The Top 20 Open Source Digital Forensic Tools for 2022

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2022-03-31

As you strive to advance your career and become a more well-rounded digital forensics analyst, researching about new and innovative ways to help you crack the case is a natural part of the process.

To that end, you’re inclined to look into new data forensic tools to stay on top of your investigative game and utilize the digital forensics technology to its fullest potential.

Unfortunately, many law enforcement agencies are underfunded, so they are inclined to look for ways to keep the costs low as to not exceed their budget limitations. Hence, the need for using open source software.

With this in mind, we have compiled a list of the best open source forensic tools in existence. However, when using Open Source Digital Forensic Tools, have you ever wondered, how much do you really benefit from using the so-called “free” open source tools?

Given all the hidden risks that come in the form of malware, not being compliant with the industry’s best practices, no developer support or assistance whatsoever, and simply being out of date?

Just scroll down until the end of the article and we will also show you why a paid solution will get you much further during a digital forensic investigation.

free GPL license.

Many of these free open source tools come under the free GPL license.

In no particular order of importance, below you can find a comprehensive digital forensics tools list that is distributed under the open source agreement license, thus being completely free to use for every individual and law enforcement personnel:

1. Wireshark

Wireshark is one of the best open-source forensic tools for network packet analysis. It allows you to intercept and decrypt data in real-time (it supports WEP, SSL, and IPsec). It’s one of the live forensics tools that support rich VoIP analysis, which is one of its most prominent features.

With it, you’ll always stay on top of what’s going on inside the network you’re investigating.

Wireshark

2. NMAP

Network Mapper (or NMAP for short) is one of the cyber security forensics tools for network scanning and auditing. One of its core advantages is the fact that it supports almost every popular operating system in existence, including Windows, Linux, Mac, including some less popular ones like Solaris and HP-UX.

It’s open-source and thus 100% free to use.

NMAP

3. Oxygen Forensic Suite

Oxygen Forensic Suite is one of the popular open-source mobile forensics tools that will help you gather the evidence you need from a mobile phone.

It also belongs on the list of Android forensic tools that let you bypass the password or lock screen gesture prompt, thus granting you unobstructed access to data that is stored inside.

Oxygen Forensic Suite

This is a free alternative to SPF Pro, one of SalvationDATA’s flagship products. Since SPF Pro is way more powerful and has more features, be sure to sign up for the no-strings-attached free trial.

SPF Pro Auto Extraction

4. The Sleuth Kit

The Sleuth Kit is one of the open-source data acquisition tools for digital forensic analysis that allow you to extract data from hard disk drives and other types of storage media. Since it’s a collection of command-line tools, it may not be the most user-friendly computer forensic tool in existence.

The Sleuth Kit

So we invite you to try DRS instead.

DRS - features

With a free trial and a learning curve that’s much less steep, it’s a no-brainer choice.

5. SIFT

SIFT is based on Ubuntu, thus making it one of the top digital forensic tools you can download and try for free. It has some of the finest open source incident response functionality, all while incorporating some of the latest approaches to digital forensics.

SIFT--

6. Volatility

Available under the GPL license, Volatility is a memory forensics framework that allows you to extract information directly from the processes that are running on the computer, making it one of the best forensic imaging and cyber security forensics tools you can try for free.

Numerous forensics and cyber security experts use it for its malware analysis and incident response capabilities. In addition, this cyber forensic tool allows you to extract data from Windows crash dump files, DLLs, network sockets, and the network connection itself.

Volatility

 

7. Free Hex Editor Neo

Free Hex Editor Neo is one of the top database forensics tools for handling large files.

Free Hex Editor Neo - 1

Much like DBF by SalvationDATA, it’s one of those forensic image tools that have both a paid and a free version you can try at your leisure. Among its main features are manual data carving, data extraction, low-level file editing, and performing a deep scan to uncover hidden data.

DBF -Data Analysis

8. MVT

MVT is one of the finest iOS and Android forensic tools that lets you decrypt encrypted backups and discover traces of malware that may be present in the system. It will generate a report of exactly what apps are installed on the smartphone and even present the extracted data as a JSON string.

MVT

If you’re looking for a mobile forensic tool with capabilities like this but aren’t overly trusting of free mobile forensic tools, look no further than SalvationDATA’s SPF Pro. It has better functions, ongoing support by the developer team, is more user-friendly, and has a free trial to boot.

SPF Pro Auto Extraction

9. Autopsy

If you’re a fan of open-source forensic tools that come with a GUI, you’ll love this one. Hard drive forensics tools like this one give you everything you need to check the state of the hard drive and recover deleted, fragmented or overwritten files.

Autopsy

Moreover, it also lets you recover data from smartphones. If you’re also looking for ongoing support and guidance, DRS by SalvationDATA is a digital forensics solution that does all of this and more.

10. FAW

Forensics Acquisition of Websites (or FAW for short) is one of the best digital forensic tools for analyzing websites. After you run it, it will capture the entire source code and any images it contains and investigates it for traces of criminal activity.

Once finished, you can take the data and integrate it with other computer forensic software tools like Wireshark.

FAW

11. USB Write Blocker

Much like DRS by SalvationDATA, USB Write Blocker comes with a write-blocker that will protect the files inspected from being overwritten. Both of these PC forensics tools are perfect for analyzing a USB flash drive or a photo memory stick and can pull up lost data that would otherwise be impossible to salvage on your own.

USB Write Blocker

12. NFI Defraser

NFI Defraser is one of the video forensic tools that can access a data stream and detect multimedia files if it contains some, whether they be full or partial.

NFI Defraser

For a more advanced alternative that’s fully suitable for recovering video evidence and making it admissible in court, VIP 2.0 by SalvationDATA is the go-to choice entrusted by numerous IT forensics experts around the world.

Video Analysis - vip

13. ExifTool

As the name implies, ExifTool can read, write, and edit EXIF and metadata across a wide range of format types, thus making it a suitable option if you’re looking for free photo forensics tools. In addition, it’s compatible with FlashPix, IRB, IPTC, GPS, GeoTIFF, XMP, JFIF, and other formats.

ExifTool

14. Dumpzilla

In essence, Dumpzilla is a Python 3 script designed for extracting data from popular web browsers: Firefox, Seamonkey, and Iceweasel. It’s compatible with both Windows and Unix-based operating systems, thus making it one of the most flexible free open source forensic tools that’s geared towards a specific purpose.

Dumpzilla

15. Caine

Computer-Aided Investigative Environment (or CAINE for short) is not only a free computer forensic tool but a full-blown Linux distro you can use as part of your forensics investigation. Bundled with it, there are 80+ open-source forensic tools to give you an edge in cracking the case.

Caine --

Do note that installing a standalone Linux distribution requires a certain degree of IT and computer knowledge, so we invite you to check out our Digital Forensic Lab, a much more time-effective and user-friendly one-stop solution for all your digital forensics needs.

lab 0

16. Crowd Response

Crowd Response falls within the category of Windows security forensics tools with an incident response functionality. The report-generating feature allows you to export it to a wide range of formats, including CSV, XML, HTML, or TSV.

In addition, it comes with other useful cyber security features such as scanning your network for vulnerabilities.

Crowd Response

17. Xplico

If you need a tool capable of doing a forensic analysis of email, look no further than this. Xplico is a powerful open-source tool that can analyze POP, SMTP, and IMAP traffic and extract content from e-mail messages.

Furthermore, it supports multiple protocols, including IMAP, HTTP, TCP, UDP, SIP, and others. The output it generates comes in the form of a MySQL or SQLite database.

Xplico

18. ForensicUserInfo

ForensicUserInfo is one of the best computer forensic tools if the objective is to get into a Windows-powered device. It easily pulls out the user profile info, right along with the password hashes. It’s available for download from GitHub and other sources.

19. Paladin

Paladin is a full-fledged Linux distro, specially modified to suit your digital forensics needs. Naturally, this means it’s packed full of open-source forensic tools. However, this comes at the cost of user-friendliness, and the mere thought of installing another type of operating system can put people off, let alone use it. So keep this in mind.

Paladin

20. The Coroner’s Toolkit

This is a suite of security forensics tools and software for digital forensics analysis. Unfortunately, only Unix-based operating systems are supported, but you should have no trouble running it on Linux, FreeBSD, Solaris, OpenBSD, and others.

The Coroner’s Toolkit

The hidden risks and drawbacks of using open source digital forensic tools

Open source forensic tools may sound good on paper (particularly due to their non-existing price tag), but the reality of actually using them may be quite different than what you imagine it to be.

There are just some of the issues you may encounter with them:

  • Limited capacity
  • Unreliability
  • Lack of support
  • Steep learning curve
  • Trojans or spyware
  • Data loss
  • OS corruption

In addition to the above, any open source forensic tool may no longer be actively developed, updated, or supported in case the developers decide to abandon the project. This can lead to usability issues, cyber security concerns, and relying on technology that is out of date or no longer relevant.

Why a paid solution will get you much further during a digital forensic investigation

When the outcome of a case is at stake and time is a luxury that comes in limited quantities, you need a reliable solution that won’t leave you hanging. Open source forensic tools may be free, but they may not be in line with the best industry practices or may have other deficiencies.

Here are some of the reasons why free digital forensic tools pale in comparison with their paid counterparts:

Ongoing support

With any free software, expecting ongoing support is not realistic. At the end of the day, developers need to put food on the table too, and they certainly won’t be able to make it with free products alone.

Regular updates

As technology evolves, so do forensic software tools. The paid ones have a dedicated team of developers behind them and they’re working round the clock to make continual tweaks and improvements (not to mention security enhancements).

More features

In the paid forensic analysis tools space, the competition is quite fierce. This puts pressure on the developers to keep making their products better and adding more features over time to remain competitive.

Built by industry professionals

When your digital forensics career is at stake, who will you entrust the task to – industry professionals or some amateur code-monkeys who whipped something up in the basement? It’s not even up for debate.

Free trial

The zero-cost aspect of open source forensic tools tends to be the most appealing. But did you know that most paid counterparts tend to come with a free trial? It usually lasts 30 days, which should be plenty of time for any law enforcement and intelligence organization to determine if it suits their needs.

Admissible in court

If you want the evidence to be admissible in court, certain industry standards need to be followed. While free digital forensic tools usually don’t guarantee this, it’s the exact opposite with paid forensic tools.

 

Discover SalvationDATA's industry-grade forensic solutions portfolio

SalvationDATA is the leading digital forensics and investigations solution provider, offering intuitive one-click forensics gear and software tools that will help you crack the most complex of cases. As part of its portfolio, you will find:

Video Investigation Portable 2.0

VIP 2.0 is one of the most potent video forensic tools, capable of handling complex digital forensics tasks such as video recovery, retrieval, enhancement, and analysis. With it, recovering deleted, corrupted, and fragmented video files is a breeze.

SVR for Hikvision

SVR for Hikvision allows you to extract footage from most Hikvision DVR and NVR models with ease, effectively bypassing any passwords that stand in the way. It allows you to preview the footage recovered, thus saving you valuable time during the forensic investigation.

Smartphone Forensic System Professional

SPF PRO is the leading mobile forensic tool in the digital forensics industry. With it, you’ll have everything you need to break the encryption of most modern smartphones and operating systems, thus allowing for swift retrieval, recovery, extraction and analysis of data extracted.

Data Recovery System

DRS is the go-to one-click data recovery forensics software for gathering evidence from hard drives, USB flash drives, and other storage devices that is compatible with virtually every OS in existence. With DRS, you can count on swift recovery without further damaging or corrupting the files.

Database Forensic Analysis System

DBF is a one-stop database cybercrime forensics solution and one of the leading database forensics tools for tackling network fraud, encryption digital crime, financial crime, etc. It can effectively bypass the database password and reconstruct deleted, corrupted, or fragmented database files.

Digital Forensic Lab

Digital Forensic Lab is a one-stop solution for all your digital forensics needs and one of the most comprehensive forensic software tools of all. Uniformly visualize evidence, automate reporting, improve office comfort, and get more recognition and credibility among your peers in law enforcement.

Conclusion

With this, we conclude the list of digital forensic tools you can try with no fee or obligation today.

In the grand scheme of things, open-source solutions may be free, but they tend to be harder to learn, are inefficient, offer zero to no support, and, on top of that, could be potentially insecure. The field of digital forensics comes with a fair share of responsibility, so it’s much better to have reliable professional tools when you need them.

Since most paid digital forensics solutions tend to have a free 30-day trial, there is no risk involved and you can see for yourself why they’re the preferable alternative to open-source forensic tools.

On top of that, professional software solution providers in digital forensics like SalvationDATA always provide training, on-site case assistance, maintenance, upgrades, and the list goes on.

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