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Digital Investigation & Forensic Computing

Would you like to be able to analyze a cyber attack, or reverse engineer malware? Would you like to know how to process a crime scene, interrogate suspects and witnesses, and prepare a statement for court? Would you like to be able to perform electronic discovery of documents, investigate spear phishing, intellectual property theft, blackmail, defamation, fraud and various other forms of corporate misconduct where crucial evidence exists in digital form? If your answer is "yes", then this MSc program will give you the knowledge, skills, and practice.

We recognise that in this field, technology moves so fast it is not enough to teach how things work. So our graduates learn to do more than just use off-the-shelf tools. They learn how to perform their own research and develop their own technology. We train students to be independent problem solvers and investigators.

It is a very practical course, where you will learn from leading academics from UCD and international experts from industry. UCD works closely with law enforcement agencies and industry practitioners in seeking solutions to technology-related crimes.

This is a structured programme which prepares computer science graduates or IT specialists for a career in digital forensics or cyber security in industry, consulting or law enforcement.

The programme is for students with a background in computer science, information technology, or a related discipline. It covers all aspects of digital investigations from legislation and crime scene processing to digital forensics, reverse engineering, and forensic reporting. Students also learn how to prevent re-occurrence of incidents by applying appropriate information security countermeasures. The information security component covers key technical elements of modern network security technology, information security management, and penetration testing. The programme can be used to up-skill or to reorient a technical career.

One Year Full Time option (F020)
The one-year full-time program is a heavy workload on top of a full-time job so you might consider the part-time two-year distance learning option (F021) if you are working. Full-time students live and study in Dublin from September-August and come to UCD to attend lectures. The programme starts in September and finishes in August the following year.

A Digital investigation Project occupies the entire summer semester from the middle of May to the middle of August. Besides coursework, students benefit from regular research seminars and optional visits to the Irish law courts to better understand the litigation process and the role and responsibilities of expert witnesses. A limited number of industrial internships are available each year to suitable candidates upon successful completion of the programme.

Advantages of 1 year full-time programme include:
• being in Dublin is a more hands-on studying environment with face-to-face contact with lecturers and tutor demonstrators
• optional visits to Irish law courts
• priority for internships if required
• access to campus facilities, library, sports centre etc.
• opportunities to take advantage of clubs and societies, have a cultural experience etc.
• opportunity for non-EU students to remain in Ireland and work full-time after graduation for 12 months.

75% of full-time students come from outside Europe and their average age is slightly younger (30 years).

Facilities and Resources
Students perform self-study assignments during the year, using their personal computers and UCD's online computer lab. They have access to a Virtual Crime Scene Simulator and the loan of forensic equipment as needed.

Two Years Distance Learning Part Time option (F021)
Every aspect of the part-time programme is designed to facilitate distance-learning education by working professionals.

Facilities and Resources
All learning materials are accessible online via UCD’s course management system that includes discussion forums and means to submit coursework for assessment. The programme includes an engaging mix of learning sessions, hands-on labs in UCD and using your own computer, plus case studies, tool demonstrations and in-depth discussions.

Welcome and Graduation
You are invited to attend the Welcome Session in person in September at the start, but this is also broadcast live and recorded, in case you cannot come to UCD. You may also attend the graduation ceremony in person at the end of the course if you wish.

The cost of attendance for these Dublin sessions is only your flights, transport from the airport, hotel and subsistence. There is no additional exam or workshop fee - just the course fee.

Complete your MSc while working
Compared to the full-time campus-based programme, the 2-year distance-learning format has the advantages that you can keep your full-time job while you study, there is a lighter study workload and the study times are more flexible. Do bear in mind that some modules have weekly assignments.

In demographic terms the student profile of the part-time course is 75% European and a significant number of these live outside Ireland while studying. These students are a little older (average age 36 years), typically working in IT or systems admin roles.

Entry requirements

• Applicants normally have a minimum 2.1 (Second Class Honours, Grade One) level bachelor's degree in Computer Science or a related area.
• Understanding of programming concepts and familiarity with C or C++ programming is required. You will also have understanding of functions & algorithms and computer processes including memory management techniques, Internet Protocols and Networking (NetMask, DNS etc.). You will be familiar with SQL Databases and know how to write select query statements.
• However, all applicants will be assessed on a case by case basis and we conduct Skype interviews and tests for most candidates.
If you don't have a BSc in Computer Science 2.1 but feel that you have the relevant knowledge you may still apply and you will be considered.

We will test your knowledge and you should expect questions about:
* Programming. We will be asking what given pieces of C/Java code are doing . We expect the candidate to know not just the basic constructs of higher level programming language, but also know basic textbook algorithms like bubble sort. There will be no questions about library functions or compiler-specific features.

* Operating systems - given that forensic analysis takes place at the low level of data abstraction, we will ask some questions about inner workings of operating systems. The candidate is expected to have some familiarity with the key concepts and principles of operating systems design, like process scheduling, memory protection etc.

* Computer networks - questions will be asked about Internet protocols and services, and - again - familiarity with TCP/IP concepts, principles of operation of common network services is expected, as well as some practical experience of configuring network settings on personal computers is expected.

* Databases. Some familiarity with SQL and its concepts is expected.

If you are in any doubt about whether you are eligible please contact the Programme Office who can also help if you have any questions about making an application. If you do not meet the standard entry criteria, but feel that you have the required knowledge, you can still apply and the Course Director may opt to interview you to check your knowledge.

Students are required to fulfil UCD’s English Language Requirements

Students must also satisfactorily complete Garda Vetting Procedures before they can complete this programme.

Non-EU/EEA students must comply with Irish immigration requirements. More information here:


MSc Digital Investigation & Forensic Computing FT (F020)
Duration: 1 Years
Attendance: Full Time

The programme starts in September and finishes in August the following year. Students attend lectures and practical sessions on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays during the Autumn and Spring semesters. Some hands-on workshops are delivered on weekends.

MSc Digital Investigation & Forensic Computing PT (F021)
Duration: 2 Years
Attendance: Part Time

Lectures and practical sessions are held in the evenings but also broadcast live and recorded for later study. There are 4 hours of lectures on Tuesday evenings (GMT) during term time in Year 1, switching to Wednesday evenings in Year 2. There are 4 hours of practical sessions on Thursday evenings.

Number of credits


Careers or further progression

Career Opportunities
Cybercrime and identify theft are among the fastest growing crimes, yet employers cannot find people who have the right mix of skills to work in the area. Graduates of the MSc in Digital Investigation & Forensic Computing are employed as:
• Project and Program managers, Operations Managers
• IT, Systems, Network managers
• Security software developers and systems architects
• Information security specialists, malware analysts
• Computer forensic investigators and security specialists
• Test, audit and engineering and technical specialists
• Experts in risk management and fraud prevention.

We currently have graduates working in:
• Management consultancies such as Ernst & Young, Grant Thornton, Accenture, KPMG & Deloitte
• Specialist digital forensics and eDiscovery consulting firms such as Ward Solutions, FireEye, Strotz Friedberg & Espion
• Law enforcement and government agencies
• ICT companies such as Avaya, Dell, Detica, Ericsson, Jinny Software, Microsoft, Symantec, Oracle, Version1, IBM, HP, Cisco, Wipro & SAP
• Banks and financial institutions such as Deutsche Bank, J.P. Morgan, Bank of Ireland, Central Bank of Ireland, Pioneer Investments, Anima Asset Management, BNY Mellon, Mediolanum Asset Management & Zurich
• Companies such as Facebook, Google, Amazon, Salesforce, Elan Pharmaceuticals, CRH & Shell

Further enquiries

Contact Name: Ronan Nestor
Contact Number: +353 (0)1 716 2947

Subjects taught

Stage 1 - Core
COMP40750: Corporate Investigations
COMP40760: Investigative Techniques
COMP40770: Information Security
COMP40780: Digital Investigation Project
COMP40790: Application Forensics
COMP40800: Computer Forensics Foundations
LAW40860: Digital Investigations&the Law


MSc Digital Investigation Forensic Computing
Graduate Taught (level 9 nfq, credits 90)

Who should apply?
Full Time option suitable for:
Domestic(EEA) applicants: Yes
International (Non EEA) applicants currently residing outside of the EEA Region. Yes

Part Time option suitable for:
Domestic(EEA) applicants: Yes
International (Non EEA) applicants currently residing outside of the EEA Region. No

Visiting Lecture Staff
This course is taught by leading academics from the UCD Schools of Computer Science and Law with international experts from industry. UCD researchers and scientists continue to work on applied research and have developed a number of forensic tools.

Related Programmes
• MSc Digital Investigation & Forensic Computing PT
• MSc Computer Science (Negotiated Learning) FT
• MSc Computer Science (Conversion) FT

Assessment method

One Year Full Time option (F020)
Your coursework will be assessed using a variety of methods including group and individual assignments, written exams and graded presentations.

Two Years Distance Learning Part Time option (F021)
Distance-learning students are required to come to Ireland only twice during the programme - one weekend in February in Year 1 (for hands-on crime scene workshop) and one week at the end of April in Year 1 (for exams). In addition your coursework will be assessed using a variety of methods including group and individual assignments, written exams and graded online presentations via teleconferencing.

Application date

Deadline: Rolling*
* Courses will remain open until such time as all places have been filled, therefore early application is advised.

Enrolment and start dates

Next Intake: 2017/2018 September

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