Saturday, December 5, 2009

Professor Levine on Cyber Forensics -- What a Talk!

Yesterday, we had the enormous pleasure and educational experience of hearing Professor Brian Levine of the Computer Science Department at UMass Amherst speak on cyber forensics. I, personally, sat at the edge of my seat and took copious notes because the clarity of his presentation and the topic were brilliant. His talk attracted a large audience of faculty, staff, undergrads and grad students and even administrators. Professor Levine considers himself a person responsible for applying science to law and especially computer science in gathering evidence.

He asked such interesting questions and brought up such timely topics and observations that the discussions continued for hours afterwards.

For example, What does it mean to have good network evidence? How to demonstrate intent when it comes to criminal activities that are gleaned from cyber forensics? How do you pick whom to investigate? Who is it that you want to catch?

We learned about the differences between cyber forensics, cyber security, privacy, and cyber intelligence.

We learned about the challenges that law enforcement agencies face in the various application domains, including cyber ones. For example, in order to gather evidence (without a warrant) law enforcement can only use publicly available technology (and they had gotten caught awhile back using infrared cameras before they were publicly available and that evidence could not be used).

We learned about the guid (global unique identifier), dynamic IP addresses, cryptographic hash, and even SODDI (some other dude did it). As Professor Levine mentioned in his lecture yesterday, computer scientists love acronyms. The software tool that he and his team have developed is called ROUNDUP and it has been applied in both Massachusetts and Pennsylvania and has been successful in identifying perpetrators in these jurisdictions.

Professor Levine also discussed his latest research, which he calls "active tagging" and which was inspired by his work tagging turtles, which got a lot of publicity.

Lo and behold, one of my doctoral students after the talk and lunch that followed surprised us with a hardcopy of The Collegian, the UMass Amherst student newspaper, which carried, the day before, a front page article on Dr. Levine's talk, complete with a photo, and a nice mention of our Speaker Series. You can find the extracted article here.

What an ending to a fabulous set of speakers this Fall! I felt as though I was living an episode of CSI Amherst.

Thank you all so much!!! Special thanks also to the officers of the UMass Amherst INFORMS Student Chapter and its members, who help in the organization of this very special series.