Computer Crime Class

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More people are using the advancements of computer technology to commit crimes. Police say it's a growing segment of crime, one they're not quite sure how to handle. But a new program at Sam Houston State University could change that.

Most everyone has a computer these days. But some are misusing them and turning technology into a means to commit crimes.
From theft, to online schemes, to child pornography , police are often scratching their heads on how to investigate and respond to computer crimes.

"It's a very important need in policing today with the variety of crimes that are occurring with the use of a computer," said Detective Joe Thorton with Huntsville's police department.

Thorton says there aren't enough trained officers on the local level to process electronic evidence. His department relies on DPS or the FBI to process computer evidence, but even those departments have a shortage of computer techs.

Dr Peter Cooper, head of Sam Houston's computer science department, says he saw the need for more trained law enforcement in the field of cyber and computer crimes.

"We're very aware that the police don't always have the background to collect that evidence correctly," said Cooper.

Cooper is developing a master's degree program in digital forensics at Sam Houston. He is working with the FBI and CIA to train people on identifying and processing electronic evidence as well as protecting the security of business and government information systems.

Sam Houston is recognized for its computer science and criminal justice department and this new digital forensics program will be the first of its kind in the country.

"Every crime can have a digital component to it. The drug dealer on the street may maintain his contacts on the computer. The terrorist uses a cell phone to remotely detonate a bomb. We're not just talking about hackers and worm writers," said Cooper.

The university is also building a new facility to house classrooms and a forensics lab for the new program. Classes are expected to begin next spring.