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Tom Holt - Michigan State University. East Lansing, MI, US

Tom Holt

Professor of Criminal Justice | Michigan State University


Thomas J. Holt is an expert in Cybercrime, Cyberterror, and Information Warfare Researcher







DEF CON 17 - Holt and Panel - Predicting Threats in the Russian Hacker Community



Thomas J. Holt is a professor in the School of Criminal Justice at Michigan State University whose research focuses on computer hacking, malware, and the role of the Internet in facilitating all manner of crime and deviance. His work has been published in various journals including Crime and Delinquency, Deviant Behavior, the Journal of Criminal Justice, and Youth and Society.

Industry Expertise (2)



Areas of Expertise (8)



Information Warfare


Identity Theft




Education (3)

University of Missouri-Saint Louis: Ph.D., Criminology and Criminal Justice

University of Missouri-Saint Louis: M.A., Criminology and Criminal Justice

University of Missouri-Saint Louis: B.S., Criminology and Criminal Justice

News (4)

What's the most significant hack in history?

Gizmodo  online


Which hack can claim to being the most destructive? What was, in other words, the most significant hack of all time? For this week’s Giz Asks, we reached out to a number of experts to find out. Thomas J. Holt, director and professor of criminal Justice at Michigan State University, whose research focuses on computer hacking and malware, among other things: “The first that comes to mind is the Morris worm, from 1988. A college student named Robert Tappan Morris wrote a piece of code that he claimed he thought would simply ping servers and assess the size of the internet at that time. But there was either a deliberate or unfortunate error in the code, and instead of simply pinging and reporting back, it started to replicate and spread, and effectively caused a denial-of-service attack against almost the entire internet.”

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MSU hosts annual cybersecurity conference

MSU Today  online


Criminal justice professor Thomas Holt, the conference organizer and presenter, said it is important to bring every field together to discuss ways to understand the practices of cybercriminals and the best responses to minimize their attacks against computers and networks.

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Female forensic scientists stressed more than males

MSU Today  


“It’s not clear why female scientists reported more stress than males,” said Thomas J. Holt, MSU professor of criminal justice, “though it may stem from differences in the experiences of female scientists who are not sworn law-enforcement officers working in a quasi-military structure where more males are sworn officers, particularly in supervisory roles.”...

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Cyber thieves making millions off of stolen credit and debit card numbers



This is one of the first scientific studies done on the subject of cybercrime profits. Thomas J. Holt, a criminologist from Michigan State, lead the study. Holt said it should be a wake up call to both consumers and law enforcement officials. “It’s happening so often that average consumers are just getting the mindset of, ‘Well, my bank will just reissue the card, it’s not a problem,” said Holt, “but this is more than a hassle or inconvenience. It’s a real economic phenomenon that has real economic impact and consequences.”...

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Research Focus (1)

Cybercrime and Cybersecurity

My research focuses on cybercrime and cybersecurity, with an emphasis on the human aspects of offending and victimization. I also examine aspects of technology use and terrorism, as well as the use of the Internet by nation-states and extremist actors.

Research Grants (5)

Responding to cybercrime: Perceptions and needs of Australian police and the general community.

Australian Institute of Criminology $79,904 AUD

2017-2019 Cross, Cassandra, Anastasia Powell, and Thomas J. Holt.

Adolescents becoming delinquent online

Australian Research Council $296,000 AUD

2017-2020 Goldsmith Andrew (PI), Russell Brewer, Jessie Cale, and Thomas J. Holt (Co-PI)

Situational Crime Prevention Framework for Automotive Cybersecurity

Ford Motor Company $200,000

2017-2019 Chen, Betty (PI), Thomas J. Holt, (Co-PI), and Jay P. Kennedy

Social Learning and Social Control in the Off and Online Pathways to Hate and Extremist Violence

National Institute of Justice $386,194

2016-2017 LaFree, Gary (PI, University of Maryland), Brandon Behlendorf, Steve Chermak, Thomas J. Holt (Co-PI), and Joshua Freilich

An assessment of extremist groups use of web forums, social media, and technology to enculturate and radicalize individuals to violence

National Institute of Justice $585,719

2014-2019 Holt, Thomas J., (PI), Steve Chermak, and Joshua Freilich

Journal Articles (6)

Exploring the Factors Associated With Rejection From a Closed Cybercrime Community

International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology

Thomas J. Holt & Benoit Dupont

2018 Research examining the illicit online market for cybercrime services operating via web forums, such as malicious software, personal information, and hacking tools, has greatly improved our understanding of the practices of buyers and sellers, and the social forces that structure actor behavior. The majority of these studies are based on open markets, which can be accessed by anyone with minimal barriers to entry. There are, however, closed communities operating online that are thought to operate with greater trust and reliability between participants, as they must be vetted and approved by existing community members.

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Testing an Integrated Self-Control and Routine Activities Framework to Examine Malware Infection Victimization

Social Science Computer Review

Thomas J. Holt, et al.

2018 Recent research demonstrates that those with low self-control have an increased risk of victimization due to involvement in routine activities that place them in close proximity to motivated offenders and decrease their willingness to utilize appropriate guardianship factors. This relationship is significant in predicting physical forms of victimization, though few studies have considered how this may account for property offenses, particularly forms of cybercrime which may be hidden from victims.

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Examining the utility of social control and social learning in the radicalization of violent and non-violent extremists

Dynamics of Asymmetric Conflict

Thomas J. Holt, et al.

2018 Research on radicalization to accept extremist ideologies has expanded dramatically over the last decade, particularly attempts to theorize pathways to violence. These models are complex, and contain aspects of key criminological frameworks including social learning and social control theories. At the same time, they do reconcile the inherent differences in these frameworks, requiring research to examine how these models could be combined and the utility in using an integrated model to account for radicalization as a whole.

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An examination of English and Welsh constables’ perceptions of the seriousness and frequency of online incidents

Policing and Society

Thomas J. Holt, George W. Burruss, and Adam M. Bossler

2018 This study examines the perceptions of police constables and sergeants across England and Wales regarding the nature of cybercrimes, their frequency, and any time spent investigating these offences each week. Though previous research has examined line officer views and police management in the US, there is limited research examining how constables view online crimes as they are being directed to address them through national policy, and through local demands from the citizens they serve.

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The Hazards of Investigating Internet Crimes Against Children: Digital Evidence Handlers’ Experiences with Vicarious Trauma and Coping Behaviors

American Journal of Criminal Justice

George W. Burruss, Thomas J. Holt, April Wall-Parker

2017 Over the last two decades there has been a substantive increase in the number of cybercrime and digital forensic units in local and state police agencies across the US. There is, however, little research on the occupational responses of individuals serving in specialized roles within criminal justice agencies. Individuals tasked to these units are likely to encounter psychologically harmful materials on a regular basis due to the number of child pornography and sexual exploitation cases they are assigned.

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Assessing the Macro-Level Correlates of Malware Infections Using a Routine Activities Framework

International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology

Thomas J. Holt, George W. Burruss, and Adam M. Bossler

2016 The ability to gain unauthorized access to computer systems to engage in espionage and data theft poses a massive threat to individuals worldwide. There has been minimal focus, however, on the role of malicious software, or malware, which can automate this process. This study examined the macro-correlates of malware infection at the national level by using an open repository of known malware infections and utilizing a routine activities framework. Negative inflated binomial models for counts indicated that nations with greater technological infrastructure, more political freedoms, and with less organized crime financial impact were more likely to report malware infections.

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