000 person records had potentially been deleted in error.

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