Training/networking events, college outreach earn Chapter of the Year for New England HTCIA

2010 HTCIA Chapter of the Year New EnglandThe International Executive Committee has a host of criteria for winning Chapter of the Year, including recordkeeping, outreach efforts to the broader community, and of course the training for which HTCIA is known. What all that takes, though, is the kind of people and relationship-building for which HTCIA is also known.

Dave McSweeney, New England chapter president and a member of the Massachusetts State Police High Tech Unit, has been an HTCIA member since 1997 – so he’s well familiar with the networking and learning opportunities that are possible through the organization.

Making them attractive to people outside the HTCIA is the trick, and in recent years, McSweeney and other chapter officers have been working not just to bring new members in, but to keep them once they’re here. A revamped website, seeking out member input, and promoting member projects are just a few ways they’re doing that. But what really got the IEC’s attention:

College and university outreach

“One of our major goals is to get universities and colleges more involved,” says McSweeney, “especially in the Boston area, where we have MIT, Northeastern, and BU resources to tap.” Indeed, more students have been coming to quarterly meetings, whether they are tracking towards law enforcement or corporate security; faculty present training topics as well.

In recent years, the chapter has helped two institutions obtain student charters: Champlain College in Vermont, and the University of New Hampshire. Currently, the chapter is working on helping regional community colleges develop a third charter. “They have collectively received a federal grant to develop computer forensic courses,” says McSweeney, “so they would all fall under one charter.”

Quarterly training conferences

Chapters of the Year should ideally hold at least one all-day training conference per year. The New England chapter holds four. “At our last meeting, our speakers gave us a cyber threat update and spoke about evidence spoliation,” says McSweeney. “We even had Digital Mountain in from California to talk about e-discovery.”

He adds that again, relationships are invaluable when it comes to finding hosts for the meetings. “We had the chief security officer for State Street Corp. open one meeting, and they hosted us as well,” he says. “Sometimes the hosts also pay for lunch, which can be a big help to a small nonprofit organization.”

Vendors present too, but they are asked to stick to topics as subject matter experts. “We let them have a table in the back of the room where they can talk about their product, which is a good compromise,” says McSweeney. “We know they have a certain expertise because of what their product does, so all we ask is that they focus on that.” Previous vendors have included BitSec and AccessData.

A crucial element to the quarterly meetings is the networking dinner the chapter holds following each meeting. “We make it social, at local restaurants,” says McSweeney, “to give everyone a chance to talk, which they don’t otherwise have time to do during a full day of training.”

These events are invaluable, he notes, because quite often investigators working cases will come up against a challenge related to something they’ve heard during a meeting. “They can then call the speaker to get help,” he notes.

The meetings are designed to balance technical, legal, and investigative information so that everyone walks away with something relevant to their jobs. “No one knows everything in this job,” says McSweeney, “so we all come together so that they can learn from one another.”

Are you a member of the New England chapter, or know someone who is? Share your experiences in comments below!

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