An Irish university that developed a course dedicated solely to international law enforcement has become a global leader in the fight against cybercrime.
UCD’s online MSc in Forensic Computing and Cyber Crime Investigation teaches law enforcement officials in more than 70 countries specialized investigative techniques and is the only course of its kind in the world.
To date, more than 1,200 law enforcement students around the world have completed the course – including from agencies such as the FBI – and places are in high demand.
The Master’s course is the brainchild of Professor Joe Carthy, former Dean of Computer Science at UCD who has taught on the faculty since 1984.
With the development of the Internet in the late 1990s, he realized that cybercrime was a growing problem that would require an academic response.
“You didn’t have to be a rocket scientist to realize that with such a tremendous development as the Internet, a problem with cybercrime would arise over time, but we in the computer science department were not the only ones who recognized this, “, said Prof Carthy.
This led to the first significant collaboration between An Garda Síochána and academia in Ireland.
Around this time, Detective Inspector Paul Gillen, who was then head of the fledgling Garda Computer Crime Unit – the precursor to the Garda National Cyber Crime Bureau (GNCCB) – asked UCD faculty to help him deal with the new crime could advise phenomenon.
Prof Carthy said: “Paul came to UCD to see if we could help and it proved to be the start of a very rewarding and constructive partnership between police and science. It is no coincidence that he is now the head of security, including cybersecurity, for Barclays worldwide.
“We visited Interpol in Lyon and we could see this huge network of law enforcement agencies from all over the world, but no one offered specialized training in this area.
“So the staff here at the school and the gardaí have been working together on a proposal to start an online masters course in forensic computer science and cybercrime investigation. The design was based on the practical needs of law enforcement.”
The result was the creation in 2006 of the Center for Cybersecurity and Cybercrime Investigation (CCI), which administers Belfield’s postgraduate course.
“We are all very proud of what has been achieved here and it must be stressed that this was the result of collaboration between the various stakeholders,” said Prof Carthy.
“The secret of its success in the international law enforcement community is that it was developed by law enforcement, for law enforcement, and in part provided by law enforcement experts.”
Since its inception, the CCI’s researchers and analysts have helped establish the National Cyber Security Center (NCSC) and the GNCCB. It also provided extensive technical support following last year’s ransomware attack on the HSE.
The center acts as academic advisor to the European Cybercrime Training and Education Group (ECTEG) at Europol and assists the Banking and Payments Federation of Ireland (BPFI) in curbing the impact of online financial crime.
The UCD faculty also offers a separate Computer Crime Specialist course for Gardaí involved in fraud investigations.
Some of the instructors are civilian experts attached to entities such as GNCCB and Cab. For security reasons, they could not be named or questioned.
One of the faculty members and cybersecurity analyst, Gerry Buttner, is a former Garda who worked as a bodyguard and driver for President Mary McAleese for seven years.
“I joined the Gardaí in 1982 and spent much of my career on the road and then worked with the president,” he said.
“In the late 1990s, when cyber and computer crime were becoming an issue, Paul Gillen invited me to join the computer crime unit because I was what you would call a computer geek.
“I helped set up a preliminary analysis unit that sorted the cases as they entered the Gardaí. Through our contact with UCD I decided to do the MSc and got along so well that Joe Carthy recruited me and I have been working at the CCI since I retired in 2012.”
Course participants include police, military and customs officials from across the EU, North and South America, Australia, Asia and Africa.
Prof Carthy said the feedback from law enforcement has been “very, very positive”.
“We were recently contacted by the head of a certain law enforcement agency in Cyprus who said ‘we sent you the boy and got back an expert in cybercrime investigation’ because this graduate of our course later cracked down on a major international cyber crime syndicate and the Seizure of 300 devices.
“It shows how this kind of practical academic teaching can lead to big results in the real world.”
Another benefit of the international course is that it has facilitated the creation of an unofficial global law enforcement network where UCD alumni can help each other and share expertise on developing crimes.
“Law enforcement is inherently suspicious and secretive, and this is a circle of trust and mutual respect that sidesteps cumbersome bureaucracy,” the professor added.
“A member of a Garda task force can pick up the phone and talk to another graduate on the other side of the world – there are no jurisdictional boundaries when it comes to cybercrime.”
Such was the success of the existing program that the School of Computer Science is launching a new MSc in cybersecurity for civilians next week.
https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/crime/ucds-world-leading-cyber-crime-degree-course-has-produced-army-of-super-sleuths-41940882.html UCD’s world-leading cybercrime degree has produced an army of super detectives