As electronics become an indispensable part of our lives, the data embedded in them contain a goldmine of information that helps law enforcement nab crooked corporate executives and unscrupulous shareholders.
“We’re in an information age,” Professor Gregory Carlton says. “We’re also in a litigious age. Together, these two worlds are going to make this field expand rapidly.”
Extracting data requires a methodical process and an in-depth knowledge of information systems. One missed step could corrupt data or make the evidence inadmissible in a court of law.
To address these issues, Cal Poly Pomona launched the Advanced Computer Forensics Lab and created the Computer Forensics Certification Program. Housed in the College of Business Administration, the lab promotes student learning, advances academic research and provides space for law enforcement agencies to conduct work. The certification program helps law enforcement agencies learn the latest techniques in retrieving evidence from computer systems. As director of computer forensics programs, Carlton oversees the lab and the certification program, as well as computer forensics studies for undergraduate and graduate students.
The lab opened in fall 2009 with a reception that brought representatives from several agencies including the Los Angeles, El Monte and Ontario police departments and the California Department of Motor Vehicles.
Ashraf Massoud, who supervises the Computer Forensics Unit for the California Franchise Tax Board, attended the open house. Massoud considers Cal Poly Pomona’s programs a valuable resource because computer forensics is a relatively new career field, and not many people have university degrees in computer forensics. There is a need to distinguish the expert from the novice.
“Having a professional certification is always good to have for court purposes,” Massoud says. “It’s really important to go before the court with proper certification that shows you are an expert in this field, and you are not a guy in his garage trying to tinker with computers.”
The certification program launched April 2. Offered at least twice a year, it takes students as few as six weeks to complete. Courses in the program range from learning how to extract data from computers, cell phones and iPods to learning how to use professional software.
The certification program is open to people from all skill levels.
(Photo: Professor Gregory Carlton in the Advanced Computer Forensics Lab.)