TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Two faculty members from the criminal justice department at The University of Alabama will present a cybercrime research workshop to top international and national law enforcement intelligence officers May 14-15.
Drs. Diana Dolliver and Kathryn Seigfried-Spellar, assistant professors of criminal justice at UA, hope their research of cyber-related criminal investigations will help encourage more cooperation between law enforcement and researchers when they host a workshop at the International Association of Law Enforcement Intelligence Analysts annual training convention in Atlanta, Ga. The convention, of which the workshops are a part, begins May 12.
“In the field, law enforcement agencies investigate crimes on a reactionary basis,” Dolliver explained. “They get a case, investigate it, then close it. We’ll go through research methods used in academia and articulate how we can use the same open-source intelligence techniques. The audience should be able to recognize that we’re doing similar work.”
Dolliver is a member of IALEIA and joined when she worked for the Drug Enforcement Administration. Dolliver said more than 500 people are expected to attend their workshop.
“We are excited,” Seigfried-Spellar says, “because it’s mostly a practitioner organization with few academic attendees.”
“The overarching point for me is that we want to show academia can really help law enforcement, and vice versa,” Dolliver said. “In the United States, law enforcement agencies traditionally are not encouraged to work with academics; we want to show we can be mutually beneficial to one another.”
Seigfried-Spellar, whose research interests include computer deviance and cyber forensics, said law enforcement plays a pivotal role in generating research ideas and information. She said researchers and practitioners are working on the same things, but can achieve greater results if they work together.
“In the workshop, I’m going to highlight a specific child pornography case that a colleague of mine and I were hired as consultants to profile digital forensic evidence. As a result, we were able to provide law enforcement with a lead that the suspected child pornography user was also likely to be a child sex offender,” Seigfried-Spellar said. “Based on this lead, law enforcement determined the child pornography suspect was molesting an adolescent.”
Seigfried-Spellar and Dolliver are hopeful the establishment of the UA Cyber Institute, a research center that will focus on cyber security-related issues, will aid in their research efforts. The University of Alabama Board of Trustees approved the preliminary plans in April 2014.
Dolliver recently received two grants to research online drug trafficking trends on the Tor Network. Seigfried-Spellar received a grant from the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs to help establish an on-campus digital forensics task force, which will process cases and allow student interns to gain hands-on experience.
Additionally, Seigfried-Spellar received an internal grant to research the types of images collected by child pornography users and whether these collections reflect sexual preferences.
The department of criminal justice is part of the College of Arts and Sciences, UA’s largest division and the largest liberal arts college in the state. Students from the College have won numerous national awards including Rhodes Scholarships, Goldwater Scholarships, Truman Scholarships and memberships on the USA Today Academic All American Team.
The University of Alabama, part of The University of Alabama System, is the state’s flagship university. UA shapes a better world through its teaching, research and service. With a global reputation for excellence, UA provides an inclusive, forward-thinking environment and nearly 200 degree programs on a beautiful, student-centered campus. A leader in cutting-edge research, UA advances discovery, creative inquiry and knowledge through more than 30 research centers. As the state’s largest higher education institution, UA drives economic growth in Alabama and beyond.