Computer or digital forensics was borne of the rise in technology. With the advent of computers, the Internet and mobile devices, there has been a significant shift in the practice of law enforcement. Technology has changed both the way in which police work and the nature of the types of crimes they’re investigating, which themselves are constantly evolving.
Constant self-education is thus an imperative skill to bring to a computer forensics role, as is practical experience. As much as a degree will give you the foundations of learning, it is what you pick up on the job, working on real cases alongside a senior examiner that will give you the best understanding and skills needed for working in computer forensics.
Find yourself a mentor in the field, you’ll get no better insight or opportunity for practical case experience than under the wing of a veteran digital forensics practitioner.
Computer forensics jobs lean more on the investigative side of cyber, as opposed to the computer science discipline. Thus looking into qualifications or degrees in software engineering, information systems or computer forensics will set you up for your intended occupation. While the technical skills related to computers, systems and networking are certainly necessary, so too is an understanding of criminal law and the facets of computer forensic investigation. In fact a technical background or programming knowledge is not a prerequisite to working in digital forensics.
The day to day of a computer forensics job will rarely serve up a routine structure, however the role has its fair share of paperwork, from writing analysis reports to reviewing fellow examiner’s reports. As a result candidates will need to demonstrate excellent written ability. That talent for communication should also translate to presenting your findings in person as there may be instances where you’ll be called to testify in court. If you’re working in law enforcement it will happen more often, but even a corporate role may see you called in as an expert witness. Only confident candidates need apply. You’ll need to maintain composure under pressure and believe in your findings; this part of the role will see you building a credible reputation as an expert in your field.
If your role in digital forensics does take you down the law enforcement path, you should prepare yourself for the dark side to working in the field. You’ll be confronted with imagery and other material that is deeply disturbing, as your line of work will navigate you through files and devices containing child pornography, torture, terrorism, murder and rape.
The nature of the cases you’ll come up against typically reflects the political climate of the time, with computer forensics evolving from a tool in criminal cases to counter-terrorism post-9/11 and now for data breaches and computer intrusions. So, having a strong reflex for incident response is key to a role in computer forensics in 2018.
Computer forensics roles are most prevalent within the police and security services, banks and IT firms with a computer security focus. Employers are looking for individuals who can think creatively when it comes to problem solving, who work methodically and have a good eye for spotting trends and patterns in data. Candidates wanting to work in computer forensics can expect an average starting salary of around £30,968 with a view to progressing to a senior analyst role or a role in security, either heading up a department or as a consultant.
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