A computer forensic investigator (also known as a forensic investigator, computer forensics analyst, or digital forensics examiner) spends the majority of their time collecting, reviewing, and testing digital data and computer evidence. Obtaining a computer forensics degree is a critical first step toward a career in this rapidly expanding field.
Local, state, global, and international law enforcement agencies, as well as private investigative companies, employ computer forensic investigators. The responsibilities of a computer forensics investigator can differ depending on one of these organizations they work for.
A bachelor’s degree in computer forensics, computer science, cybersecurity, criminal justice, or other similar fields is recommended for those interested in pursuing a career in the field of computer forensics. Certifications in computer forensics, such as those offered by the Global Information Assurance Certification (GIAC), will help an applicant land a job in the industry. Obtaining more general cybersecurity certifications that aren’t unique to computer forensics may also help you find work.
5 steps to follow when pursuing a career in computer forensics
1. Make a plan: Being a computer forensics investigator is not a quick process. It’s best to map out a strategy for achieving your specific career objectives. For example, if you want to work in the government as a computer forensics analyst, you’ll need to know the exact criteria for that job. When it comes to the credentials of their applicants, private, non-government investigation companies are typically less strict. The first step is to decide whether you want to work for the government or the private sector.
2. Educate: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), a bachelor’s degree in computer forensics, computer science, criminal justice, or a similar field is required for entry-level positions in computer forensics. With an associate degree and the required certifications, it might be possible to land an entry-level position as a computer forensics investigator.
3. Obtain certifications: Certain positions in the field of computer forensics would necessitate the acquisition of unique certifications. Even if certification isn’t needed, getting one (or several) will help you stand out from the crowd. Both private entities and government agencies recognize the Certified Computer Examiner (CCE) qualification. The Global Information Assurance Certification is another association that provides reputable computer forensics certifications (GIAC). The GIAC Certified Forensic Analyst (GCFA), GIAC Certified Forensic Examiner (GCFE), and GIAC Network Forensic Analyst are all GIAC certifications related to computer forensics (GNFA). Both private companies and government agencies, such as the National Security Agency, trust GIAC.
4. Apply: Now that you have the requisite degrees and certifications, it’s time to start looking for employment. Generally, government departments such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the National Security Agency, and the Central Intelligence Agency will post job vacancies on their websites’ careers pages. Local government departments with smaller budgets usually have listed on their websites as well. Traditional work posting sites such as Indeed, Linked In, and Glassdoor will help you find jobs in the private sector.
5. Continue to Learn: Working in a profession that is constantly evolving means that the learning process doesn’t end until you’ve accepted a role. It’s important to keep studying and improving your skills. Attending conferences like RSA and BlackHat are a perfect way to keep informed about new innovations. Don’t forget to keep up with the latest technical developments by subscribing to computer forensics and cybersecurity publications.
What is a computer forensics investigator?
The average law enforcement officer may not be technologically savvy. A computer forensics investigator can help with this. An investigation benefits from a computer forensics investigator’s extensive knowledge of computer systems and networks.
Investigators in computer forensics will need to know how to recover data from systems that have been compromised or destroyed, whether or not they have the password to access the data. The data on these systems, or the systems themselves, may have been deliberately or unintentionally tampered with in order to conceal anything. Encryption techniques and how to crack them should be well-known to computer forensic investigators.
The primary task of a computer forensics investigator is to locate and prepare digital evidence for use in court, trials, and criminal investigations.
Computer forensics investigator skills
As a computer forensics investigator, the skills required can vary greatly depending on the position.
Anyone interested in a career in computer forensics should have a basic understanding of the following:
- Networking: As with any role in cybersecurity, understanding computer networking and connectivity principles is important.
- Awareness of operating systems: Computer forensic investigators would need to be able to locate and retrieve data from a variety of operating systems, including but not limited to Windows, Linux, macOS, Unix, and Android.
- Malware analysis: Computer forensic investigators are sometimes asked to analyze or reverse engineer malware. Although reverse engineering and malware detection is difficult to master, they are essential skills for anyone employed in computer forensics.
- Analytical skills are essential because a large part of a computer forensics investigator’s role is to examine digital data and facts.
- Cryptography: Data that needs to be processed is often encrypted. Encryption and decryption techniques should be familiar to computer forensics investigators.
What do computer forensics investigators do?
Investigators who specialize in computer forensics will frequently do whatever technical work is required to help with an investigation.
Consider a scenario in which a criminal perpetrator was apprehended by law enforcement for committing crimes on the internet. The suspect attempted to erase any evidence of illegal activity from his or her hard drive. In this case, the computer forensics investigator’s job will be and try to recover any relevant data that the perpetrator might have deleted. This procedure can be carried out with the help of advanced instruments and forensic techniques.
Through reviewing the metadata inside offenders’ online messages, computer forensic investigators may be able to help track them down. Ethical hacking strategies can help in this situation.
A computer forensic investigator’s job description can vary based on the needs of the investigation they’re working on. The two cases above are only two examples of possible positions for a computer forensics investigator in a case.
Job description for a computer forensics investigator
Employment descriptions in the field of computer forensics differ significantly depending on the recruiting firm and whether the position is in the government or the private sector.
While the details of the work can vary, here are a few things that are often mentioned on a job description for a computer forensics investigator.
- Collaborate with law enforcement to recover digital evidence both on the ground and in the lab.
- Examine digital evidence and report results to the relevant team members.
- Prepare digital and computer proof for court hearings.
- Conducting electronic proof interviews with victims and witnesses
- Law enforcement officers should be trained on what to look for when dealing with computer/digital evidence.
- Assist law enforcement with digital proof reliability.
- Collaborate with law enforcement to use online data to track down offenders.
- Analyze and decrypt digital data
Outlook for computer forensic investigators
Computer forensics is a relatively modern discipline. Computer forensics professions are likely to stick around and expand for the near future, as the use of technology continues to rise and offenders become more involved online.
Computer forensics investigators and analysts are needed by both private companies and government agencies such as the FBI, CIA, and NSA. The area of computer forensics is expected to expand by about 9% by 2028, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
It’s understandable that some people are worried about finding a new profession because artificial intelligence (AI) is taking over many of the jobs that humans once had. There’s no reason to be concerned if this is a problem. According to WillRobotsTakeMyJob.com, jobs in computer forensics are highly unlikely to be automated anytime soon.
Computer forensics investigator salary
A career as a computer forensic investigator will not only add excitement to your life, but it will also add excitement to your bank account due to its high earning potential.
A computer forensics investigator’s average salary is $95,510, but it’s important to remember that wages differ depending on location and skill set. Individuals with advanced degrees and certifications can earn up to $153,090 per year. An entry-level position as a computer forensics analyst would pay about $58,762 per year.