Computer Forensics Career

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Learn about Careers, Necessary Skills & Specializations in Computer Forensics

computer forensics analyst taking apart hard drive

We are in the midst of a constantly evolving digital age, and there is no turning back. Crimes are no longer limited to face to face encounters or wire bank transfers. The Internet has connected the vast majority of the Earth’s inhabitants and that link has given rise to new forms of criminal activity, such as online child pornography, cybersecurity threats, cyber terrorism, intellectual property abuses and identity theft.

“A computer forensics technician is a combination of a private eye and a computer scientist” – Michael Solomon – Computer Forensics Jumpstart

A computer forensics career involves fighting against these offenses through retrieving valuable evidence. The Department of Homeland Security’s United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team defines “computer forensics as the discipline that combines elements of law and computer science to collect and analyze data from computer systems, networks, wireless communications, and storage devices in a way that is admissible as evidence in a court of law”. A career in computer forensics can also include developing safety protocols and preventative measures to safeguard a network’s infrastructure or analyzing digital security policies.

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Computer forensics specialists (also referred to as digital forensics analysts or investigators) may work for a company, a governmental department, law enforcement agency or a private detective firm. Large corporations also have a demand for in-house computer forensics technician jobs and information security specialists, especially when the type of business activity is sensitive in nature and requires strict adherence to security protocols and standards.

Computer Forensics Investigator Requirements

Becoming a computer forensics analyst can be accomplished by completing a degree in computer forensics, information security, cybercrime, or a combination of courses within an IT degree. If you are thinking of pursuing a computer forensics career, begin by researching schools offering computer forensics programs and find a program that works for you.

Competencies & Skills:

  • A working knowledge of various operating systems, digital media platforms, file systems, programming languages and encryption systems
  • The ability to retrieve data from computers and other electronic/digital equipment
  • The ability to rebuild/recover information from damaged disks, drives and equipment
  • A familiarity with intelligence and criminal justice theory
  • The stamina and flexibility to work long hours, any time of the day
  • Communication skills for writing technical reports and in some cases testifying in court

While professional computer forensics certification is voluntary, you’ll notice that many employers either prefer or in some cases require applicants to possess such credentials. Examples of computer forensics certifications that demonstrate expertise include CFCE (Certified Forensic Computer Examiner) and CISSP (Certified Information Systems Security Professional), although employers vary on which credentials they prefer.

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Computer Forensics Jobs and Specializations

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Computer forensics specialists and investigators work for a variety of employers. The FBI (i.e. the Regional Computer Forensic Laboratories), the CIA, the Department of Homeland Security, the United States Secret Services, state and local law enforcement departments, private investigator firms and corporations are just some of the employers that offer computer forensics jobs. There are also sub-specialties within the field of computer or digital forensics and investigation.

Examples of computer forensic job titles include:

  • Computer Forensics Analyst or Technician
  • Information Systems Auditor
  • Counterintelligence Specialist
  • Computer Forensics Consultant
  • Systems Administrator
  • Computer Forensics Investigator
  • Information Security Specialist
  • Software Developer
  • Network/Data Security Manager
  • Cybersecurity Policy Analyst

A computer forensics professional’s job may focus on IT planning and auditing, computer ethics, evidence retrieval, security protocols or other specializations.If you would like to start a computer forensics career, a profession that will continue to thrive, start by completing a computer forensics degree or an educational program in a related field.

You may also choose to specialize in the emerging problem of cyber bullying, which has been leading to teen and young adult suicides. There is a much higher demand for those trained to investigate crimes involving social media networks. Some have even coined the term – facebook detectives.

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Recommended Books For Aspiring Computer Forensics Professionals:

  • Computer Forensics Jumpstart by Michael Solomon, K. Rudolph, Ed Tittel, & Neil Broom
  • Computer Forensics: Cybercriminals, Laws, and Evidence by Marie-Helen Maras
  • Digital Evidence and Computer Crime, Third Edition: Forensic Science, Computers, and the Internet by Eoghan Casey