Michael Bachmann

Deciphering the Technology of Crime

Associate Professor of Criminal Justice
Editor in Chief of the Journal of Technology & Crime

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Michael Bachmann’s research includes anything at the intersection of crime and technology, but, for him, cybermapping, forensics and analytics aren’t just theories. He offers his expertise in real-life situations wherever he can, whether locally at Cook Children’s, or in Honduras, a country with one of the highest murder rates in the world.

When Michael Bachmann left Germany to pursue a Ph.D. in criminal sociology at the University of Central Florida, he had already developed a long love affair with technology and a burgeoning interest in cybercrime.

“The road I was taking was pretty new at the time, at least within criminal justice,” Bachmann says. “During my Ph.D. studies, I realized that the trend was going toward digital crime and accounting crime.”

His research debunking hacker myths drew the attention of TCU, which brought him on as an assistant professor in criminal justice in 2008. Michael is also the editor-in-chief of an online open-access journal from TCU, The Journal of Technology and Crime.

“When you open an introductory textbook on crime, it will still show you that crime has been declining since the ‘90s,” explains Bachmann. “Well, that’s not true. Crime has moved online, while criminology, unfortunately, for the most part, hasn’t.”

Bachmann has received two Department of Justice grants: one to develop a database on organized crime operations in human trafficking and another for crime mapping as a method to reduce gang violence.

“With the latest grant proposal that I put in with the National Science Foundation (NSF), we want to educate a broader audience about cyber-security implications of remotely controllable, implanted medical devices,” says Michael, speaking about insulin pumps and pacemakers. “There have been several successful hacks of these devices. Now, we are talking about a type of crime that is no longer lethal in an abstract way, but very directly lethal.”

Bachmann’s work off campus includes partnering with Cook Children’s to prevent child maltreatment and with local law enforcement to reduce gun-related gang violence. He is also a United States Agency for International Development (USAID) consultant in Honduras, where kidnapping and extortion are rampant.

“I have been training select officers from the national anti-extortion force — a special unit that was built with U.S. government funds a couple of years ago — in cyber investigations, forensics, and cell phone forensics and tracking,” says Bachmann. “For me, it’s gratifying when they tell me that they’re putting away cartel members using what they learned.”

USAID is bringing the Honduran investigators whom Bachmann trained to Texas to meet with local law enforcement agencies that do similar data-driven police work. Bachmann’s students will get a chance to hear from the Honduran officers about their work and do independent research projects on cyber forensics software.

“Computers are here to stay; our reliance on their functioning is only going to increase, and security issues are going to be imminent all around us,” explains Bachmann. “The skills that TCU provides students with are highly marketable, and they are going to be in the highest demand.”