What Does a Cyber Forensic Investigator Do?

Computer Forensic InvestigatorWhat does a cyber forensic investigator do? As the job title implies, cyber forensic investigators use their knowledge of computer science to examine evidence of potential cyber crimes like hacking and cyber attacks.

What is a Cyber Crime?

Simply stated, cyber crimes are crimes committed using computers. It is a growing problem with massive financial and even national security implications. The Wire reports that there were almost 1,400 confirmed data breaches in 2013. These included breaches caused by cyber espionage, web app attacks, crimeware and other malware, DOS attacks, and point of sales intrusions. Attacks on major retailers like Target, Neiman Marcus, and Michaels affected millions of consumers and brought the issue into the public eye. Individuals, businesses, educational institutions, and governments are targeted by criminals looking for financial gain or sensitive information. Some espionage attacks are sponsored by unfriendly foreign governments.

Combating Fighting Cyber Crime

Cyber forensic investigators analyze digital information to trace hacking and other computer attacks back to their source. While doing so, they gather and document evidence so that it can be presented in a criminal case. Generally speaking, they isolate the computer or system that was attacked and copy the storage media. While the original is preserved as evidence, they use forensic techniques and specialty software to locate, analyze and preserve any evidence of a cyber crime in the copied data. Finally, they prepare a report detailing their findings.

Fighting Other Types of Crime

In a time when almost everyone uses computers or other digital devices, a cyber forensic investigator’s ability to reconstruct digital files and recover data from erased or damaged hard drives often comes in handy during investigations of more traditional crimes. The personal computers, browsing histories, and digital communications of suspects are often examined for potential evidence.

Employment Opportunities

Many cyber forensic investigators are employed by law enforcement and governmental agencies. Others work for private security companies. Some are employed by private companies to maintain the security of their own networks and ensure that company policies regarding computer use are being followed properly.

Educational Requirements

In order to accomplish their jobs, cyber forensic experts must be computer experts who are familiar with the detailed workings of hardware, software, and computer operating systems. Most have college degrees in computer or criminal justice fields, although specialized degree programs in areas like computer criminology are now available. Whatever their education background, they must be committed to life-long learning so that they can keep up with advances in this continually evolving field.

Other Necessary Skills

As this book excerpt published by Tech Target explains, cyber forensic investigators need more than excellent computer skills to succeed. Strong analytical skills are required to piece the evidence they have together and trace it back to the source. Since computer technology is developing more quickly than the laws to control it can be written, they need good common sense to guide them in legal gray areas. Since their investigations often expose sensitive information, they must have the integrity to avoid the temptation to misuse what they discover. Communication skills are also vital; investigators must be able to communicate their findings clearly.

Related Resource: Cyber Security

If you enjoy solving puzzles and have a deep comprehension of the workings of computer technology, you may be intrigued by the notion of working in cyber investigations. Understanding what a cyber forensic investigator does should help you decide if this is career path is right for you.