Classes in digital forensics – the collection, examination and presentation of digitally stored evidence in criminal and civil investigations – are being created fast on college campuses, reports USA Today. About 100 colleges and universities offer undergraduate and graduate courses in digital forensics, with a few offering majors. Five years ago, there were only a handful. Traditional students, police officers, other government employees, and aspiring security consultants are taking the courses as more crooks stash ill-gotten data and goods on PCs, PDAs, cellphones, network servers, iPods, and even Xboxes.
Students learn where to find digital evidence and handle it without contaminating it. Students are shown how to examine evidence and present it clearly during court testimony. “If you revert to geek speak, you can lose a judge, jury, and prosecutor,” says Mark Pollitt, former FBI agent now teaching digital forensics professor at Johns Hopkins University. The evidence is particularly important in the seizure of data for child pornography cases, says Marcus Rogers, an associate professor who heads the computer forensics program at Purdue University’s College of Technology. The FBI handled more than 9,500 computer forensics cases in fiscal year 2005, compared with about 3,600 in fiscal 2000.