New degree helps catch cyber criminals

With the growing number and popularity of criminal investigation shows on television, there’s an increasing interest in forensics.

With that in mind, there is a forensics class that coincides with computer skills. For about two years, Missouri Southern has offered some classes in computer forensics. Now, Southern offers a bachelor’s degree for students interested in the program.

Computer forensics is lawfully obtaining someone’s computer or a copy of the hard drive and searching for the possibility of criminal activities. Dr. Blake Wolf, professor of criminal justice administration, said there have been several students expressing an interest in the degree each semester, and those students are usually freshmen.

The computer information science department and the criminal justice department at Southern constructed this particular program together based on the growing need of investigating people’s computers that are possibly being used for illegal activity.

Computers are used daily in the 21st century, and people are taking advantage of the Internet and software illegally.

This double major in criminal justice and computer science presents its students with the knowledge of legally obtaining a computer and the information, and then sifting through the information to understand it.

“The criminal justice department looks at the legalities and crime scene aspects of computer forensics,” Wolf said, “while the CIS department focuses on exploring and analyzing the material found on someone’s hard drive.”

Mr. Bill Pinet, associate professor of computer information science, said computer forensics involves “recovering data that has either been erased, lost or destroyed. It’s practical for a lot of things besides setting up a lawsuit.” This particular study involves searching for things like identity theft, illegal pornography and embezzlement.

Wolf said there are two angles to the criminal justice side of the instruction. The legal aspect is where certain regulations and laws must be followed in procuring the hard drive information, and the search and seizure aspect where students learn how to recapture the information that has either been lost or destroyed without damaging any evidence on the hard drive or at the crime scene.

Computer-oriented crimes are on the rise. This particular career field is not only useful in law enforcement, but also can be useful within private businesses as well.

Many companies hire people to search for illegal activity and possibilities that someone could be stealing information from their company.

“In the next ten years,” Wolf said, “it is anticipated that computer forensics is going to be one of the larger areas of employment because of the proliferation of computer crimes. Most corporations will be dealing with hackers, people stealing information, and the companies will need someone on inside investigating.”

For more information about computer forensics, please contact Wolf at 625-9758 or e-mail at [email protected] or Pinet at 625-3059 or e-mail at [email protected].