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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


  • 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

Sleuth Kit

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

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.

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.

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


File carving on disks is largely dead, but carving within files for information not made visible by existing tools should still be a research area.

  • Adapt current disk-based file carving tools to files. (bulk_extractor already does this.)
  • Figure out what information is most useful to forensic investigators, and how to present that information?
  • Concentrate on multimedia applications, such as Multimedia File Carver, which allows for the reassembly of multimedia fragmented files.

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

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.)

Volume/File System analysis

  • Analysis of inter snapshot changes in Windows Shadow Volumes
  • Modify Sleuth Kit's NTFS implementation to support NTFS encrypted files (EFS)
  • Extend Sleuth Kit'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 Sleuth Kit 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:
  • Steganography
  • 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