Digital forensics, also known as computer forensics, comprises the detailed investigation, preservation, extraction, and recovery of the data found on digital devices concerning digital crime/attacks. It is then documented and can be used as evidence in a court of law. Professionals who work on computer forensics are known as Cyber Forensic Investigators or cyber forensics experts. They are solely responsible for the investigation process and extraction and submission of the evidence related to cybercrime.
A Computer Forensics Investigator/Analyst is specially trained and generally works with law enforcement agencies and private firms. The analysts are required to have an exceptional practical understanding of all the perspectives of digital devices (hardware, software, encrypt, decrypt, etc.).
What Do Cyber Forensics Investigators Do?
Digital Forensic Investigators must understand, reconstruct, and analyze the digital device and extract the required data concerning the case. All digital/technical pieces of evidence are assisted and examined. They are entirely responsible for the pieces of evidence collected from the digital devices/equipment (mobile phone, PC, tablet, etc.). The role of the digital forensic investigator varies concerning the nature of the case, i.e., recovering erased or lost data, handling incidents of hacking and online frauds/scams, or tracking sources of cyberattacks. The nature of the investigation may be internal or external; the examiner is often required to investigate in-house personnel.
How Do Cyber Forensics Investigators Work?
Cyber Forensic Investigators must backtrack, reconstruct, analyze, and obtain/retrieve data from a digital device. They check the device and use various cyber forensics tools to retrieve or extract the data. There are various tasks that need to be worked on, such as extraction of data, analysis of the data, evidence preservation, etc. For the evidence to be produced in court, it should be handled by the forensic investigator, who has to ensure that the evidence is not tampered with. Cyber forensic investigators follow certain procedures to get the desired result, namely:
Prioritize the essential problems to collect and obtain the required data accordingly.
Identification and preservation:
Identify the necessary evidence and preserve them, ensuring that they have not been tampered with. Copies are made of the evidence and worked on to preserve the integrity of the evidence.
Retrieve/extract the data and make deductions based on the findings and timeframes of the pieces of the evidence systematically.
All the findings should be documented in a detailed manner and signed. It should be valid, with no ambiguity about the same.
A report is made and presented based on the findings. It should be presented without any bias.
Key Skills of a Cyber Forensics Investigator
To become a qualified cyber forensics investigator, you must possess the following skills:
- Networking: A good grasp of networking and connectivity concepts.
- Technical aptitude: A good understanding of networking concepts, technical concepts, digital devices, and how a system works are the basic technical skills required.
- Knowledge of operating systems: You need to have solid knowledge of the various operating systems since you may have to find and retrieve data from various operating systems like Windows, Linux, and macOS.
- Analytical talent: Analyzing the evidence collected and the data, analyzing cybercrime patterns and attacks, etc.
- Comprehension of cybersecurity: You should have knowledge of all the latest breaches, vulnerabilities, risks, malware, etc., in addition to being well-versed with the terms and concepts of cybersecurity.
- The familiarity of law and investigation: When dealing with cybercrimes, it’s important to know the laws related to it and how the investigation should proceed.
- Communication: You should be able to convey the technical information in plain language as well as understand plain terms and incorporate them into technical terms. It’s essential to have good communication skills to deliver the desired result.
- Aspiration to learn: The field of cybersecurity is constantly evolving; you need to have the desire to learn and understand new technologies.
Why Should You Become a Cyber Forensics Investigator?
Cyber forensics is a vast and interesting subject, entirely dealing with the crimes and attacks done via digital devices and the internet. In the evolving world of technology, the rate of cyberattacks has increased rapidly over the last few years. According to According to The New Indian Express, cyberattacks had cost the world nearly $945 billion in 2020, which shows a 50% increase when compared to 2018. This growing rate of cyberattacks has increased demand for cyber forensics experts.
The salary of a cyber forensics investigator is comparatively higher when compared to IT engineers and depends on educational qualification, certifications, experience, and the type of industry/sector. The average base salary of a cyber forensics investigator is $64,248. The public sector offers a starting salary of $50,000-$70,000 a year. The private sector pays a relatively higher starting salary when compared to public sectors. The average salary for an experienced cyber forensics investigator having 2-5 years of experience is $95,000 a year.
Cyber forensics experts are needed in private and government sectors such as the FBI, CIA, and NSA. The highest work profile in the government sector is law enforcement (local, state, federal, military, etc.). They make a huge impact on society and contribute to national security.
Every organization, big or small, needs a cyber forensics investigator to handle cases relating to information being leaked or a database being hacked, etc. According to INFOSEC, the global computer forensics market will be worth an estimated $7 billion by 2024.
There is a growing need for cyber forensics investigators, and there are numerous job opportunities in the various subcategories of cyber forensics. With the increased rate of cybercrime in all sectors, government agencies are investing huge sums to reduce the number of wrongdoings by employing cyber forensic investigators to investigate, safeguard, and solve crimes.
Steps to Follow When Pursuing a Career in Cyber Forensics
- Plan: Planning is the most crucial step in deciding a career related to cyber forensics. It is important to understand the procedure and get clarity about which sector you are planning to work in, what are the basic qualifications needed, and other procedures.
- Educational qualifications: The minimum basic degree qualification you must have to enter the field of cyber forensics is a bachelor’s degree in cyber forensics, computer applications, criminal justice, etc.
- Certification: The field of cybersecurity requires specific certifications. One such certified course is the Computer Hacking Forensic Investigator (CHFI), which provides a detailed look at how to detect a hacking attack, proper extraction of evidence, and how to perform audits to avoid future attacks. This adds value, sets you apart from others who haven’t done a certification course, and qualifies you to get a job as a Cyber Forensic Investigator. Having a degree in forensics and a forensics certification also makes you more appealing to employers.
CHFI will allow you to develop a strong foundation in digital forensics and the procedures to be followed. The course provides in-depth content of the various methods and tools used in an investigation, validating your skills to be the best. CHFI is globally recognized and accepted by major organizations in the private as well as the government sector, and adds value to your job profile.