Online graduate class offered in cyber security

April 10, 2014
Dr. Sabina Burton

PLATTEVILLE, Wis. — In a world that is becoming increasingly digitized, the threat of cyber security and Internet hackers has been a concern for everyone from university administrators to international business owners. The University of Wisconsin-Platteville is offering its graduate students a way to get their feet wet in the world of cyber crime prevention with the introduction of a new course, CRIMLJUS 7340, Cyber Crime. It is also currently in the process of becoming a permanent on campus undergraduate course, to be offered in fall 2014.

Dr. Sabina Burton, associate professor of criminal justice at UW-Platteville, has a background in law enforcement, intelligence, international research and consultation, which lends itself to her knowledge of cyber crime. She introduced the class and serves as its instructor, providing students with knowledge on a variety of topics including hacking, online scams and cyber terrorism, among other Internet crimes.

“It’s a great class to teach online because it really lends itself to the online forum,” Burton said. “Students do Internet exercises, monitor chat rooms for online predators, and learn some basic techniques for tracking cyber criminals.”

Burton designed the class to be highly interactive and discussion-based, with a “think tank mentality.” She has created Facebook and Twitter pages for the course where she posts news articles, resources and even tips to avoid becoming the victim of cyber crime.

The class focuses on a variety of elements of cyber crime, including distinguishing between computers as targets and computers as tools for crime. Students analyze different types of hackers and provide recommendations based on their research. The class also addresses more practical criminal justice elements, such as knowing how to react and secure electronic evidence at a crime scene, such as a computer, laptop or smartphone. It also addresses the legal implications of obtaining search warrants for digital property and electronic evidence, as these differ from traditional search warrants.

“A computer is like a library,” said Burton. “Everything is stored on it, and a big part of our lives is now online. When something is posted digitally, it can never be taken off. We cannot afford not to learn about these matters and understand how criminals can use computers to perpetrate crime. The better we understand it, the safer we will be.”

Burton added that computer-based criminal justice classes could take more of a prominent role in the department with more course offerings in the future. Topics could include things such as how computers can be the targets of crime, how they can be used to facilitate crime, how the Internet can be used in crimes against children as well as how they can aid in cyber bullying. Other issues include transnational problems and working to investigate perpetrators overseas as well as combating international terrorists who use the Internet to communicate and train potential members within the United States.

“The Internet has made it easy for criminals to conduct their business, and we as law enforcement professionals are not yet set up to respond to it,” said Burton. “Online, a person can be anyone he or she wants to be, and it’s a small taste of what we are likely to see in the future. In the event of another global conflict, cyber crime and cyber attacks will be a big part of it, and it is essential that we educate future officers as well as educate consumers.”

Contact: Sabina Burton, associate professor of criminal justice, (608) 342-1650,

Written by: Angela O’Brien, UW-Platteville University Information and Communications, (608) 342-1194,


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