Elizabeth Gardner Final

Faculty and students in the Department of Computer Science and the Department of Criminal Justice are on the front lines of the fights against cybercrime.

In UAB’s Computer Forensics Research Lab (CFRL), students work on problems sent by major technology firms. They conduct vulnerability assessments—consulting with corporations, banks, and other businesses to help prevent attacks on their virtual infrastructure—and they partner with law enforcement agencies to catch wrongdoers.

In the past several years, CFRL Director Gary Warner and his students have helped bust a $70 million Ukrainian money-laundering ring; take down the big spambot network Kelihos, an infectious malware network responsible for hundreds of thousands of fraudulent messages and emails plus ransomware attacks on banks; and helped Facebook in its early years take down those responsible for a massive virus and recover millions of dollars taken from its users.

The lab’s partnership with Facebook has grown from identifying spam to antiterrorism work and now combating drug sales online. The CFRL works closely with the UAB Forensics Science Program led by Elizabeth Gardner, Ph.D., to study emerging drugs of abuse and counterfeit and illicit drugs purchased online. The interdisciplinary partnership combines Gardner’s chemical expertise and her ability to perform drug analysis using special equipment with the online criminal expertise of CFRL to assist a variety of law enforcement and government agencies.

The foundation of all of this work is the innovative interdisciplinary program offerings. In 2017, the College launched its Bachelor of Science degree in Digital Forensics. The program is a mixture of criminal justice and computer science. The goal is to provide students with the tools they need in computer programming to work effectively within a computer environment and understand the behavior of those who may be a threat to computer systems or engage in cybercrime. Students will also develop an understanding of the legal system and processes necessary to gather digital evidence and support a computer investigation in court if necessary.

In 2016, the College launched the only Bachelor of Arts in Computer Science in the state. Bachelor of Arts degree programs in computer science are emerging across the country in response to industry growth and demand and the ever-increasing use of computers and computer software in many fields of study. The Department of Computer Science joins a short list of computer science programs in the Southeast to offer the degree.