This scholarship winner dreams of building a cybercrime unit

Some call him Detective Michael Rogers, others know him as the in-agency cybersecurity expert. In an era of digital dependence, cybercrime could easily spiral out of control. But this 2020 Infosec Accelerate Scholarship winner plans to crack down on crime and hold hackers accountable.

This scholarship winner dreams of building a cybercrime unit

From military combat to combating cybercrime

Like many cybersecurity professionals, Detective Michael Rogers didn’t start out with aspirations to catch cybercriminals. In fact, he used to respond to a very different kind of attack. 

Before his career in local law enforcement, Michael served in the Army Reserve where he saw combat in Iraq as an active duty military policeman. After earning awards for his actions under fire, Michael fulfilled the reminder of his enlistment, achieved the ranking of sergeant and set off in pursuit of his civilian career at the Chesterfield County Police Department. 

Over the years, Michael moved from patrolman into property crimes, but it wasn’t until he worked alongside the Economic Crimes Unit (ECU) that he found himself completely captivated by his work. This newfound interest inspired him to pursue an undergraduate degree in economic crime investigation, which helped him attain the title he has now, a title which he is happy to hold. “I now really enjoy what I do. I landed in this little niche,” Michael says.

Fueled by fascination with cybersecurity

As a detective in the ECU, Michael covers all kinds of financial crimes, the most common being ID theft and bank card fraud. But as financial services began to move online, more and more investigations required some sort of IT expertise. So, Michael took it upon himself to learn about the technologies and techniques hackers used to commit cybercrime. 

Michael studied everything from IP addresses to computer forensics, and after a while, he discovered he had a true passion for cybersecurity. “I find it fascinating,” Michael admits. “I guess deep down in my heart, I'm a futurist. I enjoy reading about future technology, what’s on trend and what’s on the cutting edge.” 

Ever since then, Michael has been the go-to cybersecurity guy. And with some more formal training, he plans to turn that title into a professional role during the last half of his career. But first, he’s dedicated to doing more for the victims of financial fraud.

Deep down in my heart, I'm a futurist. I enjoy reading about future technology, what’s on trend and what’s on the cutting edge.

Sophisticated cyber crimes call for sophisticated defenses

While the detectives at Michael’s agency are trained to investigate complex crimes like drug deals and homicides, they aren’t equipped with the necessary tools, education or technology to handle the ever-evolving world of cybercrime. 

One the one hand, there are simply too many crimes to keep up with. “We receive police reports on a daily basis involving the loss of funds through cyber means,” says Michael. And these financial crimes are only increasing. The sheer volume of crimes combined with a lack of resources to properly investigate them often leaves Michael’s team with very little options. “Sometimes these incidents involve hundreds of thousands of dollars, and there is simply not much we can do other than document the loss or direct them to a federal reporting website.” 

On the other hand, cyber crimes are becoming increasingly more complicated to crack down on. Between cryptocurrencies, cash apps, online banking and more, hackers have unlimited outlets and opportunities to steal personal data — and a way higher chance of getting away with it. 

In the event of a bank robbery or break-in, detectives would investigate the crime scene for clues. But when the crime occurs on the internet, there’s not really a place or person you can point to for answers. “These are apps and online services, they're not a local bank where I can go and talk to somebody. You don’t have to go in anywhere and conduct a transaction,” Michael explains. “Everything's online or everything's being conducted through a cell phone, so you have to be familiar with how all that technology works.” 

The connected nature of the internet allows cybercriminals to target random, vulnerable victims from wherever they are in the world. And they can perform their entire scheme behind a screen, then slip away undetected. There are no alarms. There are no cameras. And there is no easy way to gain access to incriminating evidence. 

In order to combat these kinds of crimes, Michael proposes that the agency invest in a cybercrime unit. With investigators that specialize in computer forensics handling the technical side, their department could do more for victims than file reports. “Investigators are running into more and more complicated things every day,” he explains. “We need subject matter experts in our agency.” And everyone in the agency agrees.

Investigators are running into more and more complicated things every day. We need cybersecurity subject matter experts in our agency.

Planning for the future

In preparation for this new unit, Michael plans to use his Infosec Skills access to become a better investigator —  and a better in-agency educator. Once the blue prints are approved, he’ll work on ensuring the unit is set up for success. Then, he’ll sharpen his skills for a career in the private sector. 

Until that time comes, Michael’s getting serious about cybersecurity. And that starts with his certifications. “I’m going to work my way up the chain on CompTIA one step at a time,” he says. But once he’s a certified cybersecurity pro, he still won’t be satisfied. After all, there’s always something new and exciting to learn — especially since cybercrime is always evolving.