Highly skilled computer forensic experts are in increasing demand as rising numbers of high-profile organisations, such as Sony and Lockheed Martin, suffer hacking disasters and reputation damage, and want to find out who is to blame. But as technology matures, the ability of police, businesses and public sector organisations to analyse digital data to detect fraud grows more complicated.
V3 spoke to Philip Anderson (left), Northumbria University programme leader on forensics, to find out how he equips students with the skills needed by today's computer forensic professionals, and the technologies that are becoming obstructive to investigations.
Anderson helped to develop the Computer Forensics degree at Northumbria six years ago. He speaks regularly to the forensic industry to determine the skills graduates will need, but said that his primary focus is to give students a core grounding in the subject and help them to develop an investigative mind.
"In the computer forensics environment, research skills are very important, and it's very important students learn how to think of alternative solutions to problems and how to think things through," said Anderson.
"A problem today is likely to be a different problem tomorrow, like online hacking and the defacing of web sites. You can't just sit down and tell students this is step one, and this is step two. You need to get people to think outside the box."
Anderson explained that a growing number of technologies make the job more difficult, and students are given the opportunity to deal with these challenges during the course.
"Like in-private browsing, supported by browsers such as Firefox and Opera in order to reduce the amount of information stored on computers," he said. "Graduates have to think about how they can then find the information and where they look for evidence if it's not on the computer."
Encryption is another technology that can make an investigation difficult, and Anderson had just asked his students to write a research paper on file encryption.
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