NFI and UAS Leiden join forces on new Digital Forensics Master’s programme

Ennetcom, Encrochat, Sky ECC and Exclu: these are just four examples of encrypted communication services used by criminals. These days, every type of crime has a digital component. So it’s no surprise that there is an increasing need of digital forensic investigators. Today, the Netherlands Forensic Institute (NFI) and the University of Applied Sciences Leiden (UAS Leiden) signed an agreement that will intensify cooperation on forensic training and reinforce professional practice in the world of forensic investigation. A milestone in the development of digital forensic knowledge.

Tekenmoment HSLeiden en NFI Hansken

A catalyst to increase innovation

“This collaboration with universities and universities of applied sciences represents a new path for the NFI. The experience that NFI staff have acquired will give students an excellent idea of what working in this field is all about. And in turn, the students' knowledge and creativity will encourage innovation at the NFI", says Hans Henseler, digital forensic advisor at the NFI, and also Professor of Digital Forensics & E-Discovery at UAS Leiden. 

NFI investigators will teach courses and provide other expertise on the new two-year part-time MSc programme in Digital Forensics at UAS Leiden, which will start in September 2023. These Master students will learn to work with artificial intelligence, for example by developing new features (plug-ins) for Hansken, an open digital forensic platform that enables investigators to organize and analyse large amounts of digital traces and conduct efficient and thorough searches in the interest of their cases. The students will also learn to apply the latest tools and techniques to access cryptophone data, for example. “As educators, we see it as our task to equip professionals and aspiring professionals with the latest practical skills so that they remain employable in a constantly changing job market. We are delighted to be able to integrate the NFI’s cutting-edge digital forensics expertise into our education programme through this collaboration”, said Eric Veldkamp, Director of UAS Leiden’s Faculty of Science & Technology.

Samenwerking HSLeiden en NFI master DF
Image: ©NFI / NFI

Student contribute to experiments

In turn, the students can help the NFI achieve its research objectives. For example, they can focus on developing new software or tools for Hansken, or help conduct experiments how to approach the forensic examination of smartphones and apps. In 2022, the NFI collaborated with its European partners to develop an international forensic knowledge platform which shows investigators not only where and how to find relevant traces in smartphones, but also how to identify the origins and interpret the significance of this data. “Keeping this platform up to date takes a high level of experimentation. It’s an area where the students can make a really valuable contribution”, Henseler says. “We recently organised a Hansken Hackathon together with the UAS Leiden, aimed at developing new innovations for Hansken. These students showed us they have original and useful insights when it comes to innovation.” Henseler also labels cooperation with the UAS Leiden as a way of boosting the field of detection in the current challenging job market for IT personnel. “This is an excellent opportunity to show students how exciting working in the field of digital forensic investigation can be.”

Developments at lightning speed

Both digital developments and developments in the field of forensics are moving at lightning speed. “Digital forensic investigation is one of the themes where we want to make a difference as a university of applied sciences. By fortifying connections with the NFI, we can further strengthen our shared societal impact in this field”, explains Angelien Sanderman, President of the Executive Board at Leiden UAS. “The collaboration with Leiden UAS is a great opportunity”, says the NFI’s Director of Science and Technology Annemieke de Vries. “Changes in the field of forensics are happening at lightning speed. In an innovative environment like ours, reciprocity between science and professional practice is essential. When carrying out investigation in criminal cases, you sometimes encounter a problem and science can help solve such problems. At the same time, developments are taking place in science that can generate ideas for tools or methods in forensics. At the NFI, we are always on the look-out for new and talented researchers who can advance our knowledge in this area.” Henseler describes how this works in practice: “During a lecture, groups of students work on solutions. Not everything they come up with is immediately applicable, but their work often includes surprisingly good ideas.”

Learn more about the Master in Digital Forensics

At a previous stage, the NFI signed an agreement with UAS Leiden that permitted students on the Bachelor’s programme in Forensic ICT to work with the Hansken digital analysis platform. The new part-time Master in Digital Forensics has been designed for highly qualified forensic IT professionals who are looking to take the next step in their development as digital forensics experts. To start the programme in September 2023, applicants must hold a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science from UAS Leiden with the Forensic ICT track. With the advent of this new Master’s programme, UAS Leiden now offers a continuous learning path in the field of digital forensic investigation in combination with the full-time and work-based learning Bachelor’s programmes in Forensic ICT.

More information can be found here