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Digital Forensics Benefits Students and Soldiers

Ever wonder how people hack into computers or how the military can access enemies’ laptop hard drives?


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Interested in learning how to do all things imaginable with computers?

Then the Digital Forensics class for computer science majors is for you.

Dr. Drew Hamilton, professor of the course, has developed the course into a hands-on learning experience for students.

“I do talk to them and lecture, but most of the time classes are spent actually working on computers and spending time in the labs,” Hamilton said.

And the students said they enjoy the class because the lectures aren’t “stale” and they have become aware of what all can be done to a computer.

“I’ve really developed a healthy fear of anyone stealing my hard drive,” said C.W. Perr, a Ph.D student in computer science with a concentration in information assurance.

Perr has learned that basically anything can be accessed on any computer.

“Password protection doesn’t really matter, because I can easily access a computer’s information even if it is protected by a password, and deleting a file doesn’t actually erase it entirely from the computer,” Perr said, as he quickly demonstrated how to access a computer’s hard drive. ‘I can find that file in a matter of minutes.”

The National Science Foundation funds the Digital Forensics course. One aspect of the course that Hamilton and some of his students are involved in is traveling to military bases where wounded soldiers are being treated and teaching them the forensics course.

Hamilton, who is a retired military colonel, ships the entire lab and 20 MacBook Pro laptops to the sites and teaches the soldiers everything he teaches his students at Auburn.

“Most of the soldiers are in a waiting process of figuring out if they can go back to work for the military, so while they are waiting we teach them a skill,” Hamilton said. “So if they don’t get to go back in, they have another skill besides the military to fall back on in case they have to find another job.”

Many of the wounded soldiers have been in the military since as early as high school, Hamilton said, so that’s all they have ever known.

“The employment market is terrible right now, and for a soldier who has never known anything outside of the military it is even tougher to find a job,” Hamilton said.

But if they do get to join back into the military, Hamilton said he has taught them skills they can use on the battlefield as well.

Many times the soldiers want to know what to do if they ever come across an enemies’ laptop, Hamilton said. “We teach them what to do so they are equipped with useful knowledge to use in the military or in another job later down the road.”

For more information about the Digital Forensics course or the computer science major, visit the course website.

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Tags: College of Engineering, Computer Science, Digital Forensics, MichelleWilder, Wounded Soldiers

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Comment by Jana Tarleton on February 28, 2011 at 4:49pm
What a great article and a wonderful opportunity to help those soldiers that have given so much for us!  Thank you for a great feature story that may  not have been told!

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