How To Get Into Computer Forensics
If the idea of becoming a computer forensics expert appeals to you, there are a few things you need to know to get into the career, including the certification processes to follow.
What is Computer Forensics About?
Computer Forensics is about collecting, examining, and recording digital data in ways that are legally acceptable.
Computer forensics experts usually show up in criminal cases or investigations that have something to do with digital data.
So basically, they fight cyber-crime for law enforcement and individual companies, and also track and gather digital evidence that will help locate and convict criminals or exonerate accused persons.
The cool part of their job is that they get to spend almost all their time in front of and working with computers, in offices, or digital labs.
Although, there is not much physical stress associated with the job, fighting crime can still be hard work.
The job is full-time and it involves chatty with colleagues electronically. It can also involve the forensics expert to appear at the scene of a crime or location where equipment suspected to be used in a crime is spotted.
When dealing with commercial organizations, computer forensics experts may be concerned mainly with the health and safety risks involved, conflict of interests, and even financial implications of accepting a project.
Educational Requirements and Career Pathway for Computer Forensics
To get into the field of computer forensics, you will require a degree in computer science, criminal justice, or computer forensics, although some institutions may not require that you have these qualifications as long as their requirements are met by taking up extra graduate or undergraduate courses, but you might want to have a degree in computer sciences first before specializing in forensics.
Some schools run the computer forensics program at the undergraduate level, as well as the Master’s degree level. To enroll into the undergraduate program, you will need good grades in five subjects, with English and Mathematics being compulsory in your High School final exam.
The training programs for forensics experts are tailored to acquainting them with network protocols, operating systems, IT and security issues; and they may take courses like:
- Cyber crime
- Cyber criminology
- Issues in cyber law
- Architecture of securing Operating systems
- Malware and software vulnerability analysis
- Forensic management of digital evidence
- Network securities
- Digital forensic investigative techniques
- Computer forensic file systems etc.
After taking the above courses, forensics experts may also be expected to become proficient in the use of tools used in collecting evidence and in discovering concealed data.
Computer Forensics Certifications
After getting a degree, it is important that you get certified. Various institutions and bodies exist to award various certifications to forensic experts.
For example, the International Association of Computer Investigative Specialists, IACIS, offers a Certificate Forensics Computer Examiner (CFCE) credential.
Certain states may even require that you obtain a private investigator’s certification. The requirements you need to meet to obtain state certification vary according to the location of your practice.
Computer Forensics Career opportunities
The dependency on computers for human activities is advancing as the society is evolving.
Computers may become the location of a crime, as we see with hacking, or they may be storage for footprints of evidences to a crime, in emails, or internet history, or documents, or other digital formats, and may store details concerning information that was used to commit a crime – location of host computer, where it was last accessed, and what form of data it is.
Law enforcement agencies require computer forensic experts in crime scenes and in helping to resolve digitally committed crimes.
Many companies now require the services of computer forensic experts in areas around:
- Bankruptcy investigations
- Intellectual property theft
- Industrial espionage
- Inappropriate internet use and email
To be employed as a computer forensics expert requires having some work experience. You can consider doing some internship with a private organization to gain practical experience of the job before you set out to join an agency.
Finally, achieving a successful career in computer forensics can be summed up in these steps:
1. Gain the required degree
2. Get the appropriate certifications
3. Find a suitable job
4. Advance in your career with experience.
Computer Forensics Skills
To succeed in your career as a computer forensics expert, you will need to develop some skills which are crucial to achieving excellence on the job.
The training program you undergo to become a computer forensics expert will help you to develop the needed skills and other qualities to be effective on the assignments given to you.
These skills and qualities include:
- Your willingness to undergo the required training, periodic testing, and verification of software and equipment.
- Having knowledge of the laws bordering on computer forensics within your area of practice, and the requisite skills to deal with unexpected issues.
- You will also need to have proper evaluation skills to be able to receive instructions correctly and carry them out; carry out risk assessment and share out roles and resources.
- As a Computer Forensic expert, you should be able to point out and secure devices which may contain or store evidence, and be able to make available accurate, thorough, and unbiased feedback to clients during analysis, making sure to continuously assess and calibrate your tools before analysis.