History of the Center for Cybercrime Studies

The Center for Cybercrime Studies was originally founded by Dr. Douglas Salane, who is a Professor at the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Dr. Salane served as the Director of the Center for 15 years. Under his leadership, the Center for Cybercrime Studies brought together a wide range of expertise dedicated to understanding and deterring computer-related crime.

During his tenure, the Center was involved in the following projects:

National Incident Based Reporting System

The Center houses a relational database implementation of the FBI’s National Incident Based Reporting System (NIBRS) data, one of the most comprehensive incident crime data collections available.  In this project, Center researchers were interested in enhancing incident-based crime reporting to account for the widespread change in the way crimes are carried out in an age where digital devices are omnipresent.  The Center also used the NIBRS database to track improvements in the quality of NIBRS data and the increasing use of computers and digital devices in crimes.

The Center provided both the network and computer infrastructure needed to maintain a relational database implementation of the FBI’s National Incident Based Reporting System (NIBRS) data. The Center database contains 21 years of NIBRS data covering the years 1995-2015 and includes over 79.7 million crime incidents. This relational database enabled Center researchers to extract a wealth of information from NIBRS and perform analyses not possible with the raw data.  Center researchers explored how to update the relational database to track crimes where digital devices play an increasingly significant role.

The Center Speaker Series

The speakers in this series were practitioners and researchers from fields that played a role in understanding and addressing computer-related crime. Speakers included leading experts in privacy, cyber law, forensics, and computer security.  They held positions in academic institutions, the private sector, and at various government agencies, including the FBI, FDIC, FTC and local area prosecutors’ offices.  By bringing these speakers to the College, the Center provided faculty members, students, and the local security, law enforcement, and the legal community access to the latest developments in computer security and cybercrime research.  The lectures in the series are increasingly attended by security personnel from banks and financial companies who are struggling to stay ahead of rapidly evolving threats to their systems. The speaker series also provided opportunities for students at the College to learn about the types of careers available in computer security and cybercrime research and to interact with security and law enforcement practitioners.

Community Outreach

The Center community outreach programs provided practitioner communities with access to the latest research and developments in cybercrime, privacy, and computer security.  Since its inception, the Center has been providing vital information on cybercrime to the local security and law enforcement communities.  The NYPD Police Academy Executive Development program offered credit to NYPD personnel who attend Cybercrime Series lectures.  In addition to NYPD personnel, these lectures attracted members of various area law enforcement agencies including the FBI, Secret Service, and local prosecutor’s offices.  In fact, the Center lectures often served as a venue for the exchange of information among personnel in these agencies.

Various communities outside of law enforcement also benefited from Center activities. The Center acted as security consultant to Real Team Film Works, a company that makes educational films for high school students.  In addition, presentations at the Center by the FDIC and the Manhattan DA’s Office attracted the interest of security personnel from the financial community, which face increasing threats of cyber fraud and even DDoS attacks on their web-based systems.  Moreover, Center staff regularly lectured on cybersecurity and cybercrime at industry sponsored conferences.

Further, the Center partnered with various CUNY institutions to provide cybercrime expertise for research, educational and externally funded projects. Working with researchers at City College, the Center organized a special session on cybercrime at the 2012 Cyber Infrastructure Protection Conference, which was sponsored annually by City College, the U.S. Army War College, and the IEEE Computer Society.  The Center also provided cybercrime expertise to BMCC faculty, who were developing a concentration in cybersecurity.  In another effort, the Center partnered with City College to attract funding to enhance interdisciplinary cybersecurity education at both institutions.

Undergraduate and Graduate Education in Cybersecurity

The Center provided various types of support for undergraduate and graduate students who were interested in becoming cybersecurity professionals, investigators, or researchers. The Speaker Series proved to be a valuable resource for students and attracted not only John Jay students but students throughout the CUNY system.  Instructors frequently brought classes to Center lectures or asked students to attend Center lectures as a supplement to coursework.

In a joint effort with the NYU, which was funded by a major NSF IGERT grant, the Center and the Digital Forensics and Cyber Security graduate program developed a fellowship program.  The goal of the program was to encourage M.S. students to pursue research early in their careers and go on to a Ph.D. in computer science with a specialization in cybersecurity.  Fellows received a full tuition waiver and sizeable stipend. Four fellows participated in the program and completed the M.S. degree.

Cybersecurity Research

 The Center supported faculty research projects in various technical areas that impact computer-related crime, including projects in network security, wireless networking, privacy, social networking and mobile device security.  The Center supported Ph.D. and graduate student research assistants who worked on these projects and provided equipment and funds for travel and dissemination of research project results.  Two projects the Center contributed to were the SWAN Lab, a secure wireless radio project, and NIMO , an effort that examined crime in mobile networks.  The Center also partnered with NYU in its NSF Sponsored FORNET project, which looked at ways of building forensic capabilities into networks. The Center also provided support for software and hardware needed in the Digital Forensics and Cyber Security Program’s main computer lab, which is used for both instruction and research.

The Center’s New Director, Mission, and Objectives

Dr. Marie-Helen Maras, an Associate Professor at the Department of Security, Fire, and Emergency Management, took over the role of the Director of the Center for Cybercrime Studies in 2021.  Under her leadership, she created a new mission for the Center for Cybercrime Studies and new Center objectives.  She also received funding for two major projects, funded by the U.S. Bureau of Justice Assistance (app. $1.65 million), which provide training and technical assistance to criminal justice agencies on the vulnerabilities of emerging technologies – particularly the Internet of Things – and criminals’ use of clearnet, darknet and ICT. She serves as the the Director and Principal Investigator for those funded projects.

The Center’s mission and objectives can be found here.

Information about the Center’s projects can be found here.