How to Become a Digital Forensics Professional

Sep 8, 2021

5 Min Read

Digital Forensic Professionals, also known as cybercrime or computer forensic professionals, are a particular subtype of the cybercrimes department. They are called in whenever a digital crime involves a computer network, website, or digital device such as smartphones, computers, etc. Professionals in this field are responsible for recovering any stolen information and recreating the crime to find clues and catch the perpetrators. They also work with other cybercrime specialists to improve security and prevent a crime from occurring again.

Types of Digital Forensics Experts

When you look into digital forensics, you will find many titles associated with this field. Some of the titles include:

  • Digital forensics analyst
  • Malware analyst
  • Security consultant
  • Digital forensics examiner
  • Digital forensics technician
  • Digital forensics engineer

You will find these jobs either in the government sector or in private sector security firms. Your title and job scope will depend on your level of experience. And for most of these jobs, you will need a high-level clearance, especially in the government sector.

What are the Responsibilities of a Digital Forensic Expert?

Nowadays, digital products are a part of our everyday life. So it makes sense that the majority of criminal investigations also have a digital component to them.

The primary focus of digital forensics teams is information security. But apart from this, civil cases such as child custody, infidelity, and missing person cases to criminal cases such as homicide, robbery, arson, and espionage, also require digital forensics in their investigation.

Among other things, digital forensic experts:

  • Use forensic software to recover, collect and analyze electronic data from digital devices such as smartphones, computers, servers, and databases.
  • Manage and track digital forensic evidence using their technical skills.
  • Analyze the data to find and document the tactics used by attackers to gain access to unauthorized data.
  • Document and report their findings in the form of technical and engagement reports.
  • Follow the industry standard and best practices throughout their work.
  • Give expert testimony if a case goes to court.

The Skills Required in Digital Forensics

Digital Forensics is a field primarily focused on solving and preventing digital crimes. Cybercrimes usually involve the use of smart devices, different software systems, and databases, etc.

Therefore, the first and foremost requirement of a professional in this field is to be adept at dealing with these technologies.

Technical Skills

Some other technical skills that employers look for include:

  • Comprehensive understanding of different operating systems, hardware systems, and networks.
  • Being able to design and build custom programs for a smarter collection of evidence.
  • Ability to crack device backups and common types of office files.
  • Experience with tools that deal with disk and memory forensics.
  • Ability to investigate malware and read obfuscated codes.
  • Some basic knowledge of investigative techniques to uncover electronic data.
  • Up-to-date knowledge of forensic methodologies and tools.
  • Good reverse engineering skills to locate stolen data or track a culprit.

Programming Languages

In addition to these logical skills, it is also necessary for a digital forensics expert to have experience working with one or more of the following computer languages:

  • Python
  • PHP
  • Java
  • C+
  • BASH
  • Pearl

Certifications

Most employers often look for basic certifications. One such example is the CompTIA A+, as this certification strengthens the technical and operational IT skills needed by professionals in digital forensics.

Sometimes, employers are also interested in specialized certifications in addition to basic ones. You can get these certifications from:

  • ISFCE (International Society of Forensic Computer Examiners)
  • GIAC (Global Information Assurance Certification)
  • IEEE (Institute of Electronic and Electrical Engineers)
  • CISSP (Certified Information Systems Security Professional)
  • IACIS (The International Association of Computer Investigative Specialists)
  • EnCase
  • (ISC)² (International Information Systems Security Certification Consortium)

If you’re looking to go into the field of digital forensics, then you should focus on the skills we’ve mentioned. These are the primary concerns of any person in a cyber forensics field.

If you are already in digital forensics and are looking to change jobs or enhance your career, getting one or more certifications from official international associations will give a significant boost to your resume.

And remember, just like any other job, you will need to demonstrate excellent soft skills. These may include written and oral communication, documentation skills, and organizational skills to show that you can carry out complex investigations.

The 4 Steps to a Career as a Digital Forensics Expert

If you’ve read the article up til now, you might be interested in pursuing a career as a digital forensics expert. There are four different routes you can take to make that happen:

Education

You can check out specific college programs and courses to pursue a career in digital forensics. These include:

  • Computer Science
  • Computer Engineering
  • Information Technology
  • Electrical Engineering
  • Cybersecurity
  • Applied Mathematics
  • Digital Forensics

These are a good starting point if you look to pursue a future career in the digital forensics field. However, if you want to apply for a senior position, you might need a Master’s degree.

Certifications

One of the biggest things employers look for in a resume is professional certifications. These credentials are fundamental if you want to apply for senior positions in the future. In addition, these certifications lend more credibility to your technical knowledge. A lot of institutions and platforms offer internationally recognized certifications related to digital forensics. Your aim should be to get one or more of these certifications.

Career Route

If you don’t specifically have a degree in digital forensics, don’t worry. There are a lot of starting and entry-level job opportunities in digital forensics. Specific jobs in Information Technology that focus on cybersecurity are an excellent way to start your career as a digital forensics professional. You can also use your experience in general digital forensics positions or as a software developer to move towards a career as a digital forensics expert.

Stay Up-to-Date

Our digital world is rapidly chaging. In a field such as digital forensics directly related to digital technologies, it is crucial to stay current with all trends and advancements.

The good news for you is those specific international associations can help you stay up-to-date without any trouble. The most relevant associations include:

  1. ISFCE (The International Society of Forensic Computer Examiners)
  2. SWGDE (The Scientific Working Group on Digital Evidence)

These associations are committed to providing you the most current professional education and training in digital forensics. In addition, they help keep the skills and information of all digital forensics experts fresh and up-to-date.

To Sum it Up

Almost every organization today needs a digital forensic expert to protect its data and security systems. And as technology continues to develop, this demand is only going to get bigger. As a result, even government and law-enforcement agencies like the FBI have developed a Forensic Examiner Talent Network to have a steady flow of employable digital forensic experts available.

So if you are looking to become a digital forensics expert, you can rest assured that you will have ample job opportunities available.

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