What is Computer Forensics? Exploring Career Opportunities

What is Computer Forensics? Exploring Career Opportunities

The simple definition of computer forensics (or cyber forensics) is exactly what it sounds like. Forensics is the scientific processes used to determi

The simple definition of computer forensics (or cyber forensics) is exactly what it sounds like. Forensics is the scientific processes used to determine the credibility of evidence related to a crime, and computer forensics relates to evidence that has been found on a computing device such as a phone, tablet, or computer.

With educational requirements from both the computer and investigational fields of study, computer forensics is an important and growing industry in the United States and abroad.

Education

The importance of cyber security is no secret, but the affects that breaches have are quite staggering when put to numbers. A 2018 White House Report determined that hacking cost the U.S. economy more than $50 billion in 2016, with some reports placing that number over $100 billion. As the threat of cyber security breaches continues to grow, so does the future for those looking to protect against it.

Many colleges are now offering actual computer forensics degrees, and the classes straddle both the computer side and the investigational side of the profession. Some of the computer-related classes may include mastering software applications, familiarity with many different programming languages, a deep understanding of digital storage across all computing platforms (how to find things that may have been “deleted”), and basic IT knowledge. On the other side, students will be asked to take courses in criminology, cybercrime, forensic analysis strategies, and courses to familiarize students with criminal court proceedings.

Though most job openings for computer forensics specialists now require a degree in the field, certification programs are available as well, for individuals who may already have a lot of experience with law enforcement or computers and just need a little more info on the other side of the coin.

Impact

The importance of cyber forensics should not be taken lightly. People in this profession have been largely responsible for prosecutions in financial fraud and hacking, but also in more heinous crimes like illegal pornography, and internet exploitation of minors. In 2020, almost any major crime has some form of computer-related evidence that can be used in court, so cyber forensics specialists should be prepared to face any and all court room scenarios, including certain civil court battles.

Experts expect the global cost of cybercrime to reach $6 trillion (with a T) by 2021, making cyber security the least-saturated market for someone studying in the field. 88% of tech execs said they put more than $1 million into cyber security in 2017, and 40% spent more than $10 million, so there is certainly money to be made in this field, although the bigger bucks are certainly on the security side (~$80,000/yr).

Jobs

The term “cyber security specialist” has been used quite broadly in this article, but here are some cut-and-dry examples of professions for graduates of cyber security educational programs.

Courtroom-related occupations are the most plentiful, and they include (but are not limited to) jobs on all sides of the aisle. A “Crime Analyst” (or a very similar title) would work for a law enforcement agency gathering computer-based data, analyzing it, and presenting it in a manner worthy of a courtroom. This job can be case-specific (i.e., “find what’s on this computer”) or broader, with an example being someone who focuses on a given cyber crime like email phishing or fraud. Defense attorneys also use cyber forensics specialists as expert witnesses.

On the business side of things, a cyber forensics degree would come in handy for anyone looking to provide preventative maintenance to a company’s cyber security to constantly minimize the threat of hacking. With hacking practices ever-evolving, those in this field need to be willing to constantly educate themselves to stay ahead of the enemy.

Some other jobs include those in government such as homeland security officers and information security specialists.

With job security, good pay, and a lot of self-satisfaction in knowing you put a criminal behind bars, or prevented a crime from happening to your company, computer forensics is a great field for anyone who likes a little tech and a little criminal justice.

 

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