M.S. Digital Forensic Investigation Grad: ‘My Main Passion is to Help People, and I Am Able to Do That’
For Anna Albraccio ’21, ’22 M.S., her work as a forensic analyst is exciting and rewarding. From the hands-on coursework to the professors who believed in her, she says her time as a Charger prepared her well for her work investigating civil and criminal cases.
November 28, 2022
By Jackie Hennessey, Contributing Writer
When Anna Albraccio ’21, ’22 M.S. is working as a forensic analyst in the state-of-the art digital lab at Sandline Global, she says she is constantly using skills she developed in the University’s online M.S. in Digital Forensic Investigation program, and as an undergraduate forensic science major. She studies an electronic device, analyzing a person’s movements to see who they’ve been texting, what they have been searching, trying to build evidence for a case.
She thinks about a course with Professor Angelo Floiran, practitioner-in-residence, who had students delve into the dark web. She researched the Silk Road where, according to the FBI, Ross William Ulbricht created an underground marketplace that trafficked in drugs and other goods, generating about $1.2 billion in sales before he was arrested, convicted, and sentenced to life without parole.
“Professor Floiran not only taught me the proper steps to investigating this kind of crime but made me see a whole different side of the internet,” says Albraccio. “I had to figure out how to go about investigating these types of crimes. What do you do when someone is hidden? Where do you begin? He encouraged me to question why people do this. I even wrote a paper defending what this person created, so that I would always be thinking of a case from all sides.”
‘He told me I could do it’
Albraccio also recalls a course with Professor Christopher Kelly, an adjunct instructor who works in the digital forensics division of the Massachusetts Attorney General's Office.
“The class was very hands-on, and that’s not very common in online programs,” she says. “We were able to gain access to software tools I’m using now in the field to perform our own data collection. He taught us how to use the data and formulate reports.”
Albraccio earned a graduate certificate in digital investigations while finishing her bachelor’s degree. She also worked in the West Haven Police Department’s student patrol and the University Police Department’s dispatch office.
It was a leap, she says, moving from studying forensics as an undergrad, working “with biological and chemical substances” to computer and all tech-based investigations. Patrick Malloy, M.S., DBA, the program coordinator for the online M.S. in Digital Forensic Investigation program and the online M.S. in Investigations program, encouraged her to become part of the first class of the M.S. in Digital Forensic Investigation program.
“I wasn’t sure I could do it,” she says. “But Professor Malloy challenged me. He told me I could do it because I had the passion for it. He believed in me as a woman pursuing a career in a heavily male-dominated field, and that was a turning point for me.”
‘This field encapsulates everything’
Last year, Albraccio interned at Sandline, an e-discovery, legal advisory and litigations company that handles corporate internal investigations, fraud, corporate espionage, and criminal investigations. She was offered a position as a forensic analyst right after completing her master’s.
“We perform data collection and forensic analysis of criminal or civil cases, whether they are white-collar crimes or criminal investigations,” she says. “I go on site and collect different devices requested by the attorneys and formulate reports used as forensic evidence in court cases,” she says.
Some of the most challenging cases involve the Social Media Victims Law Center.
“We were hired by this organization to collect data and information off of the devices and social media platforms of children and young people who have committed or attempted suicide,” she explains. “We look for any signs of bullying or signs of self-harm on the device that parents may not have been aware of. It’s a way to give closure to families who lost their children. It’s hard looking into a child’s life and see that maybe more could have been done to prevent what had happened. While it’s difficult, we know we are doing something of benefit for the families.”
Albraccio enjoys her work, and she’s grateful for the preparation she had at the University.
“This field encapsulates everything I’ve wanted to do throughout my education,” she says. “Not only working on criminal cases and looking at them from all sides, but my main passion is to help people and I am able to do that. It’s such an exciting field.”