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Digital forensics training facility opens

: 05 June, 2009  (New Product)
Gateshead College can now help companies fight high tech fraud with the use of it's training facilities for teaching IT professionals about digital forensics technology
Digital forensics training facility opens
A new facility has opened which could help thousands of companies tackle the growing problem of digital fraud.

Gateshead College's new Digital Forensics Lab at its Baltic Campus site will offer the very latest courses to equip companies with the skills needed to track criminal activity and implement preventative measures.

The £75,000 lab is the first of its type in the region to use advanced PC-based software to teach in-house IT technical staff the latest in high tech digital investigation.

Fraudulent activities including those committed by dishonest employees using computers, mobile phones and the internet - known as cybercrime - could be costing regional business hundreds of thousands of pounds a year in lost revenue.

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) estimates that fraudulent internet transactions, unscrupulous emails known as 'phishing' and security problems caused by viruses and hackers costs an average small business £800 a year.

Some businesses can be hit with problems that are so severe losses can run into several thousands of pounds a year.

Computers are also used to commit financial frauds like money laundering or false accounting and the unauthorised access to restricted websites or information held on databases.

The problem is widespread and, at times, so sophisticated it can be very difficult to spot - placing a severe drain on the resources of hard pressed anti-corruption agencies.

Technology like computers and mobile phones are essential tools for business success but every time they are used they leave a digital trail that a skilled investigator can unpick to compile evidence of fraudulent activity.

Now, organisations can enrol their IT technical staff on a digital forensics investigation course at the college to learn how to hunt for these trails and compile evidence of criminal activity even if the data has been deleted.

This will enable them to improve their security systems, reduce the impact of fraudulent activity and improve productivity, leading to all round savings in time and costs.

Many legal and accountancy firms have fraud teams specialising in retrieving computer and digital records to look for evidence of criminal activity. These teams can now improve their digital forensic skills or pick up new techniques through one of the courses on offer at the lab.

Other organisations expected to be able to benefit from the facility include security firms, schools and local authorities.

The Digital Forensics Lab was designed with support and guidance from Northumbria Police, who will have the opportunity to use this specialist resource for their own training purposes, and the North East Fraud Forum, which works with organisations to raise awareness of the latest techniques for fighting fraud.

Investment funding has been provided by regional development agency One North East.

The lab uses the latest forensics equipment and systems to replicate an industry-standard fraud protection and law enforcement facility.

Using this, the college will be able to provide a range of courses delivered by fully trained lecturers covering all the important aspects of computer forensics like opening a case file, searching for evidence and preparing this for presentation in court.

Detective Sergeant Alan Batey, head of Northumbria Police's computer crime unit, said that the number of investigations carried out by local police over the last 10 years had increased fourfold - from 72 in 1998 to almost 300 (296) in 2008.

He added: "We are seeing year-on-year growth in the number of people using computers, the internet and mobile phones to co-ordinate and undertake criminal activities.

"The new Digital Forensics Lab will be a great resource to help companies uncover fraudulent activity, helping them to better protect their business, market share and ultimately profits."

Gateshead College's assistant principal adult and higher education Mary Lindsay, added: "We're delighted to launch this new facility, the latest initiative aimed at helping business retrain and up-skill existing workforces.

"Our digital forensics courses will provide people with the skills and confidence to tackle a costly and highly damaging problem that could be affecting hundreds of local businesses.

"It is a significant development and will be a welcome addition to the facilities and services offered by the college to ensure that key employees are able to learn in a high quality and stimulating environment, with access to the very latest resources and equipment."

Tim Pain, head of business, enterprise and skills at One North East, which has provided the investment funding, said: "Gateshead College is using cutting edge technology to provide businesses with training in the latest digital forensics investigation techniques.

"While we hope that organisations never experience digital fraud, which is a growing threat, it is comforting to know that such a state-of-the-art facility is available locally to help train staff to deal with the issue."

The college offers a number of courses in the area of Fraud Management and Digital Forensics, with possible funding available to help companies meet the costs.
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