ADJ department opens new digital forensics lab
Salve Regina’s broader cyber community of students, faculty, business leaders and state dignitaries gathered Wednesday, Jan. 25 to celebrate the opening of the Department of Administration of Justice’s new digital forensics lab.
The dedicated lab rounds out the University’s classroom-based instruction to provide future cybersecurity and digital forensics professionals with the hands-on training they need to fill crucial jobs in this emergent field. Training offered through the lab will also prepare students for the demanding industry-driven certifying examinations specific to the fields of cybersecurity and digital forensics.
“Salve’s made a big investment here building out this lab and devoting a dedicated space to the forensics program,” said lecturer Brandon Catalan, who is teaching Mobile Forensics at the graduate level and Principles of Forensics at the undergraduate level this semester. “Anyone who walks in will see the monitors, the keyboards, the projector and screen. What you don’t see is the server room behind me. We have our own dedicated server space, our own dedicated servers. There’s proprietary software loaded onto each one of these desktops. We’ve got the Cellebrite mobile forensics gear here. And that’s just the beginning.”
Salve Regina is one of two higher education institutions in New England to be named an official partner of Cellebrite, the Israeli company that gained notoriety when the FBI turned to it to hack into the iPhone of Syed Rizwan Farook, one of two people involved in the murder of 14 people in San Bernardino, California in December 2015. Through its partnership with Salve Regina, the company has shipped its mobile forensics hardware and software to the new lab.
With another grant, the University is purchasing new FRED (Forensic Recovery of Evidence Device) machines – workstations that will allow students to quickly image multiple hard drives at once. “Those FRED machines are being used now in some of the larger companies out there – the Deloittes, the Raytheons – companies that have millions of dollars to devote to cybersecurity and digital forensics,” Catalan said. “Salve’s making that investment right now. We want everything in this lab to mimic what’s in the real world. What the students are going to come in here and learn, the software that they’re going to learn on, the hardware that they’re going to learn on, they can automatically and instantaneously transition over to an employer right when they walk out these doors.”
Looking ahead, Catalan envisions the lab benefiting not just cyber students in the ADJ program, but all Salve Regina students. Many academic areas and businesses can benefit from cybersecurity training, including law, health care administration, insurance, public policy and international relations.
The new lab operates completely separately from the University’s network, which is essential since the new teaching environment will include simulating cyber issues as network, malware and key-logging attacks, virus inoculation and detection and more. Internet protective and detective systems will be studied. Digital forensics analysis, capable of being upheld in a court of law, will be an important aspect of this practice-based instruction as well.
“We can offer students the ability to work on real cases – real law enforcement cases, real terror threat cases,” Catalan said. “We want to be able to carve out a classified environment for government research to happen here. That’s down the road, but beginning with this space, the tools we have right now, with the momentum we have with enrollment and new faculty, I think it’s going to happen a lot sooner than later.”