The future of cybersecurity is in the hands of criminal justice education say three UNT researchers

Their recently published research shows expectations are high for law enforcement to respond to and investigate cyberattacks.

DENTON (UNT), Texas – Researchers in the University of North Texas College of Health and Public Service (HPS) Department of Criminal Justice recommend that cybersecurity courses be integrated into criminal justice programs to bridge the gap between traditional law enforcement expectations and responding to new cyber threats. Dr. Scott Belshaw, associate professor; Dr. Brooke Nodeland, assistant professor and online master of science in criminal justice degree coordinator; and Dr. Mark Saber, lecturer, made the determination in “Teaching Cybersecurity to Criminal Justice Majors,” which was published in the distinguished Journal of Criminal Justice Education.

“According to the FBI’s 2018 Internet Crime Complaint Center Internet Crime Report, losses from cybercrime have more than doubled since 2017,” said Dr. Belshaw, who runs the UNT Cyber Forensics Technology Lab. “This is a staggering statistic that exemplifies the high demand for skilled investigators in cybersecurity. It stands to reason – and our research shows – that criminal justice practitioners need to continue to expand our skillset to evolve with technology and tech-savvy criminals. We must adapt our criminal justice curriculum by offering cybersecurity courses so our students can receive this training without having to pursue courses in computer science or engineering to receive the hands-on training needed to combat cyber offenders.”

Their research showed that no colleges or universities in Texas currently house a cybersecurity program within criminal justice, instead they found cybersecurity programs were held in:

  • 14 computer science departments
  • Seven business departments
  • One engineering department

The researchers also noted a need to move quickly on incorporating cybersecurity courses into criminal justice curriculum so that graduates of the programs will be more marketable.

“The criminal justice system has a reputation for moving slowly, and not being readily adaptive to change, but this is our opportunity to change that perception,” Dr. Belshaw said. “There’s no better time to make an impact on a rapidly growing problem. We can make a difference by changing the way we train the criminal justice leaders of tomorrow and arm them with the tools needed to respond to these very real cybercrime threats.”