Gary Warner, the Director of Research in Computer Forensics at the University of Alabama, believes in giving his students projects they can really sink their teeth into. That is why, in addition to a grade, Brian Tanner, the first UAB student to graduate with a Master’s Degree from Warner’s program, also got a thank-you note from Facebook. Tanner was instrumental in uncovering and disabling a first botnet, called Koobface, that successfully interacted with the social networking website.
“Koobface was one of the first botnets to have widespread success using social networks as its main target and that made criminals worldwide realize attacking social networks can be very lucrative,” said Tanner. “As we did the research we realized we could cause Koobface to reveal to us all of the fake users that it had created on Facebook and all of the websites it had compromised, and that is how we tracked them down at UAB.”
Warner’s program is unique in that it connects its Computer Forensics students directly with companies seeking their skills. Google, Yahoo, PayPal and eBay are only a few that have benefited from this relationship. Occasionally, even law enforcement agencies come calling. Recently, Warner himself was thanked by the FBI for his help in the Agency’s cyber crime initiative Operation Ghost Click. Working in tandem with his students, Warner helped track and shut down a crime ring that siphoned nearly $70 million from payroll accounts of American companies.
To achieve these kinds of results, Warner approaches recruiting the same way a sports scout might.
He can do that because of the UAB Center for Information Assurance and Joint Forensics Research, a multi-disciplinary research center that combines resources from law enforcement, business, government agencies and other research institutions.
Warner also makes sure that students interested in cyber security have many fields where they can direct their talents. Whether your interest is in fake bank sites, online pharmaceutical scams or malware, Warner wants to put you to work.
Federal manpower studies show that each year there are only about1,100 U.S. graduates with relevant degrees in computer security, but there are jobs for 10,000 graduates a year.