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Recommendations for Graduate Programs? 68

Posted by Cliff
from the beyond-undergrad dept.
xblanksx asks: "I am a soon to be college graduate and I have been looking into graduate programs pertaining to computer forensics and computer crime investigation. So far the only program I have been able to find is the 'High Technology Crime Investigation' program offered through GWU. Since I am finding it rather hard to find any other programs, what other graduate programs might be out there pertaining to computer investigations?"
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Recommendations for Graduate Programs?

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  • I think that you'll have plenty of time to think about it. I don't know about your particular specialization, but most graduate schools require replies by April 15 from all of the people they offered admission to.

    I'm in the middle of figuring out which school I'll be attending in the Fall, and had all of my applications in by Jan 1.
    • Exactly. I'm in the same position. And, as other posters have stated, your program desire is a little too specific. A Masters in CS would be the best bet IMHO, with a focus on computer security...do your dissertation (or whatever CS people do) on the topic, choose related courses and even cross-college study (take out of program classes). And a note on rankings (the newsweek ranking issue showed up today). Most rankings, esp newsweek, aren't very useful. They are very political and manipulated often.
    • Master's programs run a bit later. Some don't require replies until late summer. April 15 is the reply deadline for many Ph. D. programs, however, particularly if you receive a fellowship.
  • http://main.uab.edu/show.asp?durki=69261 [uab.edu]
    http://www.graduate.ucf.edu/CurrentGradCatalog/con tent/degrees/ACAD_PROG_71.cfm [ucf.edu]

    These were just on the first two pages of a google search for "computer forensics graduate school". You couldn't have possibly looked that hard.
  • SFU? (Score:3, Informative)

    by gregbaker (22648) on Tuesday April 04, 2006 @09:30PM (#15062928) Homepage
    A lab [cs.sfu.ca] at SFU [cs.sfu.ca] is just starting a joint venture with the RCMP. It's in the early stages and is still ramping up. I believe projects with Criminology have begun.

    If you're interested, drop me an email, or contact the head of the lab [cs.sfu.ca].

    • A lab at SFU is just starting a joint venture with the RCMP. It's in the early stages and is still ramping up. I believe projects with Criminology have begun.
      I don't know whether it says something about me or about Slashdot, but I initially read that as "A lab at STFU is just starting a joint venture with the RCMP."
  • CSI-ish (Score:4, Interesting)

    by NETHED (258016) on Tuesday April 04, 2006 @09:32PM (#15062934) Homepage
    By no-means am I trying to demean you or your goals (first year chem grad-student), but that is very much a niche sounding field. Personally, I would go to a FBI field office and ask them, tell them what you want to do, and unless you find an ass they'll probabbly help you (as it can help them).

    Also, I saw ITT-Tech advertising with just such a program, so that might degrade your college-graduate status. (Damn it, that piece of paper is WORTH SOMETHIN')

    Frankly, I think that the much-bally-hoooed "age of digital warfare" has been upon us, but we just see it as furniture. Spyware and malware is or should be illegal, finding the perp should be an FBI enforcement issue. I doubt highly that terrorist organizations are sitting on thier collective laurels with respect to digital and information warfare. I'm SURE the army has 'information warriors' in thier propaganda arm.

    Anywho, best of luck to you my fellow Gen-Xer (Are we still called that? Or maybe echo-boomer).
    • Personally, I would go to a FBI field office and ask them, tell them what you want to do, and unless you find an ass they'll probabbly help you (as it can help them).

      Good suggestion. I would just like to add that most colleges, including the poster's, also have career counselors [odu.edu] who can give guidance on what programs are good or not. They have various stacks of guides and ratings that can be more informative than a simple Google search [google.com].

      OT: UMass has great chemistry! (Former Lederle dweller, not sure if
  • If you're fresh out of college, I suggest hunting for a job. Work in the IT field for a while-- try to get an internship or work on the business side. Not sure what the job market looks like for new grads these days, but I know it's better then a few years ago.

    School is fun, but you need some real world experience in order to function in this world. Universities tend to be a bit isolated with their approach to things, and their teachings don't necessarily reflect reality.

    If you go straight to grad school, t
    • Oh yeah, I can see how working and making money and not having to work towards a thesis would be a huge motivation towards returning to school, paying tuition, and being expected to work 1.5 times the hours that even demanding 9-5 jobs require.

      Forget that, he should go for the degree now, and get on with it after.
      • mmm... yes, it would be better to find a job first, if only to avoid spending an additional 2+ years advancing in a degree that could very easily be a waste of time. if you're well qualified for a position that does not exist, or end up with a degree in something you hate, it ends up being nothing more than a bad experience to learn from and a credential that may or may not help you in a future job, depending on how well you can spin it.

      • Exactly right. Besides while you're doing all these "real world" things you will probably lose touch with the more theoretical aspects of computer science, which you will then need to (re)learn to succeed in any grad program.
    • I'd mod you up if I could.
    • If you go straight to grad school, there's a big risk that you'll spend $40,000 and fail to focus on the right skills.

      or you can get scholarships which are significantly higher than ones found in undergrad and MAKE $40,000 a year going to grad school. Actually, this year, I made $55,000 ;) For some, grad school is a decent paying job :)

    • Having an EE degree and working as an IT consultant for 20+ years, I've found the the best people doing investigative work in IT have an educational background other than IT. The best ones have been philosophy and social science majors. The nasty fact of life is that IT education and training tend to foster "inside the box" thinking based on current industry trends (not necessarily a formula for long-term success and happiness). I've been in grad school twice and saw the same thing both times. The folks
  • NSA reccomendations (Score:2, Informative)

    by IASmaster (827152)
    You could check out some of the schools which the NSA reccomends for security in general. They have a list of National Centers of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Education (CAEIAE). The link is http://www.nsa.gov/ia/academia/caeiae.cfm [nsa.gov]
  • What do you want? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by rwash (16296) on Tuesday April 04, 2006 @09:48PM (#15063004) Homepage
    What are you looking for in a graduate program? If you are looking for a bunch of classes to teach you computer forensics, I'm not sure where to direct you. I think that's a little too specialized for most graduate programs to meet. If you are looking to conduct research into better ways of doing computer forensics, then I am willing to bet that most good computer security groups would love people working on that. You can look at schools with good computer security research groups like Berkeley, MIT, Cambridge, Princeton, Rice, UCSD, etc.
  • by baronben (322394) <`moc.liamg' `ta' `legips.neb'> on Tuesday April 04, 2006 @09:49PM (#15063011) Homepage
    I spent the last year doing a graduate program search (for geography, not CS, but same things apply), so the tips are fresh in my mind.

    There are two schools of thought on how to search for a grad school. The first is to find a professor that you like and then look at the program. The best way to do this is to look through all the papers that you've written as an undergrad and look for the names that show up often in your bibliography. These are people who are interested in what you like. Chances are, they are surrounded by other people doing what you like. Take a look at the program that they teach in, do they offer classes that you like, are other people publishing things that interest you. The danger here to two fold. The first is that the person who you like is a jerk in person, you can find that out by corresponding with them by e-mail, see if they pay attention to you and treat you with respect. Ask your current professors about the person, most academic fields are pretty small, and word gets around. If you ever visit the campus, talk to their grad students and other people in the program. This is the best approach to take if you plan on either doing a ph.d, which is mostly working with an advisor one-on-one, or plan on staying in the same place for both masters and ph.d. One last hint, make sure they'll be staying at the institution, I almost got burned on this one.

    The second school of thought, better if you're getting a masters and then moving into the private industry, is to find a program that interests you. Since you seem to have tried this, I won't add much more here except to say that I hear at Carnage Melon has a good computer security program, not sure if its what you're looking for though.
    • CMU has a #1 ranked CS Program, but it's also damn near impossible to get into.
  • As far as employability is concerned, investigative agencies are going to be more concerned about coursework rather than a title on your degree certificate stating, "Computer Forensics" or "Computer Investigations". You're better off concerning yourself with getting a masters in computer science, and taking some additional courses in the criminology and/or law departments at whatever university you end up going to, or vice versa. Computer forensics/investigations is still a relatively new field (not to me
  • Purdue CERIAS (Score:3, Informative)

    by Iaughter (723964) on Tuesday April 04, 2006 @10:20PM (#15063169) Homepage
    Purdue University's Center for Education and Research in Information Assurance and Security.
    http://www.cerias.purdue.edu/ [purdue.edu]

    It's a well-known and top-notch program, one of the first of its kind.

    Its head is Eugene Spafford, who seems to be well-known [wikipedia.org] in tech circles and is part of the Center's claim to fame.

    CERIAS offers, I think, both masters and PhD's.

    I looked at it a few years ago, but I'm sure that it's still worth looking into. I think that their site recently was dugg for some security checklist or something ...
  • by bearclaw (217359)
    I don't know about CSI-ish degrees, but GWU (I assume you mean George Washington University in Washington DC) is a great school overall. And the location is great.
  • The Newest issue of U.S. News and World Report is about top schools for graduate study.
  • I think certification would do more to bolster your career. How about SANS GIAC [giac.org]?
  • Although it may not apply to you specifically, I strongly recommend you first read the Ph.D. Glut [lewrockwell.com]. You mention graduate school and I assume you mean you plan to get a Masters, but the article is still worth a look before you plunge into the pool.
  • Computer Crime Investigation isn't really a graduate school kind of thing. It's kind of like if you went to graduate school and ended up with a degree in business. Oh, whoops. (Sorry MBAs, but you know your degree is a joke). What you want to learn is best learned by going in the field. I'll leave you with a quote from a professor of mine:

    "Of course mathematics is wonderful and anyone who goes to graduate school in mathematics is much more brilliant than anyone who, say, chooses a starting salary of $100K o
  • Depends what you're looking for. If you want to do it "convenient and cheap", you might be interested in the program I'm pursuing. I'm half-way plus through a Masters of Science in Applied Computer Science with a concentration in Information Assurance at Columbus State University, Columbus, GA. It's an on campus degree, but enough of the courses are offered remotely, they also offer a distance learning version. You probably understand the trade-offs of not being in a face-to-face class, but I'll still end u
  • I know this is a crazy idea, but maybe you could call up some police departments or FBI offices and, I don't know, maybe ask them? Not to be a smart ass, but it seems like the obvious answer is to go ask the people that have those jobs.
    Don't be afraid to talk to people. Especially when you aren't a criminal or complaining, most law enforcement people are more than happy to talk to people.

  • I am a Ph.D. student in computer engineering at Iowa State, and our program may be of interest to you. We have several faculty members doing forensics research in areas such as detecting illegal pornography and attack attribution. The department also has a computer forensics lab, and offers a specific course in Computer Forensics that includes projects where drive images are examined using EnCase and FTK in order to locate and recover evidence.

    Probably the best advice I can give on selecting any program
  • Try my discipline: Geography, especially GIS for Forensics. Lots of programs have people interested in the topic, especially since homeland security money is so available. Go on http:///www.aag.org [aag.org] and search through the Annual Meeting proceedings for names of people doing work in this area. Apply to those programs. Include in your application letter a one paragraph blurb about a thesis topic. I did a side project for law enforcement agency that wanted to "predict" where meth labs would most likely happen.
  • Get some real world experience first. What if you decide you hate it? Seriously, a background in CompSci does not a forensic expert make. You'll have to deal with stupid government lifers, endless reams of paperwork and regulations, etc. Maybe work in a "corporate" world first, learn what you like and don't like. For instance, I used to work for a dotcom, and discovered that I hated working for a company that sold IT services/products. Why? The snake oil that flew around. The divide between the tech
  • by rabbit994 (686936) on Wednesday April 05, 2006 @09:07AM (#15065492)
    Most police agencies require you spend time in the field doing police type activities (catching criminals, dealing with domestics, etc) before you can move on to other things. I imagine Foresnics is probably something that is more OJT then degree taught. My recommendation, get your BS and apply to FBI, DHS or state police departments.
  • Generally, the way to go about it is to find a professor or a group of professors doing interesting research, and apply for those programs. Most people I know that followed that path were happy with where they ended up.

    And, as a side note, don't get caught up looking at a program that says "Computer Forensics" on it. There are only a few for a reason. It takes a strong general education in math and computer science and computer engineering to do that sort of work. So, you should get a detail look at some CS
  • A masters in digital forensics isn't too different than a paper MCSE. You need lots of real world hands on. As anyone who has a BS in Comp Sci will tell you, much of what you learn in college isn't too useful in the real world.

    If you are about to have a CS degree, apply to the FBI, DEA, Secret Service, ICE, or some other federal agency. They are begging for people with technical degrees. You will likely be the resident tech guru and quickly get an assignment and trainig in forensics. If you like it you can
  • The Univeristy of Rhode Island is trying to teach this kind of stuff I believe. It's not the worlds most prestigious graduate program, but I think they've been doing the forensics stuff for a few years, so the instruction in that topic might be well developed.

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