Success at Any Career Stage: Accomplished Digital Forensics Expert Goes Back to School | Technological Leadership Institute

Posted on
May 2, 2016
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It’s like a plotline taken the CBS television show CSI: Cyber.

“He did not wage this campaign in the light of day, but rather used his computer to strike victims while hiding in the shadow.”

However, those words from Assistant U.S. Attorney, Tim Rank are in reference to a real case out of Blaine, Minnesota where an attorney was accused of sending threatening messages to the vice president of the United States. He insisted he was innocent, but the Secret Service traced the emails to his IP address. It turned out a hacker got into the attorney's home Wi-Fi account and sent the emails. The hacker was sentenced to 18 years in prison.

Brian Hill was the investigator who uncovered the hacker and solved that case. Hill is a former detective, Air Force Veteran and nationally recognized forensics expert. Just recently he was interviewed by ABC’s Good Morning America to discuss the dangers of cell phone stalking apps. Despite his vast experience and laundry list of accomplishments, Hill will soon add another credential to his resume, a graduate degree.

“After I was promoted to [Anoka County] detective in 2008, I received formal training in forensics. I went to schools through the FBI, and earned a couple certifications, but I also wanted to enhance my leadership skills.”

Hill is a student in the Master of Science in Security Technologies (MSST) degree program at the University of Minnesota Technological Leadership Institute. He says his drive for continued career growth led him back to the classroom, and he should have no trouble finding a job. According to, there are currently 20,000 open cyber security-related positions in the U.S., with 150 of those openings right here in Minnesota.

“At the time, I was thinking about getting out of law enforcement and looking at entering the private sector,” he explains. “The MSST program gets me out of the box by mixing technical skills with the leadership aspect.”

Now, more than halfway through the degree program, Hill says he’s learned way more than he expected.

“I was surprised by how much I didn’t know,” says Hill. “Forensics is so different from security technologies. The first couple of classes really opened my eyes. People don’t realize the impact online security has on their everyday lives.”

Hill explained the impact during congressional testimony in support of the Location Privacy Protection Act. The proposed law would require spyware apps to send a notification to a phone owner any time their geolocation information is collected.

“The problem is that these spyware apps are so hard to detect once they’re on your phone because they run so far in the background,” Hill explains. “If people want to monitor their children or employees, there is software available, often through the cell phone carrier, that doesn’t run in the background. There’s no legitimate reason to install these kinds of apps from a third party company.”

In addition to his public service, Hill is also an innovator. He developed Minnesota’s first mobile digital forensics lab by converting an ambulance into a lab where detectives can scan computers, phones, and other electronics right at the scene of a crime.

Hill says we can expect more innovation from him in the future, and that he will leverage his MSST degree to advance his career once he graduates later this year.

“When I’m speaking around the country on [the topic of tech safety], my (MSST) degree will give me the credibility, in addition to my professional experience, to go a long way."

The Master of Science in Security Technologies degree program helps students gain the knowledge and leadership skills needed to solve real-world security challenges.
Visit the MSST curriculum page for detailed descriptions of the course offerings.

I was surprised by how much I didn’t know. Forensics is so different from security technologies. The first couple classes really opened my eyes. You don’t realize the impact it has on our everyday lives.

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