Computer Forensics Job Description

A Closer Look at the Role of a Computer Forensics Technician

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computer forensics guy analyzing hard drive

For individuals who are both tech savvy and have a desire to analyze and investigate, a computer forensics job could be a rewarding one. A computer forensics specialist examines computer hard drives, storage devices like flash drives, cell phones, PDAs, tablets, MP3 players, smart phones, electronic notebooks, video game consoles or any other electronic device that may hold evidence that could be used in a court of law.

The extent of the analyses could be as simple as a personal computer or as complex as a main server for a large corporation. A computer forensics job description includes a balance of technological, investigative and informative skills. It also includes the ability to preserve and present finding so that they may be used as admissible evidence in a court of law. With the ubiquity of technological devices for storage and communication, computer forensics professionals are in higher demand.

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What does a Computer Forensics Investigator Do?

The cases that computer forensics investigators work on range from embezzlement, identity theft, fraud, hacker activity to a whole host of security breaches. While the work can be exciting, it requires an analytical personality, tech-savviness, and strong communication skills. Computer forensic investigators must sometimes communicate findings in legal teams or to a judge and jury.

A computer forensics technician job description often includes:

  • Advising investigators on the availability and reliability of digital evidence
  • Working with investigators to acquire digital evidence through onsite & lab searches
  • Conducting examinations of digital evidence and preparing evidence for trial
  • Conducting interviews and taking statements in relation to computer evidence
  • Supervisors will also train other investigators and stay up-to-date on current events in the industry

What Jobs Are Available in Computer Forensics?

There are several specialties within the field of computer forensics. In addition to a computer forensics investigator, examples of other computer forensics jobs include:

  • Computer Forensics Analyst: Computer forensics analysts uncover digital data (such as e-mail correspondence or erased files), preserve it for later use as evidence, and analyze the data in light of the crime in question. For example, they may have to determine how hackers or unauthorized personnel gained access to information or computer systems as well as where and how they navigated within the system.
  • Special Agent: A Special Agent computer forensics expert might work for a governmental agency, like the military, FBI, CIA, IRS or the Department of Homeland Security and may be specialized at counterintelligence or counter-terrorism as it applies to the digital world.
  • Ethical Hacker: Ethical hackers are employed by companies or organizations to search for vulnerabilities in the computer network system in order to patch or repair them in order to safeguard the system against illegal hackers.
  • Information Security Manager: A computer forensics expert who has several years experience and has risen to the ranks of manager/designer of a digital forensics department.


Working Environment for a Computer Forensics Investigator

A computer forensics working environment is dependent on the employer, the nature of the work (i.e. types of cases being investigated) and the number of investigators working in the computer forensics lab. Computer forensics investigators may work for local, state or national law enforcement agencies, the government, banks, healthcare organizations, accounting firms, a law office, a private investigation firm or other companies and organizations.

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Often a digital forensics lab will only be accessible to those who actually work inside due to the confidential nature of the investigations that are carried out. The working environment will consist of all of the computer hardware and software systems employed and also storage and clone devices for collecting and safeguarding digital evidence. Special heating and cooling conditions must be maintained so as to not compromise the computer forensics equipment. Depending on the computer forensics job description, investigators may not be constrained to one laboratory; they might instead work out in the field, relying on portable workstations. A computer forensics investigator should be prepared to not have a Monday to Friday, 9-5 work schedule; he or she could be called on to work long shifts at any time of the day depending on the urgency of a case.

Naturally there is a lot of cross-over of duties between each of these computer forensics job titles. Other job titles within the field of computer forensics include information security specialist, global security investigator, information security forensics Consultant, forensic technologist, digital forensics specialist, vulnerability security research engineer, cyber terrorism liaison officer and more. Mark Zammuto of Champlain College adds that not all companies and organizations have yet recognized their need for computer forensics investigators and digital specialists. He states that in such cases, if you are starting as a help desk technician or network administrator, you may need to show your employer the need for your computer forensic job skills and the advantages of creating such a position for you to fill.


What Skills Are Important to Have?

Computer forensics job descriptions comprise of many essential skills. These include:

  • Technological Skills – A firm working knowledge of various operating and network systems, encryption programs and data retrieval procedures and the ability to provide IT support.
  • Analytical Skills – The ability to analyze digital data and think outside the box as an investigator.
  • Communication Skills – The ability to communicate findings orally (i.e. in court), in writing and to communicate cohesively with all members of the investigative team/organization/corporation.’


Computer Forensics Job Outlook

The job outlook for computer forensics specialists looks very promising. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the job outlook for private detective and investigators (the BLS includes a type of computer forensic investigator in this category) is projected to grow by 21% between 2010 and 2020. For the same time span, the BLS projects 28% growth for network and computer system administrators and 22% for information security analysts. All of these projections are faster compared to the average of all occupations in the United States.

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According to the College of Lake County’s Computer Forensics Department, IT jobs are multiplying and over the next decade, for every 19 new jobs, at least one will be among the technology industry. As the importance of computer forensics continues to be recognized, still not all companies or organizations have realized their essential need for a computer forensics specialist. Ambitious IT professionals with experience in computer forensics are finding ways to introduce this specialty to their bosses and to create their own, advanced positions with their existing employers.

Getting Started

If you are interested in the various computer forensics jobs that continue to grow in demand, start by taking an information security, cybersecurity or a computer forensics degree. Also colleges and universities offer IT programs that include concentrations or coursework in digital forensics. Check out our list of computer forensics schools for more information on relevant educational options.


Cyber Crime & Internet Crime Complaints

The Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) works with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the National White Collar Crime Center (NW3C), and the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA). IC3 is a clearing house for victims of cyber crime.

If you’ve been a victim of an online scam or an internet related crime, visit the IC3 website to learn more about filing an internet crime complaint.

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Did You Know?

2009 Internet Crime Report

In 2009 the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) website received 336,655 complaint submissions. This was a 22.3% increase as compared to 2008.