6 Skills Required for a Career in Digital Forensics

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Do you think that a career in digital forensics is for you?

Want to learn what skills are required to enter this cybersecurity domain?

Digital forensics, a branch of forensic science, is an increasingly popular domain, with many lucrative and career advancement opportunities in various industries. The science of digital forensics helps track hackers, retrieve stolen data, investigate the causes of incidents, and provide digital evidence.

Who is a Computer Forensics Investigator?

Have you ever met a person who is technical and works for criminal justice? A digital forensic investigator is the perfect amalgamation of these specializations. A digital forensic investigator is often referred to as a computer forensic investigator as most pieces of evidence associated with cybercrime can be found on computers. Those pursuing a digital forensics career must have a certain set of skills, namely, technical and functional, to keep up with the ever-evolving industry.

Here are a couple of skills that are required to become a digital forensic investigator.

1. Technical Aptitude

As the name suggests, role in a computer forensics job is technology-focused. Having a proper understanding of the working of digital devices, technical concepts, networking, and experience in computer systems are the basic technical skills expected from those working in digital forensics.

Working on various technical platforms, from computers to mobile phones, IoT devices, and so on is exactly what this job entails. Remember, it is only when you possess sound technical knowledge, you can identify and respond to security breaches and network hacks. The technical skills that a digital forensic investigator should learn are as follows:

(a) Digital comprehension

To be a cyber-forensic professional, you must be able to work on various digital devices. When you investigate any cyberattack and gather the information, you may have to interact with various endpoints such as mobile phone, printer, IoT, USB, external hard disk, iPad, notepad, digital camera, and projector. Hence, having a proper knowledge of digital devices and endpoint instruments will help you in accessing them at your own terms.

(b) Networking

As a forensic investigator, the knowledge of computer networking, LAN, and server is extremely important. As an investigator, networking concepts and connectivity knowledge should be of concern as the investigation will not be limited to the individual system, but every system connected in the LAN has to be examined. Hence, you should be competent to access the served and the entire LAN with less dependence on IT professionals. Cloud computing and cloud database are other recent areas that a forensic investigator should explore.

(c) Operating system knowledge

When you are investigating cybercrime, you cannot escape from the operating system of the computer on investigation. Windows, Linux, and Unix are a few operating systems that you should be comfortable working on. Most of the servers or databases are based on Linux operating system, and as a forensic investigator you should know how to access them. Being a forensic investigator, you may also have to conduct investigation on smartphones and other endpoint devices. Android and Windows are the common operating systems in smartphones, whereas other endpoint devices may work on different OS, which you should be able to work upon.

2. Analytical Talents

The process of analyzing evidence, observing cybercrime patterns and cyberattacks, and interpreting cyber data to solve the case requires an advanced level of analytical skill to consider a career in digital forensics. A high speed of analytical thinking with precise observation abilities are required to carefully sort, uncover, and examine digital evidence. This sort of high-level analytical thinking is often gained and tested at higher military and cyber intelligence levels.

3. Comprehension of Cybersecurity

Digital forensics is all about cybercrime. In order to solve any case, you will need to have a better knowledge of the latest breaches, threats, and vulnerabilities. When training to become a digital forensics investigator, you must ensure that it has strong in-depth components of cybersecurity or information security. Without learning cybersecurity concepts, it is impossible to guard systems and investigate the crime at hand.

4. Knowledge of Law and Investigation

Digital forensics deals with cybercrimes and the knowledge of criminal law and investigation will be an added advantage. The job role doesn’t demand a law qualification, but the procedure of crime investigations can be gained through other channels such as online reading and group discussions. A good understanding of white-collar crime, criminal law, and investigation will be an added advantage.

5. Communication Skills

Communication skills in digital forensics are essential as you need to convey technical information concisely to those from different levels of technical comprehension. Digital forensic investigators often work in teams and this is where your communication skills play an important role in delivering the process of action on the forensic case, accurately among the team members. You may also have to explain your findings to others or even present it before the courtroom as part of the case proceedings.

6. Willingness to Learn

Cybersecurity is constantly evolving and so is digital forensics. Anyone taking up this profession should constantly upgrade to the latest trends and technologies to assure a better job prospect. Continuous learning and self-education, both on and off the clock, are essential traits of the digital forensic industry.

How to start a Digital Forensics Career?

Digital Forensics as a career

How to Build Digital Forensic Skills?

While some of the skills like inclination for technology and analytical ability are personal to any individual, other skills can be developed through formal education or training. EC-Council offers computer forensics training, which is designed for IT professionals desired to grow into forensic investigation. Visit our page for more details: https://www.eccouncil.org/programs/computer-hacking-forensic-investigator-chfi/

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Who should consider a Digital Forensic Career?
Curious college graduates with IT or computer-based degree can start their career as a digital forensic professional. Also, those IT professionals who want to switch to system security can opt for this domain. Even the staff from the listed background can move into digital forensic:

  • Police and law enforcement personnel
  • Defense and military personnel
  • System administrators
  • Professionals from banking, finance, and insurance background
  • IT Managers
  • IT Security employees from various government agencies
Why should one pursue a Digital Forensic Career?
  • As per LinkedIn, the US is looking for more than 6,500 digital forensic experts categorized under cyber forensics, digital forensics, and computer forensics.
  • PayScale data says the average salary of a Forensic Computer Analyst is $73,052 (the US).
  • According to Cybersecurity Ventures, the cybersecurity industry has a 0% unemployment rate.
Editor's Note:
Reviewed by Dawie Wentzel, Head of Cyber Forensic Investigations at Absa Group Ltd and JoAnne Genevieve Green, Adjunct Professor – Cyber Crimes at the University of Pittsburgh
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