Michael Viox, a Middle Georgia State College IT major, is the lead cyber investigator on a case of corporate espionage. He seizes a company computer’s hard drive, makes a copy and then analyzes it using forensics software. He recovers data, secures evidence and documents it in case of future prosecution or civil litigation.
For now, it’s all hypothetical exercise as part of Viox’s advanced studies in the Information Assurance & Security concentration of MGSC’s bachelor’s degree in IT. But soon he’ll take those skills into the real world.
“I’d like to be an information security officer for business or industry,” said Viox, 32, of Macon, who completes his degree this spring. “But I’m almost sorry to be graduating. I love my courses and want more.”
Some IT majors are about to get more when MGSC’s School of Information Technology opens its state-of-the-art digital forensics lab. The lab, located in room 253 of the Professional Sciences & Conference Center on the Macon Campus, is funded by a National Science Foundation grant the college got last year to expand digital forensics education.
Digital forensics is a means to gather, process, interpret and use digital evidence related to cybercrime. Evidence gathered in cyber forensics investigations often is used in criminal prosecutions. The field also involves the study of evidence from attacks on computer systems to learn how they occurred, the extent of damage and possible means to prevent them from recurring.
Middle Georgia State is one of the few institutions in the University System of Georgia - and the only one in the midstate - to offer a digital forensics/information security concentration as part of its IT degree program.
“Information assurance is the hottest field in IT,” said faculty member Johnathan Yerby, lecturer of IT, who is creating the new lab with Dr. Kevin Floyd, program chair and associate professor of IT. “As more and more of our world is networked, cybercrime is becoming increasingly profitable. There’s a demand for people who can investigate instances of cybercrime to help businesses and individual consumers protect themselves.”
At 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 11, Yerby and Floyd will show the digital forensics lab to a group of visitors from Daytona State College. Middle Georgia State is the lead institution for the state of Georgia as part of the NSF grant-funded Southeastern Advanced Cybersecurity Education Consortium (ACE). ACE is extending digital forensics courses to more students by placing them online.
Also on hand February 11 will be representatives from Central Georgia Technical College and other tech colleges that MGSC has articulation agreements with. Under those agreements, students who earn IT associate’s degrees from the tech colleges can seamlessly transfer to Middle Georgia State to work on their bachelor’s degrees in information technology.
Technical college representatives will spend the day learning more about digital forensics and be invited to add the topic to their existing curriculum. Through the ACE Consortium, Daytona State and Middle Georgia State will provide training and support for the technical college faculty members, including possible access to the new digital forensics lab.
Floyd and Yerby hope to interest more tech college graduates into coming to MGSC to study digital forensics.
Consortium schools offer online courses in introductory and advanced digital forensics; incident response and network forensics; and Linux administration. The courses will apply toward degree programs, or IT professionals can take them as part of continuing education or retraining.
Although the School of Information Technology at Middle Georgia State was already teaching those courses as part of the IT degree program, Floyd's work includes making sure they are consistent among the consortium schools.
Photo: IT majors Regina Pangelinan and Michael Viox work in the digital forensics lab at Middle Georgia State College. Photo by Woody Marshall.