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.

Programming/Engineering Projects

Small-Sized Projects

  • Rewrite SleuthKit sorter in C++ to make it faster and more flexible.
  • Modify tcpflow's iptree.h implementation so that it only stores discriminating bit prefixes in the tree, similar to D. J. Bernstein's Crit-bit trees.
  • Determine why tcpflow's iptree.h implementation's prune works differently when caching is enabled then when it is disabled

Medium-Sized Non-Programming Projects

Digital Forensics Education

  • Survey existing DFE programs and DF practitioners regarding which tools they use. Report if the tools being taught are the same as the tools that are being used.

Improving quality of forensic examination reports

  • Defense asks you: "When did you update your antivirus program during the forensic examination?", what will you reply: date, or date/hour, or date/hour/minute? How many virus signatures can be added and then excluded as false positives in 24 hours? Does mirroring of signature update servers make date/hour, date/hour/minute answers useless?

Medium-Sized Development Projects

Forensic File Viewer

  • 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.
  • Extend SleuthKit's fiwalk to report the NTFS alternative data streams.

Data Sniffing

  • 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.

SleuthKit Modifications

  • Write a FUSE-based mounter for SleuthKit, so that disk images can be forensically mounted using TSK.
  • Modify SleuthKit's API so that the physical location on disk of compressed files can be learned.

Anti-Frensics Detection

  • A pluggable rule-based system that can detect the residual data or other remnants of running a variety of anti-forensics software


Develop a new carver with a plug-in architecture and support for fragment reassembly carving. Take a look at:

Correlation Engine

  • Logfile correlation
  • Document identity identification
  • Correlation between stored data and intercept data
  • Online Social Network Analysis

Data Snarfing/Web Scraping

  • 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

Timeline analysis

  • Mapping differences and similarities in multiple versions of a system, e.g. those created by Windows Shadow Volumes but not limited to
  • Write a new timeline viewer that supports Logfile fusion (with offsets) and provides the ability to view the logfile in the frequency domain.

Enhancements for Guidance Software's Encase

  • 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.)

Analysis of packet captures

  • Identifying various types of DDoS attacks from capture files (pcap): extracting attack statistics, list of attacking bots, determining the type of attack (TCP SYN flood, UDP/ICMP flood, HTTP GET/POST flood, HTTP flood with browser emulation, etc).

Reverse-Engineering Projects

Application analysis

Volume/File System analysis

  • Analysis of inter snapshot changes in Windows Shadow Volumes
  • Modify SleuthKit's NTFS implementation to support NTFS encrypted files (EFS)
  • Extend SleuthKit's implementation of NTFS to cover Transaction NTFS (TxF) (see NTFS)
  • Physical layer access to flash storage (requires reverse-engineering proprietary APIs for flash USB and SSD storage.)
  • Add support to SleuthKit for ReFS.

Error Rates

  • Develop improved techniques for identifying encrypted data. (It's especially important to distinguish encrypted data from compressed data).
  • Quantify the error rate of different forensic tools and processes. Are these rates theoretical or implementation dependent? What is the interaction of the error rates and the Daubert standard?

Research Areas

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

  • General-purpose detection of:
    • Stegnography
    • Sanitization attempts
    • Evidence Falsification (perhaps through 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;

See Also