Damir, you're a Senior Lecturer at Zagreb University of Applied Sciences (TVZ). Tell us a bit about yourself and how you started working in digital forensics.
I’ve been involved in digital forensics since about 2008, before that other things in IT, mostly UNIX system administration. I’ve also being teaching and lecturing since the late 90’s. My exposure to security is a long one, what always fascinated me was how impossible it is to introduce solid security into education and into everyday commercial practices.
In 2008 I joined a local company, Insig2, which promotes and sells forensic products. Our plan was to cover the local market with professional products and reliable support. It turned out to be completely different from how we’d planned it, with a lot of traveling around the world.In parallel I started introducing digital forensics as a subject to local private colleges like Vsite and Algebra, first as electives. After nine years I’d had enough of traveling around the world and I decided to move completely into education, to TVZ, a local polytechnic. My colleague from Insig2, Marinko Žagar, went to TVZ bit earlier and set up a new study program. I cooperated on the curriculum with a few friends. It took almost two years to get the paperwork right and get all the approvals we needed, but we now have a new study program ready to roll this semester.
What does a typical day in your life look like?
Uh not easy to say, now it is paperwork all the time, before that it was planning/setting up a lab, tools, evidence files, testing how all this will work together.
I expect very soon it will be more lecturing. ????
TVZ has recently added a Specialist Professional Graduate study program for Information Security and Digital Forensics. Tell us about the course and why it's been included.
Our intention was to step up security in a more professional way for the local IT sector. So a version of subjects which fits into the local environment and business needs are bundled together in our study program. There are a lot of conflicting requests actually, but this can be seen in the most similar programs around the world.
Tell us more about course structure and content. What core knowledge and key skills should students gain by the end of their studies?
It is a two-year program, with four semesters each year. The concept is to introduce the basics and prerequisite knowledge during the first semester, then have a good technical base in the second semester and fine-tune skills through electives in the third semester. The fourth is for graduation thesis work etc.
It is demanding, since it covers a lot, especially if you do not have a strong base in programming, networking, or operating system theory. To cope with these issues there is a parallel set of courses which can be taken for free to fill in skill gaps.
What facilities are available to digital forensics students at TVZ?
The stress is on practical lab work. It is a small lab and classrooms, mostly cloud-based to allow students to work as independently as possible. It will be controlled through Foreman, while students have a plethora of tools available to solve tasks and learn how to use tools. There is always a combination of open source and commercial tools to help students find the advantages of using different methods, get experience, see the differences, and understand the limitations. The rest is standard classrooms, teaching facilities etc.
What qualities do you think are the most important for a computer forensics student to have?
From the beginning I was thinking about the set of skills and knowledge which used to describe a system programmer, but investigators also have to have a good grasp on the legal part, and practical math.
It is important to understand how computer systems work in the sense of data transfers and processing, to be able to understand where and how artifacts can be found, and their relevance for inquiry. We must have a solid technical base, with good math skills and very good ethics since we are dealing with sensitive matters.
The graduate employment market continues to be highly competitive. What advice would you give to final year digital forensics students to help them stand out from the crowd?
My advice is to be ready to learn and adapt, it is a bit corny, but always true.
Finally, when you're not teaching, what do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
Mostly reading. There is so much to be read, I’m now going through Lem, Assiomv, Clarke and many other writers, maybe they are a bit old but some have really interesting thoughts on what is now described as cybersecurity. Like Clarke’s story “Pacifist” makes the first reference to embedded “malware” as far I remember, or Lem’s ideas on necroevolution described in “Invicible” are so close to drones’ stories today…
Find out more about TVZ’s new digital forensics program and how to apply on the official website.