Meet the recipients of the 2023 Magnet Forensics Scholarship Award!

We’re proud to be offering the Magnet Forensics Scholarship Award for the fifth year since its inception in 2018! We launched the program to help police agencies address their growing talent shortage in digital forensics and to promote diversity in the profession while working against budgetary constraints. We’re happy to have been able to help in battling these constraints, which are hindering the ability for agencies to investigate crimes such as child sexual exploitation, human trafficking and cybercrime.

Once again, we’re extremely honored to be able to award these scholarships in the name of Peel Regional Police Sgt. Steve Martin. As an Internet Child Exploitation unit investigator, Sgt. Martin played a leading role in arresting criminals who preyed on children before he died of cancer in January 2021.

We’re proud to announce that we’ve increased the number of award winners to five for 2023! The winners are:

New to Forensics

Madeline Vogelsang, Vancouver Police Department, Vancouver, Washington

Kaung Zaw Hein, National Bank of Canada Group, Yangon, Myanmar

Advanced Field

Jennifer Graham, Plover Police Department, Plover, Wisconsin
Alban Haxhia, Albanian State Police, Tirane, Albania
Jeanne-Marie Grobler, Commerce Commission New Zealand, Auckland, New Zealand

As recipients of the scholarship, they will receive:

  • World-class digital forensics training: Starting from the very basics of digital forensics and working right through to advanced smartphone and computer forensics, winners will be able to take unlimited training from Magnet Forensics for a year.
  • The opportunity to obtain digital forensics certifications: After completing training, they’ll be eligible to become Magnet Certified, demonstrating expertise and giving credibility with their agency and on the stand.
  • Software license for one year: Winners will also receive a one-year Magnet Axiom license, giving them access to a comprehensive digital forensics tool that will help them find and report on evidence from smartphones, computers, and the cloud.

We asked the winners to share more about their experiences in the field, their hopes for the Magnet Forensics Scholarship Award, and more. Read more below.

Tell us about your current role/department.

Kaung Zaw Hein: I am presently employed as an IT Security Analyst at ATA IT Limited, a subsidiary of the National Bank of Canada Group. In my role, I primarily focus on incident response and threat hunting, ensuring the proactive identification and mitigation of potential security threats within our systems. Additionally, I am passionate about contributing to the cybersecurity community. During my spare time, I actively engage with CYBERGON, a non-profit organization dedicated to fostering information security knowledge sharing. Through CYBERGON, I participate in virtual conferences, conduct training sessions, organize capture the flag events, and share valuable resources, all aimed at empowering individuals and organizations in the realm of cybersecurity.

Jeanne-Marie Grobler: I am currently a senior investigator working in the Cartels Department at the Commerce Commission of New Zealand. The Commission administers and enforces laws relating to competition, fair trading, consumer credit and economic regulation and we have both a civil and criminal regime

Alban Haxhia: This my fifth year as a digital forensic expert at Forensic Institute LAB part of Albanian State Police. My role involves evidence collection and expertise around various digital devices helping law enforcement agencies and legal authorities investigate and prosecute criminal activities involving digital evidence. I have been actively involved in first response and field operation, where I have taken on leadership roles in crime scenes. Also, I have volunteered my time to assist local law enforcement agencies with trainings and demonstration about how digital evidence should be collected and preserved, gaining practical experience in the field.

Madeline Vogelsang: I am currently assigned to the Vancouver Police Department’s Digital Evidence and Cybercrime Unit as a Digital Forensics Investigator. I process digital evidence seized during search warrants, primarily related to child sexual exploitation and internet crimes against children (ICAC) investigations. I also assist with executing search warrants that involve digital evidence.

Jennifer Graham: The Village of Plover Police Department is a small agency within the Central Wisconsin community. We are comprised of 22 sworn law enforcement officers. I am currently one of three detectives in our investigations bureau. I specialize in sensitive crimes and ICAC investigations.

What has been your policing experience up until now?

Kaung Zaw Hein: My policing experience began with my academic journey at the University of Computer Studies, Yangon, Myanmar. Following graduation, I volunteered at the Myanmar Cyber Conference, where I actively participated in information-sharing initiatives. Transitioning into the professional sphere, I commenced my career as a Security Analyst in the banking sector. In this role, I was entrusted with overseeing critical areas such as endpoint security, email security, and vulnerability management. Additionally, I served as a frontline incident responder, swiftly addressing security breaches and ensuring the integrity of our systems.

Subsequently, I transitioned to a Security Operations Analyst role within the telecommunications sector. Here, my responsibilities expanded to include incident response management, enhancement of use cases, and the delivery of comprehensive information security training programs. Through these experiences, I’ve honed my skills in proactive threat mitigation, incident resolution, and fostering a culture of security awareness within organizations.

Jeanne-Marie Grobler: I have more than 10 years’ experience as an investigator in both private and public sector.  My experience includes fraud, money laundering, terrorist financing, workplace investigations and cartels. Prior to my current role, I conducted investigations throughout the whole of Africa for some major financial institutions.

Alban Haxhia: Many digital forensic examiners start their careers in law enforcement or related fields, obtaining specialized training in digital forensics techniques, tools, and procedures. I come from a long time working as an IT specialist when I first enrolled in police forces working only as a forensic examiner. During this time, I gained a very good understanding about various aspects of law enforcement, including criminal law, investigation techniques, patrol procedures, and community policing.

Madeline Vogelsang: I was a Special Agent with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) for four years until I moved to Vancouver. In that role, I investigated major crimes including homicides, officer-involved shootings, assaults, and crimes against children. During that time, I had the opportunity to work on several cases that involved online exploitation of children. I also worked proactive and undercover operations that targeted online child predators.

Jennifer Graham: I was a Patrol Officer for nine years before becoming a Detective and have been in the bureau for over five years now. I wore many hats in our department to include being a field training officer, a shift commander (Officer in Charge-OIC), an advisor for our department’s cadet program and now a Detective and digital forensics examiner.

How would you describe your knowledge of digital forensics up until now?

Kaung Zaw Hein: While digital forensics hasn’t been the primary focus of my previous roles, I’ve actively pursued opportunities to build my knowledge in this area. Participating in capture the flag challenges and attending webinars have provided me with foundational insights into digital forensics concepts and techniques. Recognizing the value of this knowledge for future applications, I’ve made a concerted effort to further enhance my understanding. By leveraging these experiences and continuously seeking learning opportunities, I am progressively strengthening my proficiency in digital forensics.

Jeanne-Marie Grobler: Before attending BCFE with IACIS in Orlando in 2023, I had no experience in digital forensics. I am the person who calls IT when my computer won’t print. I did not even know what hex or binary was and hashing sounded like something that comes with your McDonalds burger. I was completely overwhelmed during the first two days in Orlando. After getting over the initial shock, I tried to take in as much as I could. In the months that followed, I was determined to obtain the CFCE certification and obviously had to work twice as hard than someone who has had at least some exposure to digital forensics, but as the saying goes the best view comes after the hardest climb.

Alban Haxhia: As I reflect on my journey in digital forensics up until now, my knowledge journey has been one of continuous learning and exploration. I delved into the principles of forensic science, learning about the importance of integrity, authenticity, and reliability in the collection and analysis of digital evidence. I have sought out opportunities for further education and training, attending conferences, certification programs to expand my knowledge and skills. Despite the challenges, I stand as a proficient user of forensic devices and software, equipped with a deep understanding of their capabilities and limitations which I use my day-to-day work.

Madeline Vogelsang: When I worked for the GBI, I was familiar with the basics of software used to process digital evidence, but I did not have formal training and was primarily self-taught. Since moving to Vancouver, I have been able to dive somewhat deeper into the world of computer forensics, and I am looking forward to having formal training to take my learning to the next level.

Jennifer Graham: I have very little training in computer forensics but am looking forward to getting more into that field.

What made you want to get into the field?

Kaung Zaw Hein: My interest in digital forensics grew from the challenges I encountered while delving into various digital forensic tasks. Each challenge I faced sparked a desire to deepen my understanding and acquire new skills in this field. The process of investigating artifacts across diverse environments, including mobile devices, computers, and cloud platforms, intrigued me immensely. This passion for exploration and investigation motivates me to pursue further study and expertise in digital forensics.

Jeanne-Marie Grobler: We use sister agencies for our digital forensic services and during one of our investigations it became clear that there is a skill shortage in this area within our team at the Commission. I enquired from a colleague who is very well respected in the industry what I need to do to get into it. Initially, this journey was just to better understand digital forensics and what it entails making for better communication between our sister agency DFUs and our team. However, after completing my CFCE I was hooked, hungry to learn more and looking for every opportunity for someone to teach me the ropes. Some of my colleagues at our sister agency DFUs are legends in the digital forensics field so I am lucky to be able to learn from them.

Alban Haxhia: Beyond a personal interest in technology, I wanted to make a tangible impact and contribute meaningfully to society. Digital forensics presented a unique opportunity to utilize my skills and expertise to combat cybercrime and give my contribution in upholding the rule of law and protecting individuals and organizations from harm. Also, I have always been a curious person and wanted to understand the mechanisms and processes that happens behind the screen that a normal user sees. Delving into the depths of digital data, deciphering encrypted messages, and uncovering hidden clues appealed to my innate desire to solve puzzles and unravel mysteries. The opportunity to combine my passion for technology with a commitment to integrity, justice, and ethical conduct resonated deeply with my sense of purpose and direction.

Madeline Vogelsang: I have always been passionate about protecting children. When I began working on child exploitation cases, I saw firsthand how often ICAC suspects commit hands-on offenses against children. By doing the work to keep these predators off the streets (and the internet), we are quite literally preventing future hands-on offenses against children. Often these predators have access to children in their daily lives. We are giving those children the opportunity to disclose potential abuse by bringing to light their abuser’s crimes and preventing further access to the child.

This is an exciting time to be entering the world of digital forensics, as nearly every case these days has a digital nexus. The more I learn, the more I can bring new ideas to cases where other leads may have been exhausted. What I love about this field is that our knowledge is always growing and technology is constantly evolving, but the digital forensics community (and particularly the Internet Crimes Against Children community) has the singular, unchanging goal of finding the truth and protecting the innocent.

Jennifer Graham: As part of the Wisconsin Internet Crimes Against Child Task Force, I immediately recognized that there was a severe need for digital examiners. Being part of ICAC really fueled my desire to keep helping and protecting children from becoming victims in the digital world.

How did you hear about the Magnet Forensics Scholarship Program?

Kaung Zaw Hein: I first learned about the Magnet Forensics Scholarship Program while actively researching scholarship opportunities in the field of cybersecurity. Upon discovering the program, my interest was piqued further as I reviewed the Training Annual Pass (TAP) and modules associated with it. The opportunity to deepen my knowledge and skills in digital forensics through this scholarship program resonated with my career aspirations, motivating me to pursue it.

Jeanne-Marie Grobler: My agency does not have its own lab, so my software was limited to what was provided to me by IACIS. I had heard about Magnet Axiom being one of the best tools for the DFU toolbox. I was provided with a free one-month trial license and also told about the scholarship and encouraged to apply.

Alban Haxhia: Every day, my inbox fills with emails from Magnet Forensics, delivering updates, announcements, and invitations to webinars. When I stumbled upon the email detailing the Magnet Forensics Scholarship Program, my interest was piqued instantly. Without hesitation, I eagerly began completing the necessary forms, fueled by a sense of excitement and determination to seize this opportunity.

Madeline Vogelsang: I was forwarded the information by a colleague who thought I would be a good fit for the program.

Jennifer Graham: I am part of a digital forensics lab in Central Wisconsin where other examiners have recommended to me that I attend Magnet Forensics training. I had observed that there was a scholarship program by perusing their website and thought it would be the perfect opportunity.

What are you hoping to achieve after completing the Scholarship Program?

Kaung Zaw Hein: After completing the Scholarship Program, I aim to integrate the knowledge and skills gained into my daily work, enhancing my effectiveness in digital forensics investigations. By leveraging this expertise, I aspire to support and guide my teammates in improving their investigative processes, fostering a collaborative and knowledgeable environment within my organization. Additionally, I am eager to share insights and knowledge with others interested in digital forensics, contributing to the broader community of learners in this field.

Jeanne-Marie Grobler: I am the only in-house person within my agency that is trained in digital forensics and by building on this new skill set I hope to strengthen our in-house capabilities as well as our engagement with our sister agencies. I have in the past also done some presentations at a local college for their Police Development course and hope to encourage some of the youth to enter the field of digital forensics who may not even be aware of it.

Madeline Vogelsang: I’m looking forward to being able to assist our local agencies and continuing to make the Vancouver Police Department a leader in digital forensics for Southwest Washington. I’d like to continue to offer guidance and advisement to newer agencies which may not have access to digital forensics training.

Jennifer Graham: I am hoping to be able to help with the multitude of digital forensics examinations that are backlogging our area’s investigations. Being able to provide additional services to not only my department but other smaller agencies in the area as well.

What are you looking forward to learning in the program?

Kaung Zaw Hein: I’m eager to start by mastering the fundamentals of digital forensics through the program. Specifically, I plan to focus on Magnet Axiom Examinations (AX200) to gain a comprehensive understanding of utilizing Magnet Axiom effectively. Following this, I look forward to delving into additional courses such as Magnet Axiom Advanced Computer Forensics (AX250) and Magnet Axiom Incident Response Examinations (AX310) to broaden my knowledge and skills further. Alongside these courses, I am committed to obtaining relevant certifications to validate my expertise in digital forensics.

Jeanne-Marie Grobler: I am definitely looking forward to the mobile forensics, advanced mobile forensics, advanced computer forensics and the incident response courses. 

Alban Haxhia: In my day-to-day work, I use Magnet products like Magnet Axiom and Magnet DVR Examiner, but still, I feel that there is much more to learn and use this software and other Magnet products. I always try to enhance my proficiency and through this scholarship training and hands-on experience, I am eager to explore the capabilities of industry-leading tools, learning how to leverage their functionalities to extract, analyze, and interpret digital evidence with precision and efficiency.

One of the most valuable aspects of the Magnet Forensics Scholarship Program lies in its emphasis on collaboration and community-building. I’m looking forward to connecting with like-minded peers, industry experts, and mentors, fostering meaningful relationships and exchanging insights and experiences that will enrich my learning journey.

Madeline Vogelsang: Where to start! I’m looking forward to learning the intricacies of file systems and digital storage, as well as mobile acquisition. Vancouver does not currently have a video examiner, so I’m very much looking forward to diving into that area as well. There’s so much to learn from analyzing digital evidence, and I’m excited to be confident in my ability to parse out every piece of information possible.

I’m also passionate about investigators’ mental health and wellbeing. Magnet Axiom has incredible tools and resources within its programs that help reduce the effects of exposure to child exploitation material. I’m eager to learn how to utilize those tools to their fullest potential so I can bring that knowledge back to our unit and better protect our digital forensics investigators against burnout and secondhand trauma.

Jennifer Graham: Anything I can about computer forensics. I fully plan on taking as many trainings as my schedule will allow.

How has the support been from your leadership?

Kaung Zaw Hein: I am fortunate to have a supportive team leader. He consistently demonstrates a genuine commitment to the growth and success of every team member, always willing to help improve our skill sets and celebrate our achievements. When I approached him about applying for the Magnet Forensics Scholarship Program, he readily agreed and even provided a referral letter to support my application. His belief in my potential to expand my knowledge and contribute to the team in the future is both motivating and reassuring.

Jeanne-Marie Grobler: My agency and manager have been incredible through this process and have supported me one hundred percent from the get-go. All agencies have certain struggles whether it be budget or resources, but my manager has continued to work with me to develop my skillset which of course is a benefit to my agency.

Alban Haxhia: When the opportunity to apply for this scholarship program arose, my manager was quick to encourage and support my decision to pursue it. He was very willing when I asked for the reference letter outlining my abilities and how I support my application. Understanding the demands of balancing work responsibilities with educational pursuits, my manager proactively facilitated the allocation of time and resources to support my scholarship program.

Madeline Vogelsang: I am lucky to have an incredible supervisor who recognizes that an investment into my training is an investment into the department, as it will allow me to assist detectives in making stronger cases to keep our city safer.

Jennifer Graham: My department’s leadership team has been spectacular. They understand the need for a digital forensics examiner and really take notice that most of the crimes committed nowadays have a digital component to them. They encourage me to take as many free to low-cost trainings as possible in hopes of keeping up with the digital trends; with this scholarship it will help validate my examinations even more. They would have loved to send me to additional trainings but unfortunately our department’s budget was limited when it comes to training funds.

Any other thoughts you would like to share?

Kaung Zaw Hein: I want to extend my heartfelt thanks to the Magnet Forensics Scholarship Community for offering me this incredible opportunity. Additionally, I am deeply grateful to everyone who supported and recommended me for this scholarship. Your encouragement and belief in me mean the world, and I am truly honored to have your support as I embark on this journey. Thank you all for making this possible.

Jeanne-Marie Grobler: I am incredibly grateful for this opportunity and even though I am a rookie in DFU terms, persistence and perseverance make an unbeatable combination for success. 

Alban Haxhiu: I am deeply thankful for the opportunity to participate in this esteemed program, recognizing it as a testament to the dedication and hard work that has brought me to this point in my journey. The Magnet Forensics Scholarship Program represents not only a recognition of past achievements but also a catalyst for future personal  growth and development.

With gratitude in my heart and determination in my spirit, I eagerly embrace the journey ahead, ready to learn, grow, and make a meaningful impact in the dynamic and ever-evolving field of digital forensics.

Madeline Vogelsang: I am so grateful for this opportunity and excited to get going with training! I’m honored to get to continue Sgt. Steve Martin’s legacy of helping children and making the world a little safer.Jennifer Graham: I am just incredibly grateful to Magnet Forensics for this opportunity. It’s not often that smaller agencies such as mine is given a chance to show that even the smallest police departments can make a difference in the world. If I can even save one person with the knowledge that I will be gaining from Magnet Forensics, then all the time invested into my trainings will make it worth it.

The post Meet the recipients of the 2023 Magnet Forensics Scholarship Award! appeared first on Magnet Forensics.

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