My Favorite Class at USC: ITP 375, Digital Forensics

rob Viterbi Class Leave a Comment

If you’ve been following my blog at all, you know I’m into computer security.  A lot of time, we think of computer security as setting up firewalls, running an antivirus, and encryption… but once someone breaks into a system or steals data, someone has to investigate and find out what happened- enter digital forensics.

I wanted to get a greater insight into this side of security– last semester, I got an insight into cryptography, file permissions, and basically securing a system in general.  But once something happens to the system, a digital forensics expert is the one who investigates.  A digital forensics expert is someone who knows what to look for and how to preserve evidence so that it can be presented in court.  The Digital Forensics minor at USC trains students to fully qualified to testify as to their findings in court.

So far in this class, we’ve done a ton of hands-on labs.  In one, we took apart a computer and learned how to properly photograph a harddrive and fill out chain-of-custody forms for legal purposes. In another, we imaged a USB drive (not as easy as it sounds- you have to use special tools to make sure you don’t compromise the evidence).  In another, we examined the binary file contents of a computer’s Recycle bin to search for malicious files someone could have used to compromise the computer the Recycle bin was on.

Inside a computer- these type of photos are necessary for court

Inside a computer- these type of photos are necessary for court

We haven’t even gotten started on our mock cases this semester- where we are given a scenario and evidence and investigate from start to finis has if it was an actual legal case.  If I take the Advance Digital Forensics class next semester, we’ll even do a mock trial- a retired judge and actual defense attorneys host this class each year in an actual court house, and the defense attorneys grill us as they would a real expert witness!  Also, recruiters from companies with digital investigation teams will be in attendance- so a good performance could mean a good job!

I’m definitely excited to see what I continue to learn in Digital Forensics.  It’s definitely awesome to learn more about working within the legal system at the same time I learn more and more about the workings of computers.  If you’re interested in seeing what Digital Forensics classes USC has, check it out!

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