JTAG’d by the Law: Phones and Forensics

No phone’s secret is safe from the forensic skills of Seidenberg’s James Ossipov and Dr. Darren Hayes. At first glance, it appears that James is ironing a piece of paper, but what is under the paper is what is helping law enforcement retrieve photos, texts, and various information from most phones—even if it’s deleted.

Dr. Darren Hayes, professor at Seidenberg, and James Ossipov have been working together with a method of evidence extraction called JTAG, which in time could revolutionize the way law enforcement agencies use computer forensics.

James Ossipov

Hayes mentions that, “James is actually working on a project where we are trying to automate something called JTAG. JTAG is accessing user data on a phone when you can’t use traditional methods for extracting evidence from a phone. So, we extract evidence directly from the printed circuit board using JTAG. Sometimes a phone may have encryption, so you need JTAG for that. Sometimes the phone is damaged, for instance, someone may have dropped it in water, and therefore JTAG is your only method to get the phone’s data. JTAG is the only option for examining Windows smartphones.”

JTAG sounds like an amazing innovation to restore information from a phone, even if it is damaged. However, this method is not for everyday use yet — it is primarily used in investigations to retrieve evidence.

A circuit board after solution, before it is cleaned with acetone.

“This method is generally only used by law enforcement. Many law enforcement agencies don’t have the capabilities to perform JTAG, so they have to bring in outside experts. What we are trying to do is make it easier for law enforcement by automating the process so more law enforcement agencies can actually use this method of extracting evidence.”

Unfortunately for law enforcement, this method of extracting data cannot be used on an iPhone.

“iPhones are very tricky. They have very good security and are well locked down,” says Hayes. “You can’t perform chip off, meaning you cannot take a memory chip from an iPhone and put it into another phone because all of the firmware, the system software, is mapped to the memory chip. So, if you try to move it to another phone, you won’t be able to access it. But LG phones and Samsung’s are the easiest phones for this process.”

Using the board to look at a phone's NAND
Using the board to look at a phone’s NAND

Computer forensics is advancing every day and Seidenberg is proud to be at the forefront of it all. If you are interested in learning about computer forensic, Dr. Darren Hayes is currently teaching a Cyber Law Class (CIT 363). If you’re not registered for that class, don’t worry—in the fall he is offering a Mobile Forensics course where he will teach how to extract evidence from mobile devices and obtain evidence from third-parties such as Facebook.

Also worth mentioning is that James also worked on JTAG last semester with two other veterans (David Cano – Navy & Gordon Wildrick III – Marines), and he himself is a veteran of the Army. We’re proud to support our forces and we’re more proud of the work they’ve accomplished with Seidenberg.

NACTEL receives the Institutional Service Award from CAEL

The Seidenberg School of Computer Science and Information Systems offers terrific undergraduate and graduate degrees. However, did you know that they also have a unique online program for adults who are looking to start or complete a degree in Telecommunications? The NACTEL (National Coalition for Telecommunications Education and Learning) Program at Pace University has been providing Associate and Bachelor’s degrees in telecommunications since 1999. NACTEL students are primarily adults who work full-time and are located all over the United States and the world. Students work in a variety of fields within the telecommunication industry and some are also part of the military.

Last month, NACTEL students received the Institutional Service Award from CAEL (Council for Adult and Experiential Learning). The Institutional Service Award typically honors a college or a university for providing exemplary service to adults. NACTEL was given the award because they are an industry-education organization that has provided exemplary service to adults and has made significant contributions to the field of adult learning and workforce education for the past 15 years.

Pictured below is Pace University’s Ward Carpenter, Director of NACTEL, and Nancy Hale, Special Program Chair, accepting the award in Chicago, IL on November 12, 2014 at CAEL’s Annual International Conference.

(Left to right: Ward, Jim Spellane (IBEW), Nancy Hale, Pamela Tate(President and CEO of CAEL), Jeffery Batiste (Verizon), Susan Kannel (CAEL NACTEL Program Director), Rich Hake (Century Link) and Marianne Groth (Verizon).
(Left to right: Ward, Jim Spellane (IBEW), Nancy Hale, Pamela Tate (President and CEO of CAEL), Jeffery Batiste (Verizon), Susan Kannel (CAEL NACTEL Program Director), Rich Hake (Century Link) and Marianne Groth (Verizon).

In the past they have received multiple awards, which include:

  • In 2014 NACTEL was selected by G.I. Jobs magazine as a Military-Friendly School.
  • In 2013, U.S. News and World Report named NACTEL at Pace University #1 as the Best Online Bachelor’s Programs.
  • In 2013, U.S. News and World Report named NACTEL at Pace University as the top Online Bachelors program in the country AND the best Online Program for Veterans.

Dr. Scharff Brings Mobile Education to Senegal and Beyond Through Fulbright Project


Dr. Scharff with undergrad and grad students from the University of Ziguinchor, 2013

Since 2008, Seidenberg — through the dedicated work of Dr. Christelle Scharff — has been involved in research in mobile for development and in capacity-building in mobile technology in Senegal, Africa. While most of the ground-breaking mobile initiatives at that time emerged in English-speaking countries in Africa, Dr. Scharff decided to work in French-speaking countries, leveraging her first language, and became a pioneer of mobile technology in Senegal. In 2012 her efforts were rewarded by a prestigious Fulbright scholarship.

In order to receive a scholarship from Fulbright, one must prepare for a grueling application process with many stages. Dr. Scharff waited patiently during the process that would and did finally grant her the scholarship to get the ball rolling on her project and research in Senegal. The award letter was followed by letters from Crongresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney and Senator Charles E. Schumer.

Dr. Scharff founded the MobileSenegal project (MobileSenegal.org) for capacity building in mobile technology in Africa in 2008. It was first geared towards university students, but evolved into a mobile revolution for middle and high school students, developers and professionals of the IT industry. MobileSenegal, since its beginning, has become a program that organizes boot camps, courses, competitions, training for faculty and dedicated field projects.

Africa is booming in mobile investments, attracting the attention of larger corporations, including Google, Microsoft, and IBM. Of these, Google and IBM both sponsored MobileSenegal, as did Blackberry. NGOs have also caught on to the importance of mobile technology, even the most basic phones, in education and health for countries that may not have the same kind of access to technology that many of us take for granted. Students from Pace and Senegal worked on the development of a mobile application for reading, math, and geography for first grade students in Senegal. The application was piloted in a primary school. The experience generated enthusiasm amongst pupils and teachers and was a great learning experience in software engineering and social development for Pace and Senegalese students.

Dr. Scharff also founded the SenMobile startup to provide innovative mobile solutions in education, health, and financial awareness. She has more than 10 mobile apps published on Google Play, Nokia Store and BlackBerry App World. One of the Nokia apps gathered more than 17,000 downloads.

Dr. Scharff will continue to promote her ideas around the world to spread the initiative and her research. She has presented the project at diverse conferences including the mEducation Alliance Symposium in Washington D.C, the Mobile Learning Week at UNESCO in Paris, and this past month, she shared her work at the conference on Social Entrepreneurship at Harvard.

The Fulbright U.S. Student competition for 2015-2016 opened on May 1st and Dr. Scharff would be thrilled to talk with Pace students who are considering embarking in this life changing experience.

Dr. Hayes on Heartbleed

As you may have heard by now, there’s a huge Web vulnerability called Heartbleed out there that can allow an attacker access to the memory of a server or client, including a server’s SSL private keys. What does this mean for those of us that depend on privacy and security in our everyday online interactions? We decided that there would be no one better to ask than Dr. Darren Hayes, Seidenberg’s expert in cyber security. He stated that,


“Heartbleed could be the biggest Web vulnerability ever discovered. The problem is that the vulnerability has been around for two years now, so we have no idea what information could have been stolen from big name companies. Furthermore, the message for customers is problematic because a user cannot rush to change his or her password until the Website has patched their system and purged old keys used to encrypt data. Our confidence in transacting business on banking and retail sites and checking our email with well-known service providers has essentially been shattered. Hopefully, companies will keep their customers updated on what is happening and inform their customers on best practices for security.”

It’s important for users to change their passwords on sites that have been approved. There are lists, such as this one on CNET, that state which sites are safe and which could still be vulnerable. Take the weekend to sort through your accounts to make sure your information is secure.

Seidenberg Professor Writes Winning Paper

Dr. Thomas (second from right) receiving her award.

Hamdan Bin Mohammed Smart University (HBMSU) just announced the winners for best paper under the topic of “Leading Transformation to Sustainable Excellence.” Among the winners was Dr. Jennifer D.E. Thomas for a paper entitled “The Effect of Delivery Method on Persistence, Performance and Perceptions,” which she researched and wrote in tandem with two professors, Danielle Morin and Samie Li Shang Ly, from Concordia University, Canada.

The paper took into account the different delivery methods of courses for undergraduate students. With a rise in online classes in today’s culture – especially at Pace, where we rank at 3rd best in the nation for online undergraduate courses – it’s important to study the new methods of learning so that, as challenges and innovations arise, universities can analyze them in order to enhance educational practices. Thomas, Ly, and Morin looked at classes that were completely online as well as classes that were a hybrid between online and traditional practices.

From the extended abstract of the paper, the conclusion of their research is summarized as,

“The results of the studies conducted in this paper support the need for a hybrid model of learning, which augments in-class lectures with a level of online component. This would tend to imply the need to carefully evaluate MOOC’s [Massive Online Open Courses] before widespread adoption of them is made. Monetary expediency should not trump wise pedagogy.”

We extend the heartiest of congratulations to Dr. Thomas and her partners in research for their excellence!


Carol Wolf: A Life in Academia

Carol Wolf, one of Seidenberg’s professors, has had quite a life in academia and education before joining our program  in 1986, only a couple years after Seidenberg was founded in 1983. Born during the Great Depression, Professor Wolf grew up with parents who, both being academics, were adamant that she and her older brother receive a full education. Wolf began working at age 16, for a whopping 55 cents an hour (much to her delight), at a local soda fountain and, soon afterward, the library. These jobs were Wolf’s introduction into not only the work-world, but the work-worlds dominated by women, which were rare, given that this was during the early 1950s.

Wolf, in an interview with a student, stated that she knew from an early age that she wanted to be a mathematics professor. She then brought up the obstacles she faced as woman in the male-dominated field of mathematical academia. She started her work in teaching as a teaching assistant for a three-dimensional calculus course at Cornell University. The class she taught was a sophomore-level class of all males who did not trust that a woman could teach engineers. The students tested Wolf on a daily basis, asking her to work through the hardest questions in their textbooks. She explained that she didn’t realize it was a test until two or three weeks in, when the students also realized that she was not only incredibly capable of solving the problems with ease, but also skilled in teaching the material to the class while doing so.

Every year she taught, she experienced a similar series of tests from students who were unaccustomed to having women teach in their field. Wolf points out that she was one of two women in the department, and the only one who taught full-time. Her experience with gender bias at Cornell was not unusual in universities at the time. She mentioned a friend who, while teaching at Harvard, was told by a professor that she had no business being in mathematics — it was not a women’s field.

Things changed when Professor Wolf found Seidenberg. Our school was started by a woman, Susan Merrit, who was once the Chair of CS on Westchester’s campus. Considering the fact that Professor Wolf is still with us at Seidenberg today, it’s clear that this position has been a great fit for her, professionally.

Wolf, in her own words, shares with fellow women who are learning and working in a predominantly male field that, “the thing is, there is this stereotype of the nerd sitting in the basement programming or studying all day, and that’s not what life is like. There are all sorts of interesting things you can do. I think women maybe provide their own reasons not to do it, but as far as any intrinsic ones, the field is open.

We celebrate Wolf’s talents and enthusiasm here at Seidenberg. It’s not easy to trudge through the politics that can surround academic fields of work, but thankfully Professor Wolf has made it through. There is still progress to be made, especially for women and minorities, but it is pioneers like Wolf who show us how it’s done right.