What is Computer Forensics?
Today’s computers are powerful machines, allowing us to literally hold the world at our fingertips. The computers that we use every day are capable of storing infinite amounts of data and information about organizations and individuals around the world.
Of course, with the many great advancements that technology has brought to our society, it has also created new opportunities for crime and fraud, and the invention of encrypted software has made it harder for investigators to mine computers and storage devices for valuable information and evidence.
In much that same way that forensic scientists play a critical role in revealing the truth behind the scene of a crime, computer forensic specialists are essential to investigating computer-related crimes that occur behind the screen, says the U.S Department of Labor’s Career Outlook Quarterly.
What does a career in computer forensics entail?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, computer forensic investigators, also called computer forensic examiners or digital forensic analysts, are responsible for searching computers and electronic records for data that may be relevant to a criminal case or an ongoing investigation.
Computer forensic investigators might look into an organization’s financial records for evidence of fraud, or search an individual’s personal computer files for evidence of criminal activity, such as identity theft. Computer forensics also can uncover valuable metadata that can be important to an investigation. While the data itself might not be incriminating, the date that a file was created or the time an email was sent can be valuable pieces of information that can lead to a crack in the case.
Howstuffworks.com reports that computer forensic professionals work to secure computers and storage devices that may contain information relevant to a case, ensure that all information regarding the investigation remains confidential, recover deleted files, uncover hidden data, decrypt files and create detailed reports on investigation procedures and findings.
In some instances, computer forensic investigators might be called on to testify in court, especially if they discover information that can influence the outcome of a trial or criminal case.
Why should I consider a career in computer forensics?
As computer technology becomes more advanced and use of digital devices become even more integrated into our personal and professional interactions, computer forensic investigators have become essential components to law enforcement and criminal justice task forces. In order to protect individuals’ private information, and to hold organizations accountable for their actions, we need to develop the skills and tools necessary to regulate and protect against criminal cyber activity.
Most often, forensic investigators help organizations identify ways in which their information or data may have been compromised. According to Forensic Control’s Beginner’s Guide to Computer Forensics, data gleaned from computer forensics investigations has been used in cases relating to:
- Intellectual property theft
- Industrial espionage
- Inappropriate email and internet use in the work place
- Regulatory compliance
How do I become a computer forensic scientist?
The first step to a career in computer forensics is to obtain an associate or bachelor’s degree in computer science, information technology, or related field. Additionally, some computer forensic investigators may have an advanced degree in legal studies or criminal justice, or a background in law enforcement.
If you’re interested in a fast-paced career that combines technology skills and knowledge with the criminal justice and law enforcement fields, then you might want to consider pursuing a career in computer forensics.