The following story appeared on the FRONT PAGE of the Birmingham News this morning. Pretty cool news, building upon Birmingham’s expansive experience in fighting cybercrime! I’ve added some emphasis to the article to highlight some notable items.
Thursday, March 08, 2007 / MARY ORNDORFF / News Washington correspondent / Birmingham NewsWASHINGTON – About 1,000 people a year from around the country are expected attend a new law enforcement training center in Hoover to learn how technology is increasingly used by criminals.Top officials from the Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Secret Service, as well as state and local leaders, will announce the one-of-a-kind National Computer Forensic Institute on Friday.
“Any kind of crime you can think of, people are using digital devices not necessarily to commit them but to help further them,” said Randall Hillman, executive director of the Alabama District Attorneys Association.
Whether it’s a sophisticated hacking of a computer network to obtain personal financial information or a murderer luring his victim with a text message, law enforcement officials routinely have to know the intricacies of high-tech devices to catch and prosecute suspects, Hillman said.
The center, to be situated at the Hoover Public Safety Center on Valleydale Road near U.S. 31, will offer a curriculum for police officers, sheriffs, prosecutors, judges, federal marshals and others in local, state and federal judicial systems. Some classes will also be open to private information security specialists. The institute is scheduled to open in January, but some classes could start sooner.
U.S. Homeland Security Director Michael Chertoff plans to attend the announcement in Hoover on Friday. The federal agency will spend about $9 million a year to finance the institute, which will draw faculty and students for courses of up to six weeks, Hillman said.
The district attorneys group contacted U.S. Rep. Spencer Bachus, R-Vestavia Hills, about the idea several months ago, and the various agencies have been working together ever since. Bachus said he called Hoover Mayor Tony Petelos looking for office space because Homeland Security and the Secret Service did not have money available for new construction.
Bachus announced the project Wednesday and said it would help Birmingham’s economy and public safety.
“This will keep them one step ahead of criminals who try to use computers for everything from identity theft and counterfeiting to preying on the vulnerable, including children,” Bachus said.
Hoover will provide about 33,000 square feet in the public safety complex rent-free for six years, Petelos said. Because students and their families will stay at local hotels and fuel the local economy by eating at restaurants and shopping, Petelos decided the free rent was worth it.
“To us, it was an easy decision,” Petelos said. “We’re excited to get them there and have them in the city.”
Gov. Bob Riley is expected to announce a state commitment of about $3 million to construct the interior offices and classrooms, and the Shelby County Commission is picking up the tab for the architectural fees.
“It took multiple levels of government working together to make this happen,” Petelos said.
The faculty will comprise about 18 Secret Service agents. Advocates say the training will be geared toward investigative techniques as opposed to the more academic training offered at colleges.
Hillman said the technology training will be valuable at the local level because federal agencies don’t normally get involved in computer crimes under $100,000.
“Anything under that, we have to pick up the ball and run with it,” he said.