William Calhoun
Drue Coles

Abstract

A problem that arises in computer forensics is to determine the type of a file fragment. An extension to the file name indicating the type is stored in the disk directory, but when a file is deleted, the entry for the file in the directory may be overwritten. This problem is easily solved when the fragment includes the initial header, which contains explicit type-identifying information, but it is more difficult to determine the type of a fragment from the middle of a file. We investigate two algorithms for predicting the type of a fragment: one based on Fisher’s linear discriminant and the other based on longest common subsequences of the fragment with various sets of test files. We test the ability of the algorithms to predict a variety of common file types. Algorithms of this kind may be useful in designing the next generation of file-carvers – programs that reconstruct files when directory information is lost or deleted. These methods may also be useful in designing virus scanners, firewalls and search engines to find files that are similar to a given file.