"These case studies are based on real cases, and they’re valuable for students as they teach not only the techniques used by cybercriminals, but also study the factors that lead people to engage in these kinds of crimes."
The year 2020 was a record year for internet crime. The most recent report from the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center, from 2021, logged nearly 800,000 complaints, with a total cost to Americans of $4.2 billion. This is an almost 40 percent increase over the previous year.
Topping the list of cybercrimes was phishing, the practice of sending emails purporting to be from reputable companies or acquaintances designed to trick unsuspecting individuals into revealing personal information, such as passwords and credit card numbers. In short, an email scam.
Dr. Hannarae Lee, assistant professor of criminal justice, said, “I guarantee that everyone has received at least one phishing email, which indicates it is no longer just a scene on TV shows or movies. It is real, and everyone is a target, thus we need to be aware of phishing and how to protect ourselves from it.”
Indeed, cybercrime of all types has been on the rise for years, leading to a boom in cybersecurity jobs. To meet this growing need, BSU’s Criminal Justice Department has introduced the Cybercriminology and Cybersecurity Graduate Certificate program. A master’s degree program in cybersecurity and justice is in the works. The Cybersecurity and Digital Forensics undergraduate minor was launched in fall 2020 in the Department of Computer Science. The university is in the process of securing Board of Higher Education approval for a new bachelor’s degree program in cybersecurity.
A classroom in the Dana Mohler-Faria Science and Mathematics Center will be converted to a state-of-the-art cyber range, housing a number of specialized computers where students will experience simulated cyber-attacks and learn diverse cybersecurity techniques, such as detecting, stopping and protecting against online attacks, as well as analyzing such attacks. Dr. Lee said students are more likely to learn these skills by experiencing real-life examples. “These case studies are based on real cases, and they’re valuable for students as they teach not only the techniques used by cybercriminals, but also study the factors that lead people to engage in these kinds of crimes,” she said.
Dr. Lee, along with Dr. Enping Li, associate professor of computer science, are the key faculty members leading these efforts. They see a number of factors that have led to the rise of cybercrime, including society’s increased use of technology, the affordability of computers and mobile devices, and the subsequent growth of internet traffic.
“When there are profits involved, there are security concerns,” Dr. Li said. However, she added that while online commerce has exploded, cybersecurity education hasn’t kept pace.
Cybersecurity is highly interdisciplinary, whether in the classroom or in the field. Students in BSU’s cybersecurity programs study various aspects of the subject, helping prepare them for myriad careers. As programmers they can protect a company’s information technology systems from cyberattacks, or find jobs in criminal justice trying to track down and build legal cases against cybercriminals. And, ideally, every company would have an employee trained in cybersecurity, who can explain in plain language complicated details surrounding cybersecurity and cybercrime issues. “When there is a cyberattack, it takes a collaborative approach to deal with it,” Dr. Li said. “It is very helpful for different collaborators to have the whole picture of what’s happening.”
The pedagogy of BSU’s cybersecurity programs will be informed by the experience of industry professionals. “Professionals in the field have emphasized the importance of fundamental knowledge, as well as problem-solving and critical-thinking skills,” Dr. Li said.
For information about BSU’s cybersecurity graduate offerings, visit bridgew.edu/graduate/cybercriminology. To learn about undergraduate programs, visit bridgew.edu/department/