What you can learn about digital forensics

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Companies of all sizes and in all industries rely on digital tools to manage their information. With so many entities—from health care and higher education to retail and government—storing sensitive information, hackers have a plethora of targets when they want to obtain exploitable data.

A few examples of major breaches in 2018 include Macy’s, Under Armour’s MyFitnessPal app, the city of Goodyear, Arizona, Aultman Health Foundation in Ohio, and gig economy app TaskRabbit, according to identity theft protection company IdentityForce. Among the 98 data breaches the website listed as of mid-December 2018, were health care organizations, colleges and universities, banks and other financial institutions, social media sites and more.

There is no industry that’s safe from cybercrime. As such, the need for cybersecurity experts has become critical. Information management professionals who strive to become effective at detecting, preventing and recovering from cybercrimes may consider earning their Master of Science in Management Information Systems.

The online degree program in MIS at the University of Alabama at Birmingham offers a comprehensive curriculum that includes a cyber security management concentration, which dives into the nuances of keeping data safe. One course that cybersecurity professionals will find particularly valuable is Digital Forensics.

Two young professionals discuss information on a printed report.

What is digital forensics?

Digital forensics, sometimes referred to as computer or cyber forensics, is the practice of legally collecting, processing, analyzing, and preserving digital evidence of cybercrimes. It also includes the presentation of such evidence in civil or criminal court.

Digital forensics is often applied in legal cases or criminal investigations, and is also employed by private industry organizations to keep data secure and detect criminal activity as quickly as possible.

The types of evidence digital forensics professionals may uncover are wide-ranging. Process logs, time stamps, web browser history caches and cookies all fall into this category, as do email headers, metadata, fragments of deleted files and backup files. The activities people conduct on individual computer systems and networks leave behind traces of their actions. It’s the digital investigator’s duty to uncover these traces.

What will students learn in a digital forensics course?

When studying digital forensics, students will learn how digital forensics investigations are conducted in practice. Students earning their Master of Science in Management Information Systems with the Cyber Security Management concentration at UAB will delve into these concepts in Digital Forensics. In this course, they’ll review what sorts of events would trigger a digital forensics investigation, like a known cybercrime, intrusion or suspected issue.

Next, students will learn how to identify and track a cybercriminal, and assist in the prosecution of a criminal. Part of this will include how to correctly and legally structure an investigation, as well as how to identify and preserve evidence.

Students will gain an understanding of the role law enforcement plays in a cybercriminal investigation, and how these professionals work with and complement the work that a cyber security professional will do during a digital forensics investigation.

Finally, students studying digital forensics will review intellectual property concerns as they relate to cybercrime. Intellectual property theft can have numerous detriments, including billions of lost dollars and thousands of lost jobs in businesses across the world. Further, intellectual property theft can undermine a nation’s or company’s advantage or proprietary rights. Experts in cyber security management are essential in preventing intellectual property theft or crime.

Careers opportunities with a digital forensics degree

Building a strong foundation in digital forensics can lead to many career opportunities. For cyber security managers, whether in private industry or in governmental or non-governmental organizations, having a sound understanding of computer forensics is critical for detecting, preventing, and resolving cybercrime promptly.

Professionals with a digital forensics degree or a management information systems degree that includes forensics coursework may also find opportunities in law enforcement and criminal justice lines of work. Law firms also frequently work with digital forensics examiners or analysts when presented with cases that contain elements of computer-related crime.

Use of computer forensics in criminal investigations aren’t limited to crimes carried out using a computer or other connected devices. Criminals who research methods or locations of crimes, or simply have devices with them during the crime itself, leave digital traces behind. A 2014 kidnapping of two 13-year-old girls in Minnesota was solved when detectives could trace the victim’s iPods and smartphones to the basement in which they were being held, according to the Star Tribune.

Digital forensics is relatively new to police work and detectives’ job duties, which means law enforcement has experienced some growing pains when adapting to this new method of forensics, The Guardian pointed out.

“One of the problems is the sheer amount of digital evidence the police have to look at,” Dr. Jan Collie, of Discovery Forensics, told The Guardian. “You have to consider the cloud [for digital storage], too. There’s evidence everywhere.”

As more crimes are carried out using digital devices, whether completely or in part, it’s important that experts who are adept in computer forensics are available to contribute to detecting and resolving cybercrime. Graduates of Master of Science in Management Information Systems with the Cyber Security Management concentration are on the right track to fill that need.

Study digital forensics and cybersecurity online at UAB

Whether you want to pursue a career in detective or legal work, or simply want to keep your company or organization safe from cybercrime, a degree in management information systems is an excellent step in the right direction.

When you pursue the Cyber Security Management concentration in the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Collat School of Business master’s degree program, you’ll study the field of digital forensics. This will give the information you need to detect and track cybercriminals, however they encounter your organization. For more information about the Master’s in Management Information Systems degree or the Cyber Security Management concentration, reach out to an enrollment advisor today.

Recommended Reading:

Curriculum overview: Online MS MIS at UAB

Skills you can learn while pursuing your MS MIS



IdentityForce 2018 Data Breaches – The Worst So Far

University of Alabama at Birmingham MS MIS course descriptions

Finjan Cybersecurity blog The Importance of Digital Forensics

National Initiative for Cybersecurity Careers and Studies Digital Forensics

U.S. Department of State Cybercrime and Intellectual Property Crime

The Balance Careers How to Become a Digital Forensic Examiner

Star Tribune Minnesota detectives crack the case with digital forensics

The Guardian Police mishandling digital evidence, forensic experts warn