Digital Detectives: Armstrong's Cyber Forensics Division aiding in fight against online cyber crime

Since the founding of Armstrong’s Cyber Security Research Institute in 2006, the university has a played a major role in the continuing efforts to address the growing cyber security education needs of law enforcement, criminal justice and intelligence professionals. Those efforts have grown since the institute’s partnership with the Armstrong Police Department and the development of the Cyber Forensics Division (CFD) in 2010.

“Since its inception, the CFD has worked with over four dozen criminal justice agencies on well over 200 cases,” says Armstrong Police Chief Wayne Willcox.

The CFD has garnered a national reputation for being among some of the best. On December 12, 2013, Willcox accepted the 2013 Governor’s Public Safety Award for the outstanding contribution that the Cyber Forensics Program has made by reducing the digital forensics backlog in Southeast Georgia from seven- to 12-months, to less than 30 days.

On July 29, the police department was given the Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police Motorola/Dr. Curtis McClung Award of Excellence for the CFD’s innovation and lasting impact of the community and cooperation among multiple agencies. Armstrong was one of 11 public agencies to be nominated for the award.

Part of what makes Armstrong’s CFD so unique is that they are a full-service cyber forensics lab that is staffed full-time with the department’s officers.

“Once we developed partnerships with outside training organizations, we began training our officers in digital forensics,” explains Willcox. “Our officers in the CFD are all trained cyber analysts.”

Today, the state-of-the-art facility in the only university digital forensics lab operating 24/7, including weekends and holidays.

In addition to the police department’s work with local, state and national agencies, they have also partnered in the creation of the university’s online Cyber Crime graduate certificate program, which was launched in the fall of 2013. The department also offers a 14 week internship/practicum for Armstrong’s criminal justice students in cyber forensics that qualifies the students to take a national digital forensics examiner certification test.

“Crimes of the 21st century are being committed in larger numbers online,” explains Dr. Becky Kohler da Cruz, an associate professor of criminal justice at Armstrong. “Students learn how crimes are committed electronically, how to track those criminals and how to collect the evidence of such crimes.”

The only program of its kind in the region, it is dedicated to digital forensics and law enforcement techniques for online crime detection. Cyber crime investigation is a fast-growing field with major job opportunities.

“Currently, federal agencies primarily and state and local agencies secondarily are actively recruiting individuals trained in cyber forensics,” says da Cruz. Agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Department of Homeland Security, Secret Services and the Georgia Department of Investigation do not have enough agents in the field of cyber forensics.”

In April, the program was featured as one of the “7 Top Cybercrime &E-Discovery Certificate Programs” on the Forensics Colleges list of outstanding universities offering cutting-edge Cybercrime and E-Discovery Certificate programs.

“The goal of the merger between the police department and the Cyber Security Research Institute was to make the police department directly connected to the academic mission of the university,” explains Willcox. “Now, Armstrong’s police department not only works to facilitate a safe environment on campus, but also increases the exposure of the university through the national recognition achieved by the Cyber Forensics Division and their work with Cyber Crime program.”