The computer forensic examiner has become a particularly crucial element in a world where little can be accomplished without the use of a computer and a solid internet connection. As little as 15 years ago a physical forensics examiner would have been the most important figure at a crime scene; now police officials are turning more and more to computer forensics as their primary sources for detecting and digging up electronic evidence.
In such a rapidly developing technological society, it comes as no surprise that computer-based cyber crime is advancing every bit as quickly to keep up.
Because computer forensics is both a highly specialized and critical technical field, it is also a very lucrative one – computer forensic examiners often earn upwards of $100,000+ a year in both the public and private sectors.
In What Capacities is Computer Forensics Used?
Government Law Enforcement Agencies – Local police stations depend on forensic examiners for gathering evidence, as well as support for prosecution in trials that typically involve fraud, embezzlement, identity theft and other related offenses.
Government Military Agencies – The military uses computer forensics for everything from tracking down enemies and predicting advances to developing strategic tactics and encrypting data. This is a crucial position in counterterrorism organizations.
Government Intelligence Agencies – Organizations like the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the Department of Homeland Security count on computer forensics examiners for things like processing and analyzing information, examining system files and hard drives, improving efficacy and preventing security breaches.
Private Security and Consulting Companies – Computer forensics is extremely important to various figures and organizations in the private sector, particularly when involving internal infractions. Forensic accountings are often used for detecting fraud and illegal financial activity. Corporations can also use computer forensics examiners to develop encryption and security techniques.
What Does Computer Forensics Involve?
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that IT jobs like computer forensics will be one of the fastest growing fields in the United States between now and 2018, with positions expanding about 30% during that time. Computer forensics jobs are generally considered prestigious thanks to the sense of satisfaction that comes with such rewarding work as law enforcement – putting bad guys behind bars or preventing the innocent from being punished brings about a sense of purpose that money can’t buy.
To accomplish this vital work, computer forensics experts perform the following tasks:
- Recover, analyze and/or process files and information from computers, hard drives or other data storage units that may have been stolen, deleted or altered
- Consult with police officials on the validity of digital findings
- Interview and investigate suspects in a crime
- Gather, examine and prepare evidence for the courtroom
- Develop and execute systems of data encryption to prevent internal security breaches by illegal hackers
- Keep up to date with new advances and discoveries in the field of technology and computer forensics
- Computer systems and network administration
Computer Forensics Requirements
- A bachelor’s degree in computer science, computer forensics or a related field like cyberterrorism, computer science or criminal law
- Certified Forensic computer Examiner (CFCE) certification from a reputable agency like the International Society of Forensic Computer Examiners (ISFCE) or the International Association of Computer Investigative Specialists (IACIS)
- Previous experience in the computer forensics field, generally ranging from 2-5 years at a previous job (depending upon the job opportunity, sometimes an internship may be considered as valid experience)
- Background checks, psychological tests, drug tests and any other position-specific test