Mason to Offer Virginia’s First Master’s Program in Computer Forensics

Posted: March 9, 2009 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Jennifer Edgerly

Mason has received approval from the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia to offer a new Master of Science in Computer Forensics, the only master’s program of its kind in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

While television dramas have popularized the field of forensic science and its role in solving crimes, computer forensics is becoming increasingly more important as cyber crime continues to rise.

The degree is offered through Mason’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering in the Volgenau School of Information Technology and Engineering. The 30-credit program will prepare students for careers in industry, government and academia by combining academic education with real-world techniques.

“With the introduction of this program, Mason continues to demonstrate its commitment to be a leader within the region, working closely with government agencies and major corporations to provide top-class educational opportunities,” says Jeremy Allnutt. A professor of electrical and computer engineering, Allnutt played a leading role in the process of establishing and getting the program approved.

“The distinctiveness of Mason’s master’s program in computer forensics lies in the curriculum, which has been tailored to strengthen the employment opportunities of students in nonacademic jobs, as well as prepare students who wish to pursue a doctoral degree.”

Although related to information security, computer forensics is a discipline unto itself. Over the past 20 years, computer forensics has evolved into its own industry. Once primarily focused on supporting criminal prosecutions, computer forensics now also supports civil prosecutions and the enforcement of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002.

Defined as the collection, processing and analysis of digital information that can be successfully admitted into a court of law, computer forensics is interdisciplinary in nature, including topics and tools from computer engineering, computer science, information technology, network engineering, telecommunications, law and ethics.

“Although we only recently received approval for the new master’s program, the Volgenau School has been offering a graduate certificate in computer forensics for several years,” says Allnutt.

“Working closely with FBI agents, as well as a forensics consultant, we have created a program that will train students to use and apply computer forensics methodology and knowledge in a variety of real-life scenarios. The undergraduate BSIT program in the Volgenau School will also shortly begin to offer a concentration in forensics so that students may seamlessly move from BS to MS, concentrating in computer forensics.”

The Washington, D.C., area is home to a large workforce of computer forensic examiners who are employed by government agencies, such as the FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration and U.S. Secret Service, and private accounting and consulting firms. The number of independent consultants who work in the field is also growing rapidly.

The program begins in August 2009. Applications are being accepted now at the Office of Admissions web site.

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