Computer forensics is actually a branch of criminal justice pertaining to digital evidence located in electronic storage devices and computers. This evidence can be anything from deleted files, data, addresses, voice, video and email communications, etc. Experts in this field are needed by law enforcement agencies, medical examiners and lawyers who need to reconstruct events after a crime or disaster. For many years, computer forensics have been a bit overlooked in terms of funding, job placement and prestige, but it’s time we put this niche on the map. Why not?
Computer forensics professionals perform a crucial role in our legal system. They review digital evidence with an eye to locating, identifying and preserving evidence so that it can be used in court. Certified experts in this discipline can often determine the innocence or guilt of individuals through examination of computer forensics. Experts have even helped to develop new techniques for determining the answers of questions that may arise during any investigation.
The work of a forensic expert in computer forensics may seem dry and boring, but it’s actually much more exciting than that! It involves a wide variety of specialized skills. Chief among them are computer forensics analysis, document examination and data recovery. Experts in this field reconstruct events after a disaster or a criminal investigation. These experts investigate crimes, review digital evidence, communicate with witnesses, collect samples and perform other tasks necessary for a thorough investigation.
Many private detectives and investigators utilize the services of computer forensics experts. In fact, there are many job opportunities in this field for qualified professionals. These experts are needed in every sector of the criminal justice system from public law enforcement to corporate security to financial regulation. And their specialty is in digital evidence analysis, voice and data recovery, investigative interviewing and the detection of intellectual property theft.
Computer forensics examinations can be performed on a number of different types of hardware devices including cellular telephones, PDAs, digital cameras, fixed hard drives, thumb drives, memory sticks and electronic documents. Expertise is needed to analyze the data that is obtained through these examinations and determine where the anomalies may have occurred. For example, if an investigator finds that an individual has tampered with the digital media that is contained on a cellular device, then he or she will be necessary to perform a “DSC audit.” This type of audit is designed to look for signs of tampering such as deleted text messages, deleted photos and deleted data.
The employment outlook for this field is expected to grow substantially in the next few years due to an upsurge in crimes that involve computers. The increasing sophistication of computer forensics also makes this career field attractive to a diverse set of professionals. There are currently a limited number of positions available in law enforcement, computer forensics and related industries. As this field expands in the near future, the field will likely experience a shortage of qualified personnel.
There are some specific skills that are required to successfully perform computer forensics examinations. Forensics experts are required to have knowledge of both digital and physical crime scene investigation, signature recognition, password cracking, data recovery, cryptology, computer file system recovery and digital media recovery. A thorough knowledge of computer forensics, network security, protocols, software engineering, hacking and reverse engineering are also required.
Computer forensics examiners must possess exceptional writing and oral communication skills. They must be skilled at documenting all findings, preserving all evidence, conducting thorough interviews and taking necessary action within a legal framework. A certification program, however, is not necessary for working in this industry. Students wishing to pursue a career in this field need to have the time and commitment to pursue a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science, Computer Engineering or an equivalent. Alternatives include becoming an assistant to a forensic technician or a hacker at an IT company.