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Published: Sunday, 10/8/2006

Defiance College offers computer forensics major

DEFIANCE Barrel-chested and bearded, Gregg Gunsch stood before the class with the ramrod bearing of a soldier, rather than a computer geek.

We are expecting our information systems to be under attack, said Mr. Gunsch, an associate professor at De?ance College. They are weapons of war.

The students, hidden behind ?at-panel monitors, nodded as Mr. Gunsch quoted the of?cial de?nitions of computer security provided by the U.S. Department of Defense, long paragraphs of armored words. Mr. Gunsch described them as mouthfuls.

For him, the abstractions of computer security are simple. They are a system of traps and defenses, comparable to guard-ing your home with outdoor lighting, fences, deadbolts, and if you have the resources crocodiles and panthers.

De?ance hired Mr. Gunsch, who taught at the Air Force Institute of Technology at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, to run its new ma-jor in computer forensics.

The 930-student college is the ? rst four-year institu-tion in Ohio to offer a degree in extracting evidence from computers, phones, and digital cameras.

Last year, this emerging ?eld aided the capture of a pedophile, traced the identity of a serial killer, exposed the bribery of San Diego city councilmen by a strip club owner, and tackled the ? owof illegal steroids from Mexico, according to the annual report of the FBI s Regional Computer Forensics Laboratory.

But this really doesn t ad-dress Joe Citizen s concerns and what our young graduates can do to help, Mr. Gunsch said after class. The local law enforcement agencies aren t equipped. They tend to send the one guy who knows how to turn on a computer off to a crash course in forensics to become the local expert.

Community support has been crucial for the ?edgling program. De? ance chose to build the major on the advice of De? ance County Sheriff David Westrick, who said identity theft and child pornography are growing crimes in the Inter-net era. The Family Justice Cen-ter of Northwest Ohio gave the college a $41,000 grant, which paid for the closed network of Dell Optiplex computers used by students in the renovated Dana Hall physics lab.

Because of the college s light and nimble size, the major easily gained support from faculty and administrators, said Don Knueve, De?ance s associate academic dean.

The tough sell was the Ohio Board of Regents, the state agency responsible for authorizing new majors at public and private colleges.

The Regents approved the major temporarily last year, but withheld full approval until April, when De?ance provided a fuller description of the pro-gram and hired Mr. Gunsch. De? ance is one of six four-year colleges nationwide to have a computer forensics program, Mr. Knueve said.

The major requires the com-pletion of nine courses, includ-ing a semester-long internship and certi? cation by industry groups such as the Interna-tional Association of Computer Investigative Specialists.

Natasha Lapczynski is one of 10 students expected to gradu-ate from the program in 2008. She commutes to De? ance from Toledo, where she sand-wiches 40 hours of work at discount retailer Target between homework that could lead her to a different career.

There s so many options, Ms. Lapczynski said. You can go into law enforcement and catch people doing crimes or go into business.

A 2007 computer science textbook puts starting salaries for computer forensics spe-cialists between $50,000 and $80,000.

Veterans can earn more than $160,000.

Beyond any ?nancial mo-tivation, the major retains a pop culture appeal for students because of television police dramas about forensic science, which can reconstruct a murder from markings on a body.

There is the CSI effect, Mr. Gunsch said. Then they show up for classes and say, This is hard. You ve got science and discipline.

Contact Joshua Boak at: jboak@theblade.com or 419-724-6728.


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