There’s no doubt that cybercrime is one of the most significant problems facing modern societies. Companies must always be ready to respond to cyberattacks. Consequently, hiring in-house teams or third-party specialists to take care of cybersecurity has become a necessity.
Nowadays, most companies employ professionals to fight against cybercrime, which isn’t only harmful, but also costly. But given the severe costs of cyberattacks, the costs are worth it in their eyes.
These professionals include information security analysts in charge of putting up preventive measures and people at computer forensics jobs, responsible for tracing a cyberattack back to its sources. These positions are currently in high demand, and this article is your go-to guide to everything you need to know to be part of this rising job industry.
What Do Experts in Digital Forensics Jobs Do?
Digital forensics traces any cyberattack back to what may have caused it by analyzing all digital evidence available. In essence, computer forensics is a branch of forensic science focused on gathering, analyzing, and preserving data from devices that could be used by a court as evidence.
A computer forensics analyst uses several techniques and unique software tools to analyze storage media and uncover hidden folders, including encrypted, deleted, or damaged files. Computer Forensics is sometimes referred to as Cyber Forensics or Digital Forensics, too.
Professionals employed at jobs in computer forensics primarily look for indications on how a computer was used during a cyberattack. There are four major classifications of these indications:
- A computer was used to commit a cybercrime, such as hacking, network attacks, denial of service, etc.
- A computer was used to store evidence of a crime, such as searched items relating to a murder.
- A computer was used to commit crimes, such as internet exploitation of children, blackmail, prostitution, etc.
- A computer was used to corroborate existing evidence, such as using GPS coordinates, file stamps, and phone activity to compare with other evidence.
Professionals in cyber forensics jobs have a critical role in the technology world. They’re basically considered cyber detectives. Their primary task is to uncover digital crime objects usable as evidence in civil or criminal cases.
Computer forensics specialists follow standard procedures to ensure that the evidence is not tampered with upon retrieval until the recovering stage.
Collection and Preservation
Acquiring evidence must always be done with the utmost precision and care. Furthermore, a copy must be secured to preserve the original storage media. Any damage or uncoordinated change to the storage device alters the authenticity of any finding. This would significantly affect the use of the evidence in a court trial.
A computer forensics job description requires various skills for data extraction and identification. Several elements need to be taken care of, such as identifying the devices and media, ascertaining the examination’s scope, and listing down procedures and analyses required.
Professionals in digital forensics jobs also need to be mindful of deadlines and payment duty assignments. Moreover, they must also be able to meet reporting responsibilities and facilitate cooperation.
Analysis of Digital Evidence
Anyone following a digital forensics career has a thorough list of things to check each time. Therefore, professionals in this line of work should be excellent in connecting dots and answering questions like who, what, where, when, and how.
In computer forensics, deciphering how an item was created, accessed, modified, received, sent, viewed, deleted, and launched is critical. Moreover, it’s vital to have a keen eye for detail and competence in interpreting chains of events.
The final stage of computer forensics jobs is submitting comprehensive reports of all the data handling and analyses. A template should be used to ensure all essential details are presented, including objectives, all the computer evidence analyzed, relevant findings, attacker methodology, user applications, internet activity, and many more.
Types of Computer Forensics Job Roles
A job in the computer forensics industry takes on various interconnected roles. Several entry level computer forensics jobs can help jumpstart your career in this field. Available jobs are mostly in government agencies that even accept candidates who have just graduated from college.
Tasks can cover anything from managing and monitoring electronic devices to reviewing and assessing controls. Being employed at entry-level digital forensics jobs means you can get expertise and experience while starting and, eventually, use this experience as a stepping stone for a more advanced career.
Here are some of the best computer forensics positions:
Information Technology Auditor
The main task in this type of computer forensics career is to review and test any potential weak spots in an organization’s virtual infrastructure. Auditors are in charge of detecting even the seemingly slightest system deficiencies to prevent future cyberattacks.
A malware analyst job role is critical to a company because these professionals are responsible for creating protocols to protect a company from malicious software like trojans, viruses, bots, worms, and spyware. People in malware analyst jobs can identify and document an attack’s impact and characteristics.
Forensic Computer Analyst
Forensic computer analysts are responsible for evaluating cyberattacks, gathering critical information from crime scenes, and, ultimately, assisting law enforcement in cybercrime cases.
Forensics trainers provide training and updates for forensic software tools, products, and services. They are also tasked with educating forensics students.
Computer Forensics Director
A digital forensics career can be ideal for those seeking a more advanced job role. Cybersecurity teams need directors to oversee their activities, results, and progress. A director is also in charge of planning, developing, and monitoring performance indicators.
Directors assume additional responsibilities; therefore, their pay is significantly higher than the standard digital forensics salary.
There are many factors at play, such as the employer, the volume and flow of cases, and the size of the team working on each case, that determine a computer forensics job environment.
Computer forensics analysts may work for local, state, or national law enforcement agencies, crime laboratories, government agencies, financial institutions, private firms, accounting firms, or even healthcare organizations.
Injuries and Illnesses
As typical office jobs, digital forensics positions may cause recurring backaches. But the most challenging part of any digital forensics career is the reality of investigating a crime. Looking at HD photos and videos of child pornography, terrorism acts, and other disturbing acts can negatively impact your mental health.
Professionals in digital forensics examiner jobs usually work for 35-40 hours per week. Sometimes they’re called upon for emergency or urgent cases, such as attacks on systems. Getting access to the data right away is vital to avoid any possible tampering of evidence, especially when several individuals have access to the same network.
How to Get a Computer Forensics Job
This line of work requires both technical knowledge and a keen eye for detail. A good grasp of the law and criminal investigation processes is also necessary for anyone looking at a career in computer forensics.
This job requires excellent handling of data and devices. Moreover, experts in this line of work must conduct thorough examinations of hard drives, electronic storage media, smartphones, cloud, and computers.
Part of any digital forensics job description is the need to address urgent cases such as attacks on systems and networks. There are instances where operations need to stop immediately so as not to contaminate the evidence.
Upon reviewing the data retrieved from all the relevant devices, people in computer criminology jobs should develop a comprehensive analysis of all the information available. Furthermore, they should be able to connect timelines and events and make sense of the data found.
Criminal Investigations and Law Knowledge
A digital forensics job has elements very similar to criminal investigation processes. That’s why professionals in this field should be technologically and legally savvy, as these are valuable qualities in every cybercrime case.
Cybersecurity and computer forensics are not the same. Cybersecurity specialists are in charge of a company’s defense and prevention systems, while computer forensics professionals are called to respond to attacks and breaches. That said, professionals in digital forensics jobs should be aware of how cybersecurity breaches happen if they want to be efficient in their roles.
Documentation and Reporting Proficiency
Excellent reporting and documentation skills are vital computer forensics job requirements. Professionals in digital forensics positions must provide comprehensive records of all actions taken, covering a broad scope from tracing back evidence and preserving data to analyzing information and reaching definite conclusions.
Computer Forensics Education Requirements
Most employers look for candidates with an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in digital forensics or a related field such as computer science, network security, mathematics, computer engineering, information technology, and information assurance.
Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations
Apart from a degree in computer forensics, candidates may also want to pursue additional certifications to boost their knowledge and, at the same time, their careers. There are several options, ranging from general types of certification to more specialized studies.
Digital Forensics Certification Board (DFCB)
The DFCB offers three types of certification. Anyone following a computer forensics career path can be certified as a Digital Forensics Certified Practitioner, a Digital Forensics Certified Associate, or a Digital Forensics Certified Practitioner Fellow.
The Digital Forensics Certified Practitioner (DFCP) certification requires a background check and a self-assessment to be completed. People already working in computer forensics analyst jobs can apply, and a certification committee will review their credentials and references.
The Digital Forensics Certified Associate (DFCA) certification requires submitting an application and succeeding in an online exam of 100 items within two hours. Once finished, the certification committee reviews the applications and runs background checks.
Professionals in digital forensics analyst jobs can also apply for the Digital Forensics Certified Practitioner Fellow (DFCP-F) certification. To get it, candidates need a nomination by two members before having their applications reviewed and put through a voting process by the executive board.
International Association of Computer Investigative Specialists (IACIS)
This certification comprises a peer review and a certification phase that includes a practical and written exam.
The institute offers a CyberSecurity Forensic Analyst (CSFA) certification to anyone looking to pursue a career in cyber forensics. To be certified, candidates go through an FBI background check, alongside a practical and written exam.
International Society of Forensic Computer Examiners (ISFCE)
To acquire this certification by the ISFCE, candidates must have their eligibility requirements reviewed before succeeding in a written and rigorous practical exam.
Global Information Assurance Certification (GIAC)
This certification process is done entirely online.
An advanced digital forensics career path is inevitable if you commit to continuing education and constant training for the latest updates in the field, given that the demand for computer forensics positions is very high at the moment.
Computer Forensics Salary
A computer forensics professional’s paycheck may vary, depending on many factors such as education, experience, certifications, and location. To get an idea, the median annual salary for information security analysts was $99,730 in May 2019, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Since most organizations use computer technology, the computer forensics job outlook is very promising because, statistically, digital crimes are also rising. The BLS reveals that there will be a 31% increase in digital forensics positions from 2019 to 2029. Overall, information security employment will grow much faster than the average rate for all other occupations.
Since almost all industries and sectors require cybersecurity, this field is expected to be in demand. Similarly, computer forensics government jobs are widely available.
Several industries have sought third party services to secure and protect their systems. Others prefer to have in-house teams dedicated to monitoring and investigating any potential threats. Digital forensics entry-level jobs are also available for those seeking to build up their working experience.
In conclusion, considering the level to which technology is present in our everyday lives, it would be safe to say that computer forensics jobs will continue to be on the rise for a long time, thus providing tech-savvy individuals with analytical skills the opportunity to pursue a lucrative and fascinating career.
Frequently Asked Questions
Computer forensics is a science branch that focuses mainly on responding to possible cybercrime instances. The discipline deals with gathering the evidence of cybercrime and extrapolating the possible culprit or culprits of the crime.
Both are used interchangeably, and they refer to IT forensics jobs investigating the cyber world. Sometimes, digital forensics refers to examining digital data, whereas computer forensics solely focuses on the criminal’s use of a computer.
Careers in computer forensics are excellent choices for a career, especially if you have the technical knowledge for it. You would also need an understanding of law and investigation procedures, as well as a keen eye for detail.
If you meet those criteria, you can enjoy a relatively comfortable work environment and an above-average salary.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts massive and fast growth in this field, which means that any computer forensics job role will be sought after because of the high possibility of cyberattacks.
A four-year Bachelor’s degree related to the field of computer security would suffice to land any computer forensics jobs. Some colleges offer a specific course around computer forensics; others offer studies into a broader scope before encouraging students to get a certification or a Master’s in computer forensics.