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HCC’s computer forensics program is ahead of the curve. Today, HCC is one of only two community colleges in thecountry participating in a pilot program to work in partnership with the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) Cyber Crime Center to design and implement computer forensics curriculum standards for training students to work in the dynamic and evolving field of cyber security.
HCC has the good fortune to be located in a geographic area ripe with experienced cyber security experts. In addition to the college’s accomplished full-time faculty and administrators referenced in this issue, HCC students have the benefit of learning from adjunct instructors actively working in this dynamic field. Here are just a few of the talented professionals teaching courses at the college:
- R. Kris Britton works at the National Security Agency (NSA) as director of the Center for Assured Software.
- Raymond Gabler serves as security engineering and operations manager for Legg Mason, LLC.
- Michael Hennick heads up cyber security operations and administration at Raytheon Solipsys Corporation.
- Daniel Lohin, senior consultant at Booz Allen Hamilton, engineers, tests, and maintains baselines of security products for the Defense Information Systems Agency.
"Students receive hands-on lab instruction involving investigative techniques, solving case studies, using forensic software tools, and writing reports – hallmarks of an effective computer forensics examiner," says Vinitha Nithianandam, HCC professor of computer support technology.
"Some HCC students have participated in local and national computer forensics competitions, and have gained valuable experience and contacts," adds Patrick O’Guinn, HCC senior professor of criminal justice, and co-director of computer forensics.
Computer forensics is the capturing and analysis of information found within computer systems and can involve preservation, identification, extraction, examination, interpretation, and documentation of computer evidence for use in legal proceedings, administrative hearings, and business.
During a computer forensics investigation, the investigator may try to solve the mystery of a computer system failure, find out who is misusing a system, or who committed a crime against one computer system using another one. And this has to happen without altering or damaging the original data. Computer forensics examiners are in demand in many industries, including law enforcement, legal entities, banking and finance, and especially federal government departments such as the DoD, FBI, and Justice Department.
The HCC computer forensics program has grown each semester, beginning in 2005 as part of the criminal justice program, and subsequently added to the information technology associate degree track.
"Computer forensics is one important example of the current and future programs HCC will offer to address the growing need for a cyber security-trained workforce," says Sharon Schmickley, chair of the business and computer systems division. "Although the industry is young, and parameters are still being defined, we plan to stay on top of the game to prepare our students to face the challenges and mysteries of this cyber-intensive world."
Emy Harris is looking for a new career in a field that offers a bright future. Cyber security is the field she’s chosen, and she’s taking the first step to completing her goal by studying at HCC.
A couple of decades ago, Harris attended The George Washington and The Johns Hopkins Universities, earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees in business. Recently out of work, she decided to restart her professional life by building on her interest in computers and information security.
"I chose HCC because the college offers innovative programs that provide training in highly demanded skills, such as computer forensics," she says.
Harris plans to earn an associate degree and the certifications she’ll need to work in the Department of Defense’s Cyber Crime Center (DC3). "The fact that Professor Nithianandam is working with DoD to align HCC’s program with what is needed for the future will contribute to my success," she says. "She takes into consideration that students come from different levels of technical knowledge and ensures the fundamentals are always covered, breaking down the concepts in layman’s terms, and making learning easy and enjoyable."
In the long term, Harris hopes to become an entrepreneur and start her own computer forensics consulting business. "Everything today touches computers, no matter what business you are in, so the potential is great," she says.