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 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.
  • Rewrite SleuthKit sorter in C++ to make it faster and more flexible.

Medium-Sized Programming Projects

  • 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 fiwalk to report the NTFS alternative data streams.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Big Programming/System Projects

Most of these are large systems that could be split up into several small projects.


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

  • 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.

Reverse-Engineering Projects

Application analysis

Volume/File System analysis

  • Analysis of inter snapshot changes in Windows Shadow Volumes
  • Add support to SleuthKit for eXFAT, Microsoft's new FAT file system.
  • Add support to SleuthKit for ReFS.
  • 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.)

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.)

Research Projects

Medium-Sized Research Projects

  • Develop an image processing program that can reliably detect screen shots. (Screen shots are useful to find on a hard drive because they can imply the presence of a remote control or surveillance program.)
  • 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;