Cybersecurity Forensics Analysts

Criminal investigations focused on handling and resolving cybersecurity incidents can be an uphill task. Hackers leverage advanced technologies to execute cyber-attacks, evade detection, and erase traces of their crime scenes. As a result, companies require the services of computer forensics analysts to investigate and solve complex cybercrimes. Essentially, forensic investigators assist organizations in the private sector and law enforcement agencies in criminal justice in identifying, uncovering, extracting, and documenting digital evidence following an adverse cyber incident. Specifically, forensic computer analysts work closely with law enforcement agencies to investigate criminal activities and retrieve manipulated, lost, or stolen data from digital devices.

Role of a Computer Forensics Investigator

Today, almost every legal case has some form of digital element tied to the case’s investigation procedures. As such, digital forensics investigators are critical in spearheading forensics analysis for criminal cases that require the acquisition and preservation of digital evidence. Likewise, information security analysts pursue the required digital answers by applying practical experience and knowledge to extract relevant digital data. Therefore, computer forensic experts must possess sufficient knowledge of numerous computer software and hardware products, mobile devices, information systems, and networking systems.

Armed with the knowledge, computer forensics professionals can analyze the recovered data, perform forensics investigations, and use the investigation results to reconstruct how a crime unfolded. In addition, in most criminal or civil cases, computer forensics specialists appear as expert witnesses. The following are some of the roles of a digital forensics specialist:

  • Use advanced cyber forensics software to collect and preserve digital evidence from computer networks, data storage devices, flash drives, hard drives, and mobile devices.
  • Manage and track digital evidence.
  • Detect and document procedures, methods, and strategies that hackers use to commit cybercrimes.
  • Develop technical reports and briefs based on a forensics investigation’s outcomes.
  • Provide expert testimony

Why You Should Consider a Career as a Digital Forensics Examiner

The demand for cybersecurity professionals is growing rapidly due to the explosive growth of digital technologies. However, there is a persistent shortage of adequate cybersecurity forensics talent as there has been a 350% increase of open forensic specialists’ positions between 2013 and 2021. In addition, digital forensics analysts are poised to become essential in investigating targeted attacks directed towards the expanding technologies due to the continued proliferation of information, applications, and computer networks.

Furthermore, cybersecurity forensics analysts are in demand in almost every industry. A search for job listings requiring knowledge in digital forensic science reveals numerous openings in multiple companies. For example, government agencies such as the federal bureau of investigations consider the field of digital forensics as part and parcel of modern criminal investigations. Therefore, experienced information technology professionals will continue to be in high demand in the foreseeable future.

How can You Become a Computer Forensics Investigator?

Digital forensic investigators can work for private companies or hold senior positions in government and law enforcement agencies. That said, starting a career path as a computer forensics analyst opens numerous professional development opportunities. You can become a competent digital forensics investigator in four primary steps.

  1. Complete specific education levels: Enrolling in various education programs can be the stepping stone towards becoming a certified and qualified computer forensics investigator. For example, different university degrees can provide the necessary skills to advance to more specialized forensics certifications. They include a bachelor’s degree in applied mathematics, computer science, digital forensic, computer engineering, electrical engineering, information technology, cybersecurity, among others. Also, you can aim for more advanced and senior positions by completing a master’s degree program.
  2. Focus on a specific career path: The field of computer forensics is wide with numerous specialties. Therefore, it is vital to identify and determine the most suitable entry-level positions to help you develop your career in a specific specialty. One of the effective ways through which you can identify your preferred career path is working in various digital forensics roles while developing valuable experience. Examples of information security fields you can consider plying your acquired forensics skills include software development, law enforcement, and the cybersecurity industry.
  3. Acquire computer forensics certifications: You can kiss a senior position goodbye if you don’t have relevant computer forensics certifications. Most employers require potential digital analysts to demonstrate their skills and knowledge by requiring them to possess at least one computer forensics certification. Professional certifications are a testament that you have acquired the required on-hand practical experience, and you have passed a standardized exam testing your skills and practical experience in digital forensics investigation. Currently, numerous digital forensics certifications focus on equipping different skill sets.
  4. Learn continuously: Similar to most careers in the cybersecurity industry, you must learn continuously and then learn some more to keep current and updated with new trends and forensics procedures in the computer security industry. A recommended approach for remaining updated on what’s happening in computer forensics is joining a professional organization. For example, The International Society of Forensic Computer Examiners (ISFCE) is one of the leading computer forensics associations that focuses on providing continuous education, testing digital forensics experts on their proficiency on various forensics concepts, and professional growth and development. Also, The Scientific Working Group on Digital Evidence (SWGDE) is another computer forensics-focused organization that facilitates open communication between forensics experts and industry-leading organizations to ensure their skills and knowledge are current.

Professional Certifications and Skills Requirements

As stated earlier, professional certifications are required for you to scale the ladders of different computer forensics career paths. Therefore, employers often require employees to have some of the following professional certifications:

  1. Certified Computer Examiner (ECE): It is the primary certification offered by ISFCE that seeks to develop competent cybersecurity forensics professionals. It equips skills and practical capabilities that relate to digital forensics practices.
  2. Certified Forensic Computer Examiner (CFCE): The CFCE certification program is offered by The International Association of Computer Investigative Specialists () IACIS. It demonstrates a forensics expert’s competency in various computer forensics skills, knowledge, and concepts.
  3. CompTIA Security+: It is a global certification that validates baseline skills a security professional must possess to perform basic security functions, paving the way for a career in IT security. It is an entry-level certification, and it is considered among the first every IT security professional should learn.
  4. Certified Ethical Hacker: Certified ethical hacker is cybersecurity certification provided at the intermediate level. The certification provides candidates with qualifications in penetration testing skills, which is an important tenet of an ethical hacker’s career. In addition, the certification equips learners with skills of identifying potential security vulnerabilities, risks and threats in different IT settings and infrastructures.

In addition to the professional certifications described above, computer forensics experts require a minimum of the following skills to excel in the digital forensics industry.

  • Collect digital evidence by designing and developing customized evidence acquisition procedures for different digital technologies.
  • Be proficient in applying current reverse engineering methods to understand better the modern techniques attackers use to exploit and penetrate vulnerable systems.
  • Possess in-depth knowledge of how to analyze obfuscated code and various malware variants.
  • Understand the processes and working of different operating systems, computer hardware, mobile devices, and networks.
  • In-depth understanding of different forensics tools and methods applied to collect evidential data from specific electronic devices and applications.
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George Mutune

I am a cyber security professional with a passion for delivering proactive strategies for day to day operational challenges. I am excited to be working with leading cyber security teams and professionals on projects that involve machine learning & AI solutions to solve the cyberspace menace and cut through inefficiency that plague today's business environments.

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