By Huw Read, PhD, Director of Advanced Computing and Digital Forensics
Back in the Fall of 2015, the Norwich University Center of Advanced Computing and Digital Forensics (NUCACDF) was successful in attracting overseas funding in collaboration with Noroff University College (NUC) located in the beautiful city of Kristiansand, Norway. The Norwegian Center for International Cooperation in Education (In Norwegian “Senter for Internasjonalisering av Utdanning” or SIU) was highly contested, with only 28 percent of proposals being accepted during the 2015 round of the “Project Funds for North America” call.
The collaborative effort between NUC and Norwich, entitled Forensic and Security Teaching Educational Resources (FASTER) is focused on developing and testing a methodology to improve the creation of practical computer-based exercises and associated teaching material in the area of cyber security and computer forensics. Such exercises will be scenario-based, with an international flair incorporating the locales of Vermont, USA and Kristansand, Norway. It is envisioned that, at the conclusion of the project, the teaching materials will be made freely available to the academic community to incorporate into their teaching and assessment.
“Many forensics cases that are created for students to work on are done over the course of a few days to a week, creating a very short time span of events and evidence that can be uncovered and examined by students,” said Rachael Little, a senior student administrator of the NUCACDF. “This project was set up with the goal of creating cases over the span of a few months, with the flexibility to add a larger amount of evidence and miscellaneous data. This will allow for creating much more realistic and in-depth cases that will include cell phone, OSX, and Windows-based hard drives.”
During December 2016, I had the pleasure of travelling with Salvatore Picheria and Little, the two lead students and NUCACDF senior admins at the Norwich end of the collaboration, to Kristiansand in Norway. The purpose was a one-week intensive face-to-face brainstorming session with Professor Iain Sutherland and his lead students, Lola Carthy and Rosalyn Arbiol.
Fighting though jetlag and the wonder of being in Norway (this was the first time for both Picheria and Little), detailed scenarios were created for the FASTER project and a plan of action for implementation and creation of the forensic artifacts for the next semester, as well as enjoying a lot of Norwegian culture! Furthermore, Picheria and Little discussed their expertise gained from administering the virtual cluster at NUCACDF with NUC senior staff, and Picheria gave an impromptu demonstration using NUCACDF’s virtualization technologies to assist NUC’s decisions for online labs.
Little describes her experience as such: “Overall, my time spent in Norway working on this project was incredibly educational and memorable. I was able to take an active role in forming the backstories and information that would make up the forensics cases with the other students and professors. We worked on the case information at Noroff University, a college of about 200 students that specializes in several IT areas. As a group we mapped out the storylines and evidence that would be placed on the various hard drives and how and whether we would hide them using encryption methods. Later on, we also spent some time exploring Kristiansand and learning about Norway in general. I had left for Norway with the hope that I would learn more about the creation of digital forensics cases and about life in another country, and that hope was greatly exceeded. It was a wonderful and informative experience, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to have worked on it with Professor Read and Professor Sutherland and the other students, and to the SIU for having funded the project.”
The next step in the project is to create the infrastructure within which we can act out the detailed scenarios, planting artifacts as digital evidence for teaching, and continuing to collaborate with NUC.
Later this semester we look forward to hosting our Norwegian partners–Sutherland, Carthy and Arbiol–at Norwich University and getting to hear about their insights into cybersecurity in Scandinavia. We hope to have a guest lecture, co-hosted by the ACM and UPE, from Prof. Sutherland and his insights in Cyber Security. Please watch the NUCACDF news site for further details.