Vitaliy, it’s been a year since we last met to discuss the progress Atola was making developing its technology and TaskForce’s integration into Magnet AUTOMATE. And what a year that was! What has Atola accomplished since and how are you doing today?
Yes, this is a year to remember! No conferences, excessive stress in communities worldwide, adaptation to distributed work practices… We definitely faced the same challenges. That said, I already look at 2020 with a sense of accomplishment and pride. Most importantly, not only did we avoid letting people go or cutting salaries: on the contrary, Atola had two performance reviews resulting in improved compensation packages for our teammates.
Product-wise, both Atola Insight Forensic and Atola TaskForce got a few software updates each, and more are coming soon. The development of hardware, which I can’t announce at the moment, progressed fast and will become available for our customers sooner than previously anticipated. And finally, this was also the most successful year for us financially. So we look into the future with optimism and the drive to achieve more.
Atola made quite a splash this year by introducing the RAID functionality. How is your solution different from others available in the market and how can the examiners using TaskForce benefit from the RAID module?
This is the most innovative feature we introduced this year. In TaskForce 2020.7 we automated reassembly of a RAID array even with an unknown configuration, and acquisition of a reassembled RAID in a forensically sound manner.
The magic of TaskForce’s RAID module lies in its high degree of automation, amplified by the impact of the great UX design of TaskForce software. Imagine receiving 6 drives and no information about the RAID they once constituted. Given the variety of parameters in play (RAID type, drive order, block size, etc.), trying out all the possible configurations to find the correct one manually could take hours, if not days.
But when you have Atola TaskForce, RAID configuration detection is started in a few clicks, runs automatically, takes a fraction of the time and looks absolutely miraculous. It also means that no technical expertise is needed to assemble massive and complex RAIDs. TaskForce lifts any barriers on your way to getting evidence from an anonymous RAID that landed on your desk.
This is a unique solution in digital forensics, and my dev team aims to enhance RAID support with each firmware update by adding new RAID types, file systems and more automation.
At first, it was the automated data recovery, and later, high-performance imaging that gained Atola its recognition as a producer of some of the best imagers, uniquely capable of tackling the toughest cases. Which functionality is currently at the focus of your team’s efforts?
Advanced imaging features are our top priority. I can’t disclose all our plans, but among other things, we are going to devote more time to partition decryption. Our ambition is to provide the most effective forensic imagers in the world which:
- Minimize image acquisition time.
- Support damaged drives.
- Are highly adaptable to the needs and environment of each examiner and organization.
And we know how to achieve it all.
The functioning of organizations worldwide has been affected by the pandemic. How has your development and customer support changed during this time?
We certainly felt limited in terms of traveling and having in-person conversations with customers, and it made getting in-depth product feedback more complicated. Our development process encountered a bit of slowdown during March and April, but we caught up once we adjusted to the new circumstance and felt the drive to implement innovative product ideas again.
We did face some production delays with the new magnetic cover for TaskForce before it finally got released in September. Other than that, our customer support has not been affected at all, which we take particular pride in: traditionally, Atola has a reputation of a company with a customer satisfaction rate of 99%.
A question that many of us can relate to: In the absence of regular events for the digital forensics community, how has your company filled the void? Do you feel in touch with your customers and other market players today?
The global crisis and subsequent restrictions prompted businesses to look for new opportunities and adapt to the current situation. For instance, our sales and marketing organized the Atola Virtual Booth, a new format of exclusive video chats with Atola’s customers and value added resellers, to exchange information, ideas and feedback.
I am glad to see the rapid growth of various online forensic communities, in particular the Digital Forensics Discord Server. The ability to ask a work-related question and learn from your peers’ experiences is absolutely invaluable. For us, it is a great way of giving fast feedback when asked about our products and receiving practical information about various situations, solutions and concerns that our customers come across in their work. It is a quick, modern, and responsive way of communicating.
What is your take on the current state of affairs in the industry? What kind of trends do you see emerging or evolving?
With more and more digital forensic tools entering the market, I expect a surge of improved user experience provided by vendors. There are so many things competing for your attention, it is more difficult than ever to decide what to focus on.
The new DFIR tools should admit the challenge and make their users’ lives easier, eliminate needless choices and create an effortless user experience. As distant as it may sound from forensic technology, our users are people like everybody else. If learning to focus your attention helps understand your feelings and thoughts, then, as a result, better UX in forensic tools helps examiners become happier and more effective at their work.
Finally, as we are approaching 2021, what is next for you and can we expect exciting news coming from Atola?
I am very optimistic about 2021! I foresee new products coming out and more software releases for Atola TaskForce and Atola Insight Forensic. Also, we are looking to hire more engineers next year since the company goals have never been this daring.
Last but not least, I hope to see everybody in Myrtle Beach and at other DFIR conferences in 2021!