Computer forensics is the collection (seizure), processing, and analysis of digital information such that this information (evidence) can be successfully admitted into a court of law. It is interdisciplinary in its nature, including topics and tools from computer engineering, computer science, information technology, network engineering, telecommunications, law, and ethics. Although related to information security, computer forensics is a discipline unto itself. In the last 20 years, computer forensics has evolved into its own industry. Once primarily focused on supporting criminal prosecutions, computer forensics now also supports civil prosecutions and the enforcement of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 (Pub. L. No. 107-204, 116 Stat. 745).
The M.S. in Computer Forensics will prepare students for careers in industry, government, and academia by combining academic education with real-world practical techniques. Emphasis is placed in the program on training students to use and apply computer forensics methods and knowledge in a variety of scenarios. Computer forensic examiners (CFE) work in both the public and private sectors, and the Washington, D.C. area is home to a large work force of CFEs. These CFEs work for the FBI, DEA, and Secret Service, as well as with the vast majority of Inspectors General and local police departments. Practically all of the major accounting and consulting firms employ computer forensic examiners on staff, and there is a growing cadre of independent consultants that work in this field.
The distinctiveness of George Mason University's master's program in computer forensics lies in the curriculum, which has been tailored to strengthen the employment opportunities of students in non-academic jobs, as well as prepare students who may wish to pursue a doctorate. The program incorporates faculty research and teaching interests on a range of contemporary topical issues. It also provides students with advanced training in computer and network digital evidence, intrusion forensics, and legal and ethical issues.
We project that a range of students will be interested in taking the CFRS program. Some will have already embarked on an educational or professional career with a focus on areas such as network engineering, security, information assurance, or forensics, and now want to go into greater depth in the field of forensics. Some will want to enhance their educational credentials in a field they have just embarked on, either in a professional capacity or as a research emphasis. Others will want to change their field of study or career, perceiving that there is a real, and rapidly growing, need for forensics examiners, with all of the career advancement prospects that this will afford them.
The distinguished program faculty are drawn from several departments, including Applied Information Technology, Computer Science, and Electrical and Computer Engineering. Their specializations include information security assurance, intrusion detection, network forensics, digital media forensics, operating systems, network engineering, software design, digital hardware, microelectronic chip forensics, cryptography, computer analysis of handwriting, cyber crime, digital evidence, and law and ethics. Many faculty members have experience in industry and government settings, and some have been expert witnesses in court.