Computer Forensics Career guide: Bridging Criminal Justice, CIS
A familiar plot is found in crime dramas such as CSI. A bad guy hacks into a computer network and spreads a sophisticated virus. Or he conducts illegal business online while concealing his true identity. The hero investigator is hunched over the computer. After a few keystrokes, and about an hour later the crime was solved and the criminal was caught.
Although computer forensics is often depicted in Hollywood as a thrilling field, it’s incredibly rewarding. Computer forensics professionals can spend weeks, months, or even years extracting digital evidence that is critical to solving crimes. They must have the technical skills to navigate new technologies and the patience to pay attention to every detail. All this is to ensure that their community, as well as the rest of the world, is safe.
From network hacking and financial scams to identity thieves and online child predators–cyberattacks of all kinds are a serious threat that is only on the rise. Computer forensics is an exciting career. Learn how to be a CIS and become part of this rapidly-growing field.
What is Computer Forensics?
Cyber forensics is also known as digital forensics. It involves the analysis of digital data that has been collected as evidence in criminal cases. Computer forensics is used by law enforcement agencies and private companies to combat cybercrime. It tracks, locates, and extracts digital information necessary for criminal investigations.
Computer forensics experts search hard drives for deleted or hidden files. They use file recovery software and encryption decoding software. These forensics experts are skilled in locating relevant information from networks, databases, smartphones, tablets, as well as computers.
Why study Computer Forensics
Computer forensics has grown to be a popular field in recent years. According to The Bureau of Labor Statistics, the computer forensics market is expected to grow 17% between 2016-2026. State and local governments will likely hire more computer forensic science technicians to meet the increased caseloads. Public awareness about the importance of computer forensic science is enhanced by the increased media coverage of national and local criminal cases/data breaches.
Computer forensic science technicians will also be in high demand due to the rapid advancement of technology in our society. Technology continues to be the driving force behind the future of the global economy across all industries. Computer forensic science, which can be used to protect data or identify computer crimes, is becoming more popular in all areas.
Computer Forensics Concentration Career Opportunities and Salaries
Computer forensics jobs may include a range of titles and responsibilities. Computer forensics salaries can differ depending on their specialty. Here are details on current job titles, salaries, and expected job growth for each computer forensics job.
Information Security Analysts Source
Average Salary: $95,510
Information security analysts plan and execute security measures to protect networks, computer systems, and critical data. Information security analysts work in government, financial institutions, healthcare networks, and commercial banks. This field is projected to grow 28% between 2016-2026, which is faster than the national average of all jobs.
Computer Systems Analysts
Average Salary: $88,270
An analyst in computer systems helps companies use technology most effectively. They evaluate the software and determine which software will help a company run more smoothly. Computer system analysts also play a key role in training employees on how to use the software and helping them troubleshoot any problems they may have.
Average Salary: $88,898
An expert in identifying cyber threats such as bots, worms, and trojan viruses to protect company data, a malware analyst is a specialist. A malware analyst’s responsibilities include reviewing a cyber attack and re-engineering its damage. A few malware analysts might be asked to develop prevention protocols to prevent future attacks.
Information Technology Auditor
Average Salary: $64,772
Information technology auditors are responsible for reviewing a company’s infrastructure to identify security vulnerabilities and developing and protecting against cyber attacks. This position requires the ability to create security plans, work with a security team, and communicate strategies with coworkers.
Forensic computer analyst
Average Salary: $85,800
An analyst who is forensic in computer science often helps law enforcement to identify illegal cyberattacks and assist them with their investigation. They should be able to collect evidence from the crime scene and extract data to give information about the type of cyberattack, the perpetrators, and the data taken.
Average Salary: $85,667
Security consultants are experts in preventing cyber-attacks by protecting computer systems and networks from malicious malware. A security consultant’s normal duties include updating and installing software that fits within the security plan, testing security strategies in advance of an attack, and communicating any developments within the company.
How to become a computer forensics investigator
A bachelor’s in criminal justice is required for computer forensic investigators. Computer forensics professionals often start their careers in law enforcement or another related field. They then combine their experience with professional certification and a training program in computer forensics. These are the steps you should take to start a career as a computer forensics professional.
Step 1: Earn Your Digital Computer Forensics Degree
To become a computer forensics investigator, a bachelor’s degree is required in computer forensics. This degree will give you a solid foundation in computer forensics, investigation, new technologies, and the techniques used in this industry. A master’s degree, in addition to professional experience, can help you advance your career and open up doors for senior positions in government or the private sector.
Step 2 – Get Certified as a Computer Forensics Specialist
Computer forensics professionals can obtain many certifications. A certification is focused on the best practices in a specific concentration or software used in the field. It ensures that you are well-versed in current industry knowledge, ethical and legal issues, and tools. Although certification is not required for all jobs, applicants who have obtained their certification are more highly regarded.
These are some of the most popular certifications*:
Vendor-neutral certification (covering best practice in a particular area)
- Certified Forensic Computer Examiner – provided by The International Association of Computer Investigative Specialists
- Computer Examiner (CCE), – provided by The International Society of Forensic Computer Examiners
- Global Information Assurance Certification – offered through The SysAdmin Audit, Network, Security Institute (SANS)
Vendor-specific certification: This covers specialized training in specific software platforms for a developer.
- Guidance Software offers EnCase Certified Engineer
- AccessData offers AccessData Certified Examiner (ACE)
Some courses and programs can be used to further your professional development, such as those offered by the National Institute of Justice or the National Computer Forensics Institute. Noting that not all states require private investigators to have a license in computer forensics, the requirements for such licenses vary from one state to another.
Step 3 – Find Your First Job
There are many computer forensics positions available at federal, state, and local government agencies. These include city police departments, the National Security Agency, Homeland Security, and the FBI. The FBI is the federal agency responsible for investigating cyber attacks from criminals, terrorists, and other adversaries. * You can also find computer forensics positions in the private sector, such as a forensic analyst or software developer, at banks, law firms, accounting firms, or other institutions on a contractual basis.
Step 4 – Advance with Experience
Computer forensics investigators have years of experience and knowledge. They can either advance their career or their salary by becoming a senior investigator or setting up a private practice or consulting company that can provide support to a wide range of clients.
Common Skills Required for a Career as a Computer Forensics Specialist
- The Knowledge of Various Technologies
- Digital Storage Devices
- Computer Operating Systems
- Computer programming
- Malware Types
- Ethical issues regarding data
- Legal issues regarding data
- Capacity to learn new things
- Analytical Thinking
- Critical Thinking
- Communication skills
- Problem-solving Skills
Is Computer Forensics Right for Me?
Computer forensics is a rapidly changing field. Computer forensics investigators face new challenges as cybercrimes become more frequent and complex, and technology and software advancements make it difficult to keep up with them. Computer forensics can be stressful because you need to quickly find information for criminal investigations. Criminals are also highly skilled in technology. Computer forensics is a rapidly growing field with many employment opportunities. These digital forensics jobs can include being a forensic computer analyst, or a cyber-forensic investigator.
Forensic computing is a rewarding career that allows you to use your technology skills to keep the public safe. What’s the first step? GMercyU offers a bachelor’s in criminal justice and computer science!