SCSU opens a new forensics lab

SCSU’s new forensics lab opened this week. Photo credit: Pengyu “Paul” Qian

Written by: Erich Rice

This past fall Dr. Mark Schmidt and Erich Rice, from the Department of Information Systems received a grant through the Department of Defense (DoD) and the National Security Agency (NSA) for over $316,000. The grant includes a component for the 2020 Cyber Scholarship Program (CySP) and is designed to recruit the nation’s top cyber talent to the DoD and retain current cyber workers to secure our nation against the threats to information systems and computer networks.

The CySP is available to both undergraduate juniors and seniors as well as graduate students in the Master of Science in Information Assurance program. If a student is awarded a scholarship, they receive both tuition for their program as well as a living stipend of $25,000 for undergraduates and $30,000 for graduate students. A new computer, books for courses and professional development funds for things such as travel to a security conference to present research is also provided.

Another portion of the grant was awarded to build the capacity of St. Cloud State University’s digital computer forensics capabilities by creating a Digital Forensic Lab in Centennial Hall. The lab now includes six high-end Phantym-A forensic workstations fitted with Tableau write blockers as well as the necessary adapter kits to analyze a wide range of digital devices for evidence. The Tableau TX1 write blocker allows evidence to be gathered from digital storage devices, like a USB thumb drive or a solid state or magnetic hard disk drive, without changing the state of the original evidence. Once a “bit-by-bit” forensic copy of the evidence bearing drive has been made it can then be examined using the FTK (Forensic Toolkit) software from AccessData. This software allows a digital forensic examiner to parse the evidence on a drive looking for hidden data, or files that may have been manipulated or deleted. The six Phantym-A workstations can also be connected together to form a robust password cracking system using the Passware Kit Forensic software, this allows a forensic examiner the ability to recover a lost password or break a password for protected files or documents. An Airlite VIII i7 mobile forensic workstation will also be kept at SCSU and will be available for demonstrations in other classrooms on campus as well as outreach to the community and businesses as well as other educational or law enforcement institutions.

As part of the grant, two partner institutions, St. Cloud Technical and Community College and the Leach Lake Tribal College, also received forensic workstations, connection kits, and forensic software for their students. Any St. Cloud State University students who are interested in the Information Systems major, the Master of Science in Information Assurance program or the CySP scholarship for the next academic year should reach out to Dr. Mark Schmidt at mark@stcloudstate.edu or Erich Rice at eprice@stcloudstate.edu.

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