The Computer Forensics Professional
Computer forensics is an exciting field of digital forensics pertaining to data found on computers and other computer storage media. Forensics professionals work in many different capacities depending on the investigation that they are working on. A good example of this would be computer forensics professional testing a computer for possible evidence after a robbery or home invasion. They might be looking for any signs of data retrieval, encryption errors, system files that have been altered, and any other methods that might help them uncover the criminal’s activities. Many computer forensics professionals work for law enforcement agencies as well as private security firms.
There are many areas that a computer forensics investigator can focus their studies in. One of the most popular jobs that is available now is performing image and video recovery from hard drives, laptops, and other electronic devices. The images and videos are extracted from the hard drives with the aid of certain software programs and then analyzed to help determine where the data came from, who it belonged to, and whether or not it could be used to positively identify the criminal. This method is commonly referred to as “digital fingerprinting.”
Other computer forensics jobs are available in the area of computer crimes against children. These investigators recover evidence from computers that have been infected with viruses or have had malware installed on them. This type of evidence can sometimes lead to the arrest and prosecution of child pornographyographers. There is currently legislation being considered in Congress that would make it illegal to disclose any information that aids in the identification of computer criminals to prevent the tragic consequences that may befall those charged with using computers for criminal activities.
Experts in this particular field are also responsible for recovering deleted data or information that has become inaccessible. In order to perform these tasks, experts need high tech equipment including special data retrieval software that can access all the information contained on any particular computer hard drive. Volatile data is not recoverable unless professionals have physical access to the actual hard drive. Experts also use a variety of techniques in order to recover deleted or missing files. Many computer forensics experts specialize in recovering both types of data.
An additional area that computer forensics experts can explore is Internet related cyber crimes. These usually begin with someone using an account at a popular online service such as Yahoo, Hotmail, or Gmail to conduct personal transactions, such as ordering products or reserving a place at a favorite restaurant. Other cyber crimes can involve stealing financial information or hacking into computer systems. Experts analyze data taken from websites that are either registered or unregistered. This includes the most popular dating sites as well as social networking sites. It is not unusual for cyber criminals to go from dating site to another site or even change accounts and use their real identities when doing so.
Experts in this particular field are also often called on to assist law enforcement officials in solving crimes. They may be called upon to review computer forensics evidence or to accompany detectives on a crime scene investigation. In some cases, computer forensics experts are even called upon to testify in court, though this depends on the jurisdiction in which the case is being tried. Computer forensics experts are also frequently hired by media outlets to review digital information that has been stolen from computers. In many instances, media entities may want to hire an expert in order to determine whether or not there is any validity to the numerous rumors that have circulated online. Experts in this field are often sought after by companies that own or operate highly sensitive information.
Computer forensics examiners are required to undergo rigorous training prior to obtaining employment in this field. The exams generally test forensics ability in a variety of technical disciplines such as virus analysis, programming, database design, and internet protocol analysis. Experts who successfully passed the exams are then offered a job with private employers or law enforcement agencies. There are currently a great deal of private firms that hire examiners on a contractual basis. Most private firms require that all employees pass a comprehensive background check, which often includes a forensic exam.
Computer forensics professionals work in a variety of fields that include: corporate security, Internet crimes, intellectual property crime, bank robbery, identity theft, federal crimes such as insider trading and securities fraud. There are even areas of forensics that fall under the umbrella of white-collar crime, which are typically reserved for very high profile corporate criminals. As forensics professionals progress in their careers, they can work in a variety of different settings, depending on the specific field in which they are employed. In some cases, examiners may choose to investigate matters that fall outside of their area of expertise.