How to Become a Forensics Expert
Computer forensics experts are increasingly in demand by corporate and governmental bodies alike. This high demand means that your career path will be exciting and fruitful.
As a computer forensics expert, you will have a lot of responsibility on your shoulders. After a security breach, you will be called to analyze the breach to determine how it happened and try to amass the evidence to prove who perpetrated the act. You will need to be meticulous with how you handle evidence and even how you train the first responders to deal with any electronics such as computers, hard drives or portable drives. If any electronics are tampered with, your investigation might lose information or break the chain of evidence, rendering any evidence tainted and inadmissible in a court.
You also might work as a consultant for a law firm who defends clients accused of cyber crimes. In that case, you will need to assess how evidence has been collected and handled by the prosecution. You will need to do your own independent investigation of the case and the evidence so that you can help build the best defense for the firm’s client.
After the evidence is analyzed, you will likely be briefed on your testimony with your team of lawyers. Then, you may be deposed by the opposing counsel. After that, you will be called to appear in court. As a professional, you will need to have a strong and consistent case to defend on the witness stand. You will also need to have strong speaking skills that can help you convince the jury of your assessment of the evidence.
Forensics Expert Vs. Security Analyst
Security Analyst: Predicts how criminals might attack next and then to implement the very best software and security protocols for their team.
Forensic Expert: A forensics expert is in the latter camp and is called in once a security breach has been discovered.
There are two general sides of the computer security field: those who defend against cyber crimes and those who investigate them. A forensics expert is in the latter camp and is called in once a security breach has been discovered. The analysts job is to predict how criminals might attack next and then to implement the very best software and security protocols for their team.
When you decide that cyber security is the field you would like to pursue, start thinking along these lines. If you would like to be involved with forensics, you will likely start your career in law enforcement. That might include the FBI, CIA, or some branch of the Department of Homeland Security. You might also consider working for the Department of Defense as a contractor, or you might enter the armed forces and apply your knowledge there.
Both fields inform the other, so it is not unheard of for a forensics expert who works for the Department of Defense to enter the public sector as a security analyst for a bank. However, to make any significant transition, you will probably want to consider gaining extra certifications to help prove your investment in your new field.
Possible Career Paths
Once you become trained in computer science, your path to being a forensics expert is largely determined by your ability to acquire on-the-job skills and pursue additional formal training.
Computer forensics experts are in high demand, which will put you in an enviable position once you have gained the experience and credentials you need to succeed in the field. Salaries in forensics can start around $44,000 a year, but an Information Security Analyst can command a $88,890 median annual salary says the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 2016-17 Occupational Outlook Handbook. After around 10 years in the field, the median compensation is approximately $105,000 a year. Those professionals in later career stages can command over $120,000 year.
Like many jobs in the high technology sector, a forensics job can be had by a tenacious techie who applies him or her self and is either self-taught or learns on the job. However, standard requirements for an entry level forensics job might include a bachelor’s degree in computer science or even information technology. If possible, try to study issues related to security while in your undergraduate program. For instance, you might take courses in security policy, network security and cryptography.
To truly succeed, you will need to not only have top-notch computer skills, but you must be able to perform as a law enforcement officer. You might be called to testify in court when hackers invade a banking system, or you might have to determine with 100 percent certainty that a terror cell has attempted to hack into the Pentagon’s mainframe system. With that in mind, you will need to be able to work with speed and efficiency, as time may be of the essence.
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