Careers in Computer Forensics
Computer forensics is an important branch of criminal justice pertaining to digital evidence discovered on computers and other digital storage media. In the beginning, computer forensics was mostly connected with the field of computer engineering, but today the term covers any digital evidence or data that could be useful in a legal proceeding. It is also used to describe methods used in tracing any data or files lost from a computer system. It also refers to the tools and software utilized in this process.
A computer forensics investigator reconstructs the digital data so that it can be used for legal proceedings. The investigator will generally be employed by law enforcement agencies to trace emails, faxes, mobile phone numbers, and other electronically stored data that might pertain to a particular case. However, this type of investigator can also work privately for a private firm or for an individual investigator’s personal use. These private investigators specialize in particular areas of computer forensics.
Computer forensics investigations are frequently conducted on strand that involve crimes of intellectual nature. For instance, hackers steal company or government information that compromises the privacy of countless individuals. Theft of financial data from bank accounts is another example of computer forensics evidence that could be valuable in pursuing legal proceedings. Computer crimes also include Internet fraud, such as fraud that uses false identity in order to obtain personal information online. Computer forensics experts may be used in uncovering evidence that involves murder, homicide, pedophilia, sex crimes, and child pornography. Such investigations may even be conducted on behalf of government agencies, banks, financial institutions, insurance companies, and retailers to investigate and detect potential illegal activities related to the handling of classified information on the Internet and in retail stores.
Computer forensics professionals can develop their own special skills or acquire degrees in this exciting and growing field. Degree programs at local colleges and universities offer a solid foundation in science and technology. Courses in computer forensics are particularly helpful for someone who is not technologically inclined. Those who are familiar with computer forensics and related technologies can pursue a bachelor’s degree or pursue a master’s degree in order to be qualified for the more advanced positions available in this growing field.
Employers use computer forensics when they need to trace the digital trail of an employee or partner, a child online, or any other kind of criminal activity. These investigations are crucial to protecting the safety of our country and preserving its values. In fact, we are still seeing government employees being investigated for terrorist activities in the aftermath of September 11th. The threat has never been so serious that our government and private businesses are requiring employee and partner records to be wiped off computers. Companies are performing data backups even for individual employee files, which further protects the confidentiality of these files.
As the field of forensic science grows, there are many job opportunities available for qualified individuals. Careers in this exciting and growing field offer a great deal of flexibility for those who prefer to work in their own home and pursue their own career goals. Computer forensics can also be applied to law enforcement agencies for investigations into crimes that were not committed in the workplace or on a computer. Many state and local agencies are hiring forensic scientists to conduct DNA analysis in conjunction with their regular law enforcement investigations.
Another career area gaining popularity among Computer forensics scientists is the private sector. Many corporations are using computer forensics to help them gather evidence and other information for legal proceedings. Computer forensics professionals may be employed by corporate security personnel or by lawyers who are charged with protecting proprietary information. There are also jobs available in the public sector as a private detective. For example, a Homeland Security investigator may conduct research in the private sector to trace hackers or criminals who breach networks. In either case, the investigator must be skilled in all of the traditional computer forensics techniques as well as understand the emerging science of digital media and social media.
A career in computer forensics is exciting, challenging, and rewarding. Graduates will have a variety of options for where they want to work and what type of job they desire. Graduates can pursue a career as an investigator, an forensic analyst, a computer forensics technician, a private detective, or even in the government, where their services may be required in special projects or disaster response teams.