Research Topics

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Interested in doing research in computer forensics? Looking for a master's topic, or just some ideas for a research paper? Here is our list. Please feel free to add your own ideas.

Many of these would make a nice master's project.

Small Programming Projects

  • Modify bulk_extractor so that it can directly acquire a raw device under Windows. This requires replacing the current open function call with a CreateFile function call and using windows file handles.
  • Create a program that visualizes the contents of a file, sort of like hexedit, but with other features:
    • Automatically pull out the strings
    • Show histogram
    • Detect crypto and/or stenography.
    • (I would write the program in java with a plug-in architecture)
  • Extend fiwalk to report the NTFS "inodes."

Big Programming Projects

  • Write Carver 2.0
  • Create a method to detect NTFS-compressed cluster blocks on a disk (RAW data stream). A method could be to write a generic signature to detect the beginning of NTFS-compressed file segments on a disk. This method is useful in carving and scanning for textual strings.

Reverse-Engineering Projects

  • Physical layer access to flash storage.
    • Gain access to the physical layer of SD or USB flash storage device. This will require reverse-engineering the proprietary APIs or gaining access to proprietary information from the manufacturers. Use these APIs to demonstrate the feasibility of recovering residual data that has been overwritten at the logical layer but which is still present at the physical layer.

SleuthKit Enhancements

SleuthKit is the popular open-source system for forensics and data recovery.

  • Add support for a new file system:
    • The YAFFS flash file system. (YAFFS2 is currently used on the Google G1 phone.) (ViaForensics is currently working on this)
    • The JFFS2 flash file system. (JFFS2 is currently used on the One Laptop Per Child laptop.)
    • XFAT, Microsoft's new FAT file system.
    • EXT4 (JHUAPL is currently working on this)
  • Enhance support for an existing file system:
    • Report the physical location on disk of compressed files.
    • Add support for NTFS encrypted files (EFS)
    • Extend SleuthKit's implementation of NTFS to cover Transaction NTFS (TxF) (see NTFS)
  • Write a FUSE-based mounter for SleuthKit, so that disk images can be forensically mounted using TSK.
  • Rewrite sorter in C++ to make it faster and more flexible.

EnCase Enhancement

  • Develop an EnScript that allows you to script EnCase from Python. (You can do this because EnScripts can run arbitrary DLLs. The EnScript calls the DLL. Each "return" from the DLL is a specific EnCase command to execute. The EnScript then re-enters the DLL.)

Timeline Analysis

Timeline Visualization and Analysis
Write a new timeline viewer that supports Logfile fusion (with offsets) and provides the ability to view the logfile in the frequency domain.

Research Areas

These are research areas that could easily grow into a PhD thesis.

Stream-based Forensics
Process the entire disk with one pass to minimize seek time. (You may find it necessary to do a quick metadata scan first.)
Stegnography Detection (general purpose)
Detect the use of stegnography by through the analysis of file examplars and specifications.
Sanitization Detection
Detect and diagnose sanitization attempts.
Compressed Data Reconstruction
Reconstruct decompressed data from a GZIP file after the first 1K has been removed.
Evidence Falsification Detection
Automatically detect falsified digital evidence through the use of inconsistency in file system allocations, application data allocation, and log file analysis.
Visualization of data/information in digital forensic context
SWOT of current visualization techniques in forensic tools; improvements; feasibility of 3D representation;


  • Logfile correlation
  • Document identity identification
  • Correlation between stored data and intercept data
  • Online Social Network Analysis
    • Find and download in a forensically secure manner all of the information in a social network (e.g. Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.) associated with a targeted individual.
    • Determine who is searching for a targeted individual. This might be done with a honeypot, or documents with a tracking device in them, or some kind of covert Facebook App.
  • Automated grouping/annotation of low-level events, e.g. access-time, log-file entry, to higher-level events, e.g. program start, login