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Forensic Considerations for the High Efficiency Image File Format (HEIF)

Mckeown, Sean; Russell, Gordon



The High Efficiency File Format (HEIF) was adopted by Apple in 2017 as their favoured means of capturing images from their camera application, with Android devices such as the Galaxy S10 providing support more recently. The format is positioned to replace JPEG as the de facto image compression file type, touting many modern features and better compression ratios over the aging standard. However, while millions of devices across the world are already able to produce HEIF files, digital forensics research has not given the format much attention. As HEIF is a complex container format, much different from traditional still picture formats, this leaves forensics practitioners exposed to risks of potentially mishandling evidence. This paper describes the forensically relevant features of the HEIF format, including those which could be used to hide data, or cause issues in an investigation, while also providing commentary on the state of software support for the format. Finally, suggestions for current best-practice are provided, before discussing the requirements of a forensically robust HEIF analysis tool.

Presentation Conference Type Conference Paper (Published)
Conference Name International Conference on Cyber Incident Response, Coordination, Containment & Control (Cyber Incident 2020)
Start Date Jun 15, 2020
End Date Jun 17, 2020
Acceptance Date Apr 16, 2020
Online Publication Date Jul 13, 2020
Publication Date Jul 13, 2020
Deposit Date Apr 20, 2020
Publicly Available Date Jul 13, 2020
Publisher Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers
ISBN 9781728164298
Keywords Digital Forensics; High Efficiency Image File Format; HEIF; HEIC; Image Forensics; Apple Forensics
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Forensic Considerations For The High Efficiency Image File Format HEIF (2.3 Mb)

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