Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Cyber security and digital forensics

Dr. Anthony Keane, Head of Department of Informatics, Institute of Technology Blanchardstown, Dublin.

Today the focus of cyber attacks has broadened to incorporate all devices that handle digital information and the people that use them.  The list of criminal activity has also expanded to mirror the typical traditional crimes perpetrated on individuals, such as identification theft, stolen credit card information, robbery, fraud, spying, espionage, unauthorised access and usage and so on. 

Such crimes are made possible by the poor security inherent in the Internet and on the networked devices attached to the Internet.  Cyber crimes throughout the World, including India, are increasing at a fast pace causing monetary and personal losses to individual, corporations and governmental institutions. There is an increased measure to effectively tackle cyber crimes starting with awareness, training and legalisation.

As in all crime, police use data gathering and forensics methods to build their case using a specialist field in computer science called Digital Forensics.  This involves analysing computers and digital storage devices like smartphones, external USB storage devices, cameras, etc to extract data to build a timeline of activity of the user and to investigate the files on the device.  Specialist programs are used to help the investigator like AccessData Forensics Tool Kit (FTK) and Guidence Software’s EnCASE Forensics Tools, to extract the data in a forensics accepted manner.

In colleges and Universities throughout the World, degree and postgraduate courses have begun teaching Cyber Security and Digital Forensics to students with great success.   The students are very interested in seeing what can be recovered from digital devices and as a result of this interest, the students get to learn how operating systems work, how application systems operate and about the network systems the computers are attached.  Skills of the forensics investigator cover file systems operation and management, encryption, password cracking, data analysis, malware operation, rootkits, usage of tools like FTK or EnCASE and report writing skills.

New areas in digital forensics are Cloud Forensics and eDiscovery.  As data moves from local storage on local devices into Cloud Services, the traditional forensics methods don’t apply and new approaches are being developed to handle the new media and business modelling.  The eDiscovery approach is required in many law court cases to locate potential evidence in case trials based on agreed search criteria so lawyers and police need to be educated on the methods and tools for eDiscovery as they would about any other part of their profession.

The Institute of Technology Blanchardstown, Dublin, Ireland, ( is at the forefront in the development and application of cutting-edge courses at degree and postgraduate degree in Cyber Security & Digital Forensics covering areas such as Digital Forensics, Cyber Crime Investigations, Secure Communications, Network Security, Biometrics, Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery.  These courses include current industry certifications (such as CCNA Security and AccessData Certified Examiner (ACE)) as well as internationally recognised degree certification.

Parallel to the taught programmes at ITB are research projects in the Cyber Security and Digital Forensics areas at masters and PhD levels that are run in partnership with companies and focus on real-world problems.   Research students build and run the Cyber Challenge Capture-the-Flag competitions for different companies and for OWASP, IRISS and IBM.  

Dr. Anthony Keane, Head of Department of Informatics, Institute of Technology Blanchardstown
Anthony heads the Informatics Department here in ITB and is also the principle investigator in the Network Security & Computer Forensics group where he has several master and doctoral research students investigating information security aspects of modern network infrastructure, devices and services from Smartphones to Cloud Computing. Anthony Keane has a BSc (Physics) from University College Galway , an MSc (Astrophysics) from University College London and PhD from University College Dublin. Prior to joining ITB, Anthony worked in the Cosmic Physics Section of the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, as a doctorate research student and later as a post doctorate researcher.

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