Solving a forensic challenge with Metabrik and Scalpel

I recently discovered the wonderful world of forensic and challenges (read: today). So I decided to add some new Briks just to solve some of them. Let’s dig into the “Find the dog” challenge step-by-step. I will also show how I improved the Scalpel tool by wrapping it with other Briks.

Getting the files

The one from this Metabrik Example is called “Find the dog“, or “Trouvez le chien” in French. Once downloaded and extracted, you got these files:

cd /home/gomor/hgwork/metabrik/challenges/trouvez-le-chien/
my $files = $RUN

First things to do is to check for MIME types of these files. You can also check for the MAGIC types:

use file::type
run file::type get_mime_type $files
run file::type get_magic_type $files

You have a txt file (you should read it for the story behind the dog theft) and a gzip file. Let’s uncompress this one:

use file::compress
run file::compress uncompress $files->[0]
my $file = $RUN
run file::type get_mime_type $file
run file::type get_magic_type $file

Wonderful. It appears to be some kind of filesystem. Let’s analyse that with Scalpel, a filesystem image forensic tool written in Python.

Introducing Scalpel

To use Scalpel, you usually have to create a scalpel.conf file containing metadata on how to extract (or carve) files. For instance, if you want to find and extract ZIP files, you search for the string PK\x03\x04 in a bytestream.

If you want to only check for some files (say odt files), you have to comment out all the lines from that conf file, except the one for odt documents. If you want to search for all file formats, you have to uncomment all the lines. That is the first thing I changed when writing the forensic::scalpel Brik: use a Command to help you generate the configuration file with only what you want to search for.

The other limitation of the tool is its inability to identify extracted files using the libmagic (check for MIME types or MAGIC types). Thus, I added this feature within forensic::scalpel Brik to just do that: separate verified files from unverified ones.

So, let’s dig into this new Brik. It is made upon 4 existing Briks: shell::command, file::find, file::text and of course the file::type one. As you can see, new Briks can be written with already existing Briks.

We will use it to extract files from the challenge (remember, you have to find where is the dog). Because I already know the result (spoiler), I will only search for odt files from the filesystem image challenge:

use forensic::scalpel
run forensic::scalpel generate_conf "[ 'odt' ]"
run forensic::scalpel scan $file
my $verified = $RUN->{verified}

We just wanted to keep verified files. Yes, the ones that went through the file::type Brik and its MIME type identification. Read: the feature lacking from Scalpel.

We now have two odt files, let’s open them with LibreOffice (exercise for the reader).

my $files = join(' ', @$verified)
libreoffice $files

You have a picture of a dog, and a message saying: “Free Britany, or we kill the dog“. We must locate those miscreants. This is a picture, is there some EXIF metadata? Use the image::exif Brik to discover. But first, we have to extract this picture. odt files are simple ZIP files, we use the file::compress Brik again:

run file::compress uncompress $verified->[0]
my $pic = './Pictures/1000000000000CC0000009XXXXXXXXXX.jpg'
run file::type get_mime_type $pic

use image::exif
run image::exif get_metadata $pic


Lots of metadata. But more interestingly, you have the latitude and longitude of the camera which took the picture. Bingo. Sarge, we found the evil doers, let’s go catch them now. Over.


By using a few Briks, we have shown how to solve a simple challenge. As you can see, you can nearly automate it from the beginning to the end. Exercise yourself with Metabrik by downloading the docker image. Enjoy.

EDIT 2015/12/17: some Commands have moved from system::file to file::type, thus some Commands have been renamed in this post, but screen captures remain the same as before.