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How to Become a Computer Forensics Investigator

If you'd like to learn how to become a computer forensics investigator, also known as a computer forensic specialist, this article will guide you through the requirements as well as career pathways and salary information.

Computer Forensics Investigator Job Description

Computer Forensic specializes in examining digital media to identify, recover, preserve, analyze, and present facts and opinions in a forensically sound manner. The need for such examination and analysis is needed not only for computer crime, but in civil cases as well, where an electronic audit trail may be created from the information on the computer.

What Do Computer Forensics Investigators Do?

There are many duties a computer forensics investigator performs. Here are some duties you may be required to do:

  • Conduct security investigations related to:
    • breach of policy
    • standards of conduct
    • hacks
    • leaks
    • information security
    • corporate compliance
  • Provide technical guidance to upper level management
  • Provide policy recommendations
  • Develop and implement policies and procedures for information technology infrastructures
  • Conduct witness interviews
  • Perform forensic analysis
  • Communicate investigation findings with law enforcement presonnel
  • Testify in court (when applicable)
  • Document evidence findings and prepare briefings
  • Research new forensic technologies
  • Stay up-to-date with the most recent malicious technologies and evolving technology platforms

Education Requirements

As a computer forensics investigator, most companies will require you to have a bachelor's degree in computer science, a bachelors degree in criminal justice, or a bachelors degree in another related discipline. In addition, your future employer may want to see:

  • A combination of education and work experience totalling 2-5 years, preferrably in law enforcement, military police, or investigative services
  • Computer experience
  • Investigative skills
  • Military service
  • Law enforcement experience
  • Computer security and investigation certifications, including CCE, CFCE, CISA, CISSP, EnCE, and GSEC

Computer Forensics Certifications

Certifications for ccomputer forensics investigators include:

  • EnCE - EnCase® Certified Examiner (EnCE®) program certifies both public and private sector professionals in the use of Guidance Software's EnCase® computer forensic software
  • CFCE - The International Association of Computer Investigative Specialists offers the Certified Forensic Computer Examiner Program, which is open to active law enforcement personnel and others who qualify for membership in IACIS®.
  • CCE - Certified Computer Examiner (CCE)® certification through the International Society of Forensic Computer Examiners
  • CISSP - Certified Information Systems Security Professional
  • CISA - Certified Information Systems Auditor
  • GSEC - Security Essentials Certification: GSEC

Work Experience and Skill Sets

In addition to the above duties, it is good to have a broad skill set, including things like:

 

  • Experience in full life cycle investigations
  • Experience with computer forensics processes and tools
  • Strong communication and interpersonal skills
  • Ability to establish positive relationships with law enforcement professionals
  • Ability to document evidence and complete investigation reports

Other skill sets include:

 

  • Familiarity with local, region, domestic, and international laws
  • Understanding of forensic methodologies
  • Ability to handle live incidents with appropriate responses
  • Forensic analysis skills including hardware, media storage, data storage, forensic imaging, and file system analysis
  • Investigation skills
  • Personal interviewing skills
  • Familiarity with computer forensic tools like EnCase, Forensic Tool Kit (FTK), ILook, and Sleuth Kit/Autopsy, and Winhex
  • Familiarity with the use of rootkits, monitoring mechanisms, remote control services
  • Experience with unauthorized access methods and exploitation of known vulnerabilities, such as SQL injection, Mobile Instant Messaging (MIM), buffer overflows, and others
  • Excellent written and verbal skills
  • Ability to communicate complex technical information in non-technical staff.
  • Ability to lead presentations
  • Investigative experience, i.e. military or law enforcement

Computer Forensics Investigator Salary

According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, as of 2010 the average rate of pay for a Computer Forensics specialist was $51,570 per year and $24.79 per hour. There were about 13,000 jobs at that time, and the field was expecting a 19% increase (as fast as the national average for growth) in jobs from 2010-2020, which is about 2,400 new jobs.

Other Resources

Computer Forensics Overview


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