Home : File Formats : Document Grinding Definition

Document Grinding

Document grinding is the process of analyzing documents to extract meaningful data. The term is often associated with computer hacking, since hackers may "grind" documents to reveal confidential data. However, document grinding is also used for nonmalicious purposes. Examples include identifying unknown file types and viewing file metadata.

It is possible to perform document grinding on both plain text and binary files.

Text Files

Grinding text files is a simple process since they store data as plain text. You can search for characters and strings within a text document using a tool like grep or another search utility. Since text processing is a relatively fast computer operation, it may be possible to grind several large documents in less than a second.

Common text file types targeted for document grinding include log files (.LOG, .TXT) and configuration files (.CONF, .CNF). If a hacker gains access to a web server, for example, he may search these files for usernames, passwords, and other confidential data.

Binary Files

Binary files may contain some plain text, but they also store binary data — 1s and 0s. It is more difficult to grind binary data since it cannot be searched with a text search tool. Additionally, many binary files are saved in a proprietary file format, which is difficult to parse without the corresponding application. Therefore binary document grinding typically focuses on the header and footer of a document, which may contain plain text. It may also aim to extract file metadata.

Many binary files contain information about the file type in the header of the file. For example, in the sample image, the letters "PNG" in the header indicate the file is a PNG image. This information is useful for identifying the file type since it does not have a file extension. Similarly, digital photos often contain hidden EXIF data saved when the photo was taken. An image-viewing program or a document grinding script may be able to detect and extract this information.

Updated: September 13, 2019

Cite this definition:

https://techterms.com/definition/document_grinding

TechTerms - The Tech Terms Computer Dictionary

This page contains a technical definition of Document Grinding. It explains in computing terminology what Document Grinding means and is one of many file format terms in the TechTerms dictionary.

All definitions on the TechTerms website are written to be technically accurate but also easy to understand. If you find this Document Grinding definition to be helpful, you can reference it using the citation links above. If you think a term should be updated or added to the TechTerms dictionary, please email TechTerms!