Spilled Coffee, Dropped, and Infected: What Data Disasters Look Like


We’ve all been there in one way or another. Dropping a phone in the pool, knocking a laptop off the arm of the couch, or spilling coffee on your keyboard. Here are some tips and tricks to prepare for these accidents and what to do after the fact.

Dropped Bumped Smashed

  • Cracked screens on laptops, tablets, and phones. Good news, your data is likely still safe even if you can’t see anything on your screen and can be easily recovered.
  • Physical damage to internal data storage (hard disk drive or HDD) can present in a few ways and is most frequently caused by drops or bumps. You may hear an unusual revving or clicking sound, see an error message ‘no boot disk found’, or have random blue-screens/shut downs. This is far more likely to happen to a laptop as it uses a mechanical hard disk for recording information, where as all tablets and phones use flash memory. Solid State Drives are large versions of flash memory and will be found in many Ultrabooks and high end Laptops. While these types of memory storage also can fail, the risk is substantially reduced when compared to a traditional hard disk drive. We can perform data recoveries on physically damaged disks or setup a secure and encrypted backup to prevent catastrophic data loss.

Water Coffee Rain

  • Spilled coffee on your laptop keyboard sucks but chances are good your laptop can still be saved if you act quickly. You should promptly turn off your device and remove the battery as well–time counts here. Cleaning as much of the moisture off as you can by pressing paper towels against the keyboard or any other cracks it found itself in. Most importantly, do not turn on your device for several days to allow time for all moisture within it to evaporate. Water only will damage circuitry in the presence of electricity. You could safely dunk a laptop into a pool that was powered off with no battery in it and use it again once it was fully dry, though I would not recommend testing this out yourself.
  • Phone fell into the pool. Similar to above, you want to recover the device and power it off immediately and remove the battery. Dry the phone off as thoroughly as possible with paper towels. Afterwards, place your device in a sock or wrap it in breathable fabric and place it into a container of rice. This will wick out remaining moisture. Leave the device in the rice for at least a day. Turning on your device while there is still moisture in it will cause permanent damage.
  • Data can usually be recovered from water damaged devices.

Surges and Fire

  • Camping and lost track of your phone or tablet only to find it half in the fire? Depending on the extent of the damage, your data might be recoverable. Circuitry melts at relatively low temperature. It is critical that your important data is kept in a secondary location such as a secure encrypted cloud.
  • Lightening, Surges, Blown Fuses and more can cause unexpected power disruptions for devices that can result in them becoming ‘fried’. Electrical abnormalities can occur through not only power cords, but also Ethernet cables, coax cables, and phone lines. All of these an result in damage to network equipment and computers.  It is important that a high quality surge protector (not to be confused with a simple power strip) to reduce this risk.

Infected – Viruses, Adware, Spyware, Scareware, Bloatware, and…RANSOMWARE

  • Malware infections are serious business, particularly for businesses. Malware varies from harmless to annoying to frightening to catastrophic. Devices can prematurely fail due to being overworked by malware in the background. Workstations can become hosts that spread malware to other systems on the network or to external sources, often by email or instant messenger. One of the worst forms of malware in the business world is known as Ransomware.
  • Ransomware. When ransomware infects a computer, it often does so silently and can remain dormant on a system for weeks or months before activating. Once this software activates, it searches out and encrypts all user information on the device including shared network folders, attached storage such as external hard drives, network devices such as servers or other workstations, and even cloud storage isn’t always safe. Once all data is encrypted, the only way to reclaim the data if a proper backup solution wasn’t in place is to pay the ransom. Many hospitals have been forced to do this recently, given lives were on the line and this information was critical to saving them.
  • Prevention: Up to date quality antivirus protection. Business class firewall. Proper network security configurations. Keep all systems fully up to date with the latest operating systems and third party software. Deploy information security policies on how data is interacted with to reduce infection risks.
  • Disaster and Recovery Planning: There is no fool proof method to prevent malware infections. Prepare for the worst by having a strong disaster and recovery plan in place.

Unexpected Hardware Failure

  • Unfortunately, this can happen at anytime. The risk is higher for low-quality, low-cost laptops and desktops due to the use of traditional hard drives and other low-cost parts. Even the highest quality devices on the market however can still unexpectedly fail. Regular system tune-ups, using a surge protector, keeping your system malware free, and using a solid state hard drive can significantly reduce unexpected hardware failures.

Software Corruption

  • Operating systems are complex, often involving hundreds of thousands of system and configuration files and processes. It only takes one getting damaged to cause the whole system to become unstable or even crash. Keeping systems properly maintained is critical to reducing the risk of unexpected software failures.

Data Corruption

  • This can happen due to slowly failing hard drives, unexpected system restarts, or crashing software. Data is delicate and easily damaged to the point it can not be interacted with.

User Error

  • 53% of data loss is from user error. These situations are not always as black and white as ‘they should have known better’. Sometimes the simple act of doing what they might normally do day to day can cause unexpected data loss or corruption.

We are partnered with the world class data protection company, Datto. Having a plan in place in the event of any of the above listed scenarios is critical to your businesses continuity. We can also perform simple to complex data recoveries, thanks in part due to our partnership with Drive Savers. Give us a call for a free consultation.

Christina Grady is the founder and owner of Occubit Technology Solutions. She has been fascinated by the role technology plays in everyday life since she was a child taking apart VCR's and remote control cars. Her passion for helping others creates a perfect bond with her IT background.

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