Computer Forensics at RIT to Prepare Next Generation of Crime Fighters

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New course will explore techniques and legalities of retrieving computer files

It’s the hottest topic on prime time television, but crime scene investigation is increasingly more complex than what’s depicted in a glitzy one-hour drama. Information technology students at Rochester Institute of Technology—home to the nation’s largest comprehensive college in computing—will soon have the opportunity to learn about that firsthand.

Computer Forensics debuts this March, during RIT’s spring quarter, in the B. Thomas Golisano College of Computing and Information Sciences. It joins a sequence of security courses recently introduced by the college’s IT department.

“The forensics course is one we’ve been planning for sometime,” says Jim Leone, RIT’s chair of information technology. “It addresses the rapidly growing need for professionals who can analyze the contents of computers seized by law enforcement.”

The expansion of communication networks over the past decade has resulted in an alarming increase in the use of digital devices in illegal activities. Computers, PDAs, cell phones and cameras frequently become evidence in fraud, white-collar crime, and other criminal investigations.

Luther Troell, associate professor of information technology, led development of the new course. His research indicated that few universities, if any, offer forensic courses that explore issues that extend beyond file recovery. By comparison, RIT students will be introduced to software used by law enforcement to retrieve files without compromising the integrity of the data. Additionally, students will design and put together their own forensics computers to be used for transferring relevant data.

“Our focus is on teaching students what they have to do so that the evidence they gather will ultimately be admissible in a court of law,” explains Troell.

RIT faculty members Sharon Mason, Yin Pan and Bill Stackpole will serve as course instructors. Members of the Rochester-area legal community are also being invited to provide their expertise during class discussions.

A graduate-level course in computer forensics will be offered this fall, becoming an integral part of RIT’s new master degree program in computing security and information assurance. This program will feature a cross-disciplinary exploration of the technical, business, ethical and administrative aspects of security. It will also examine related issues such as risk management and the cost of security.

NOTE: RIT’s B. Thomas Golisano College of Computing and Information Sciences, the largest comprehensive computing college in the nation, was created in 2001 with a $14 million gift from B. Thomas Golisano, chairman and chief executive officer of Paychex Inc.

The college offers undergraduate and graduate programs in computer science and information technology and an undergraduate program in software engineering. The college is home to the university’s Laboratory for Applied Computing, which partners with industry in the development of innovative applications of emerging information technologies.

RIT was the first university to offer undergraduate degrees in information technology and software engineering and, in 1972, one of the first universities to offer an undergraduate degree in computer science.

Founded in 1829, RIT is internationally recognized as a leader in computing, engineering, imaging technology, fine and applied arts, and education for the deaf. RIT enrolls 15,500 students in more than 340 undergraduate and graduate programs.