Computer forensics is the detailed investigation, identification, and extraction of data from digital pieces of evidence. Its ultimate goal is to identify, preserve, extract, present, and make a detailed report of a digital device’s evidence in an orderly and legal manner.
Criminals have been finding ways to misuse technology since the arrival of computers, and have only become more sophisticated over time. This has caused havoc and led to the need for dedicated computer forensics experts who can control, solve, and expose the accused based on the data extracted from the digital evidence.
Various Fields in Digital Forensics
There are various fields in computer forensics. They are categorized depending upon the nature of the cyberattack and the digital device, as follows:
- Mobile Device Forensics: It is a sub-category of Digital Forensics that completely deals with data extraction and evidence from mobile phones.
- Network Forensics: It involves the constant monitoring of the traffic flow, LAN, and WAN to identify the data transmitted, evidence collection, and intrusion detection via the network.
- Database Forensics: It encompasses the monitoring and collection of evidence of databases with their metadata. Log files and database data are used to recover related data/information.
- Email Forensics: It is the recovery and analysis of emails that have been sent and received.
- Wireless Forensics: This field uses tools to collect and extract data in wireless network traffic, which is then analyzed.
- Memory Forensics: It comprises the collection of data and information from the system’s memory, cache, RAM, and system registers in raw form, followed by the extraction of the necessary data from the raw dump.
The Need for Computer Forensics
Due to the rise in cybercrimes, there is a high demand for computer forensics to resolve them. Cybercrimes’ main objectives are to steal confidential information, release personal data via the internet, blackmail the victim into ransom for the data stolen, etc. Victims can now take the help of computer forensics experts to solve the problems mentioned above. The following are the objectives of computer forensics:
- Helps in the recovery, analysis, and preservation of the computer and other related evidence, which helps in the investigation.
- Preservation of the digital evidence by following the chain of custody rules.
- It helps in obtaining a clear idea behind the motive of the crime.
- Recovering and acquiring deleted data (data acquisition) or lost data for validation.
- Identification of the evidence from the crime scene and estimating the potential impact of the crime.
- Creating a detailed forensic report that states the purpose of the investigation and the data acquisition process, which is required to certify that an expert has done the required work and the evidence was not tampered with.
Role of Computer Forensics Professionals
The foremost role of a computer forensics expert is to ensure no criminal activities are left unsolved. The main tasks of a cyber forensics professional are as follows:
- Making a duplicate copy of the hard drive collected as evidence. No actions should be taken on the actual evidence as this would be considered evidence tampering.
- Verify the copied data with the evidence collected.
- Ensure that the data copied is forensically authorized and is compatible with the respective operating system.
- Recovering the deleted data from the evidence.
- Identification of the data present in the free space. Data deleted a while ago is often still around until new data is stored.
- Using keyword search to scan the entire document for the specific piece of evidence.
- Analyzing the evidence completely and writing the final report in detail to produce it in court.
A cyber forensics investigator follows certain procedures to get the desired result. They are:
- Planning:Prioritize the essential problems to collect and obtain the required data accordingly.
- Identification and preservation:Identify the necessary evidence and preserve it, ensuring that it has not been tampered with. Investigators work on copies of the evidence to ensure its integrity.
- Analysis:Retrieve/extract the data and make deductions based on the findings and timeframes of the pieces of evidence systematically.
- Documentation:All the findings should be documented in a detailed manner and signed. It should be valid and not uncertain about any facts.
- Presentation:A report is made and presented based on the findings. It should be presented without any bias.
Skills Required to Become a Cyber Forensics Expert
Skills are crucial when deciding to pursue a career in cyber forensics. Updating your skills is essential to understanding the flow and techniques of computer forensic experts. The skills needed are as follows:
- Technical aptitude.
- Networking concepts.
- Paying attention to minute details.
- Familiarity with the law and investigations.
- Communication skills.
- Comprehension of cybersecurity, i.e., should have the necessary knowledge about the latest breaches, vulnerabilities, risks, malware, etc. Should be well-versed with terms and concepts in cybersecurity.
- Knowledge of operating systems like Windows, Linux, iOS, etc., to work on the respective platform with ease.
- Aspiration to learn.
How to Become a Cyber Forensics Expert
To become a successful cyber forensics expert, it is important to analyze what is needed to pursue a career in cyber forensics.
Planning is a crucial and primary step that needs to be taken. It’s important to gain clarity as to what the job requirements are and the procedure used to work. You should choose the cybersecurity sector you want to focus on based on the skills you possess. Educational qualifications also play a vital part in pursuing a career in cyber forensics. The basic qualifications one should hold is a degree in cyber forensics, computer applications, criminal justice, or other related fields.
Professional certification is often a mandatory requirement if one has plans to take up a cyber forensics career. One such certification course is the Computer Hacking Forensic Investigator, which provides a detailed program that covers how you can become a forensic investigator and suplies information about all the latest data acquisition tools. A candidate holding a certification typically has a higher chance of getting a job when compared to someone who doesn’t have one.
Advantages of Becoming a Computer Forensics Expert
There are many advantages in becoming a cyber forensics expert, such as:
- A degree in cyberForensics equals job security.
- Higher salary compared to other IT employees.
- Career opportunities in Cyber Forensics are increasing with the development of technology.
- Ensuring the integrity of the system and network in an organization.
- Ample Financial Incentives for Cybersecurity Students
- A vital part of the Government with respect to cyber-crimes.
Cyber Forensics Salary
The salary varies with the sector (private/government) one chooses to work in. According to Infosec, the global digital forensics market is estimated to hit $7 billion by 2024. The average base salary of a cyber forensics investigator is $64,248, with the public sector offering a starting salary of $50,000 – $70,000 a year. The average salary of an experienced cyber forensics investigator with 2-5 years of experience is $95,000 a year. Keep in mind, your salary will depend on the role, experience, certifications, and sector in which you work.
Computer forensics is a booming industry with ample job opportunities. You can pursue a career in cyber forensics with ease if you have all the requirements and skills necessary. Enroll for Computer Hacking Forensic Investigator (CHFI) certification to build a strong foundation in digital forensics and its procedures. The course provides in-depth context to the numerous methods and tools used in investigations, validating your skills to be the best. CHFI is globally recognized and accepted by all organizations in the private and the government sector.