Professor to give digital forensic presentation at UMass

By Tim Jones

On Friday, University of Massachusetts professor Brian Levine of the Department of Computer Science will give a presentation about the investigation of illegal activities on the internet and possible corrections to the rising problems in internet policing.

The lecture, titled “Forensic Investigation of the Internet and Mobile Systems,” will be presented in the Isenberg School of Management Room 112. The event is part of the fall 2009 Operations Management Science Seminar series.

Levine is the co-founder and a member of the Steering Committee of NeFX, the Association for Computing Machinery Northeast Digital Forensics Exchange, a workshop dedicated to the research and collaboration of digital forensics. He was also awarded with a 2007 UMass Amherst College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics Outstanding Teacher Award.

The internet has proven to be a particularly difficult environment to enforce laws, as the factor of anonymity among the users provides a more difficult challenge. With mobile devices, such as phones, able to access the internet wirelessly from many locations, the rate of internet crime is steadily increasing.

However, technology has made it possible to trace down the locations of any other device, which in turn can allows authorities to find users breaking the law on the web.

Professor Levine will speak about his current research projects in digital forensics and the attempt to address investigation of such crimes as identity theft, contraband trafficking, fraud and espionage.

His primary concentration will be on wired networks and peer-to-peer file sharing, which can result in trafficking contraband and the sexual exploitation of children.

The difficulty is that the people behind the file sharing are often difficult to find, and with Massachusetts and Pennsylvania state police consistently performing investigations, evidence has been uncovered that tens of thousands of internet users engage in P2P file sharing, which makes isolating specific files, such as those Levine will be speaking of, difficult to trace.

P2P file sharing is traced on campus, and students can be fined if proven to have utilized the campus’ internet for such programs as Limewire, BitTorrent or any other programs that allow the illegal downloading and sharing of any types of files whatsoever.

Levine will then shift his focus to wireless and cellular devices, which add another level of difficulty in monitoring, as the network encryptions and geographical locations are not in a fixed area and vary depending on the location of the user. Connections may also be encrypted and the software can, and usually does, change making location difficult to establish. He will then speak of possible solutions that can be taken to address these problems.

According to Levine’s profile on the computer science department’s site, “a grand challenge we face is the protection of our privacy while simultaneously increasing ubiquitous interactions using a network of peers.”

Support for this series is provided by the Isenberg School of Management, the Department of Finance and Operations Management, INFORMS and the John F. Smith Memorial Funds.

Professor Anne Nagurney, the John F. Smith Memorial Professor in the Department of Finances and Operations Management in the Isenberg School of Management, is the faculty advisor to INFORMS and helped support the series.

Levine’s presentation is the final presentation in the series, which has been running since Sept. 18.

Tim Jones can be reached at [email protected]