Criminal justice launches future-focused course on cybercrime

'Shawn Smith, Ph.D.
'Shawn Smith, Ph.D.

Cybercrime and cybersecurity are hot topics. From corporations fending off hackers to individuals having data stolen, these two areas are at the forefront of pressing issues facing society. Through continuous innovation, Radford University is working to prepare students and professionals for the demands of today and tomorrow.

With the introduction of a new course on cybercrime, the Department of Criminal Justice is preparing students for modern applications in an ever-changing world.

“We're putting them into a field that is increasingly digitizing by the second,” said ’Shawn Smith, Ph.D., assistant professor of criminal justice. “That's the main reason that I started thinking we should dedicate a course to this, because we already know that the market demands people who can think in a digital sense.”

Smith explained the major distinction between cybercrime and cybersecurity is that cybercrime relates to individuals rather than corporations.

To prepare for the innovative course, Smith is hosting multiple cybercrime events during the fall 2019 semester with the most recent held in late October when Smith virtually brought in Roderick Graham, assistant professor at Old Dominion University, to discuss cybercrime and digital deviance.

Ryan Zerkel, a criminal justice graduate student from Mount Jackson, Virginia, wants to join the Secret Service and is eager to learn how to fully utilize the “dark web,” a term that encompasses websites not indexed by search engines that require specific software to access.  This information and skillset is critical to better investigate digital crimes.

“I was looking at the exchange of digital currencies, and since part of the Secret Service’s job is to investigate financial crimes, I thought it would be beneficial to have access to and know how to use the dark web. I’ve had internships where knowing how to use it would be helpful. It opens up so many possibilities.”

The rise of digital communication emphasizes the need to prepare students to understand and respond to both cybercrime and cybersecurity in the future jobs – and was a motivating factor in William Peaden, a psychology and criminal justice major from Buena Vista, Virginia, attending the event.

“I’ve always liked the internet, because you can do a lot. But, there are a lot of problems that can come with it,” Peaden said. “I like figuring out those problems. What I plan on doing is going into a field that figures out why people commit cybercrime in the first place. Cybercrime is going to continuously evolve and I want that understanding to improve over the years.”

The class, which will first be offered in the spring 2020 semester, will provide students with an overview of computer-related acts of crime and deviance, the criminological and sociological effects of such acts, and how criminal justice officials historically and currently investigate the crimes and deviances while keeping an eye on the evolution of the crimes and the methods best used to investigate them.

Nov 15, 2019
Max Esterhuizen