From Web To Jail Cell: SHSU Program Uses New Techniques To Fight Crime

Feb. 8, 2010
SHSU Media Contact: Linda Borja

In April 2009 Philip Markoff, also known as the “Craigslist Killer” was caught by authorities and charged with murder.

The 23-year-old Boston medical student was traced by investigators through his e-mails to the murder of Julissa Brisman and kidnapping and robbery of another woman.

In an age of advanced technology the field of digital forensics is rapidly growing and demanding more computer experts, and the Sam Houston State University Center of Excellence is rising to the call, actively preparing students in the field. 

SHSU offers a bachelor’s and master’s degree in digital forensics. The program offers a variety of innovative and intriguing courses such as hardware forensics, network security, cryptography, cyber warfare and terrorism, as well as a network security lab and data recovery lab for hands-on training, according to Burris, university articulation coordinator.  

“The center has been both active and successful,” said Burris, who has been a guest speaker for the FBI, Information Systems Security Association, and Homeland Security about cryptography and steganography. 

The professors in the center concentrate on giving students the experience necessary to obtain recognition among their peers.  Each year SHSU students participate in the Department of Defense Cyber Crime Center Challenge, also known as DC3 Challenge, in which students complete problems with new forensic tools and methodologies.

 In November the students placed in the top 30 among more than 1100 entries that also included military personnel, educational institutions and private companies. 

“This achievement reflects highly on the students who competed,  and we should be proud in knowing that Sam Houston State University is consistently represented by some of the best individuals  in the field of digital forensics,” Burris said.

The FBI also is aware of the talented students at SHSU, according to Burris.  

“SHSU majors have dominated the summer intern positions at the Houston FBI office and multiple students have been placed in the FBI headquarters in Virginia at both the undergraduate and graduate levels,” Burris said.

FBI supervisory special agent James Durie from Virginia visited with students at SHSU in October, when he came to review a tool for using forensics on X-boxes.

Durie explained that it is important for universities to offer  programs such as the Center of Excellence because the workforce is expanding.

“As technology and public policy change, there should be more competition in the field,” he said. “Digital forensics  has certainly opened new avenues to look at crimes. Some crimes did not exist five-to-ten years ago, and almost every crime at the federal level now involves digital forensics.”

Durie’s advice for students looking forward to a career in digital forensics is to “work hard in school, learn how to write well, avoid getting into trouble, and constantly keep up-to-date with new topics in the field, technology, and methodologies.”

For more information on the Center of Excellence program, contact Peter Cooper, computer science department chair, at or Burris at .



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