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An educator bridging cybersecurity and criminal profiling: Sarah-Eliessa Badaoui’s novel approach

Sarah-Eliessa Badaoui, a lecturer at Polytechnique Montréal, is developing an approach that blends cybersecurity with criminal profiling

Photo courtesy of Sarah-Eliessa Badaoui
Photo courtesy of Sarah-Eliessa Badaoui

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As cybercrime increasingly becomes prevalent today, an educator has made it her mission to find new ways to enhance education in this field to combat cybercrimes. Sarah-Eliessa Badaoui, a lecturer at Polytechnique Montréal, is developing an approach that blends cybersecurity with criminal profiling. “Cybercriminals study their potential victims in-depth to be able to manipulate them and achieve their ends. Why not use their own tactics against them to prevent and combat cybercrimes? Let’s dive into the cybercriminal’s minds to understand them and prevent their future actions,” says Badaoui, as she discusses the idea that led her to create new courses presenting this approach.

Badaoui’s journey reflects the significance of her work. At just 29, she has already achieved significant milestones, including creating three new courses in cybercriminal profiling. These courses, set to launch in August 2024, are a notable initiative in Quebec. Combining criminal profiling, forensic psychology, and cybersecurity, these courses aim to prepare students for the multifaceted challenges of the digital age. “Understanding the predator is key to protecting the victim,” Badaoui states, summarizing her mission to advance cybersecurity education through a more holistic lens.

Developing cybercriminal profiling courses

In January 2024, after multiple strategic discussions and negotiations, Badaoui successfully convinced the department head at Polytechnique Montréal to include three innovative courses in the cybersecurity degree program. These courses are designed to provide students with the skills to profile cybercriminals, understand their motivations, and apply this knowledge to prevent future crimes.

“The process to implement these courses was challenging, filled with setbacks and negotiations,” Badaoui recalls. “But my determination remained strong.” Her dedication resulted in the scheduled official launch of these courses in August 2024. Aiming to equip students with a comprehensive understanding of cybercrimes, it covers a broad spectrum from hackers to cyber terrorists and cyber pedophiles.

Badaoui’s method focuses on understanding the psychological underpinnings of cybercriminals and their different types. Such aims to fill critical gaps in traditional cybersecurity education, ensuring that future professionals have technical skills and a profound understanding of the criminal mind.

Making industry impact

Badaoui’s contributions to the field have not gone unnoticed. In 2023, she was awarded the High Potential Trophée by École Cybersécurité, Québec, recognizing her potential in cybersecurity. Additionally, she was shortlisted for the Global Cybersecurity Woman of the Year 2024 in the Barrier Breaker category. Moreover, Badaoui was recognized by the Global Recognition Awards for her achievements in the industry.

These accolades reflect Badaoui’s influence and potential in the cybersecurity sector. Her work aligns with broader industry movements that integrate psychology and cybersecurity, which is increasingly recognized as essential in combating modern cyber threats. “I have made cybersafety for all my vocation. I do what I do to contribute, in my own way, and do my part to protect communities and future generations against cybercrimes.” Badaoui explains.

Her holistic approach to cybersecurity, focusing on exploring all types of cybercriminals and their different profiles, differentiates her. Such a perspective is valuable for understanding cybercriminals’ various motivations and behaviors, which can enhance prevention and defense strategies.

Committing to continuous learning

Badaoui’s vision extends beyond her current achievements. She devotes herself to continuous learning, currently completing a master’s degree in criminal profiling and planning to commence a PhD in forensic cyberpsychology to gain expertise on this subject. Her academic pursuits are driven by an interest in understanding the psychological basis of cybercrimes. She aims to develop a more comprehensive look at cybersecurity that encompasses technical skills and in-depth insights into the cybercriminal mind.

“Passion combined with perseverance can lead to transformative outcomes,” Badaoui reflects. Despite being one of the youngest lecturers and facing initial skepticism, Badaoui’s determination has led to the development of courses that can impact cybersecurity education. Badaoui considers her work in cybersecurity education to be her mission to safeguard the future.

Integrating technical and psychological aspects in cybersecurity

As the cybersecurity sector shifts, the integration of technical and psychological facets becomes increasingly essential. Badaoui hopes to provide future professionals with the skills and understanding to tackle modern cyber threats. Her expertise, genuine passion, and perseverance enrich the field. 

“Understanding the predator is key to protecting the victim,” she reiterates, encapsulating her mission to bridge the gap between cybersecurity, criminal profiling, and psychology. As her courses launch in August 2024, her holistic method’s impact will be observed. Aspiring cybersecurity professionals have the opportunity to be technically skilled and psychologically astute, ready to tackle the complexities of modern cybercrime.

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