As the world around us has advanced technologically, so too has the way we solve crimes. Today’s sleuths have traded in their magnifying glasses for computers and digital tools, which help them collect evidence, and ultimately, convict criminals.
These modern detectives are called digital forensics experts and they work tirelessly to bring justice to criminals in our increasingly digital world.
The field of digital forensics is an exciting one for those with a desire to bring criminals to justice and explore their digital skills. As such, many are curious about how one should go about pursuing a career in the field. Having an understanding of what a digital forensics expert is, along with how to become one, can make the process feel more accessible and attainable.
What Is a Digital Forensics Expert?
Digital forensics experts are professionals trained to investigate crimes through digital means. They do this by collecting digital devices and retrieving data from them to be used as evidence in a court of law.
Digital forensic experts utilize a process called the digital forensics process. This process includes:
- Collecting digital devices
- Extracting data and saving it safely
- Analyzing the data
- Documenting findings
- Presenting findings as evidence
As one could imagine, the work of these individuals can be invaluable to innumerable investigations. This is especially true when it comes to the investigation of cybercrime. The field of cybercrime is evolving and producing more insidious iterations of itself, such as cyberterrorism.
This being the case, digital forensics experts are becoming a key component in keeping the public at large safe from cyber-attacks.
Steps to Become a Digital Forensics Expert
Those who find the field of digital forensics to be an attractive and exciting field are likely wondering how they can become digital forensics experts themselves.
Though there are various paths to get there, as the field is new and some professionals have transitioned from fields such as IT, there are steps one can take to help ensure that they are qualified for the role.
Step #1: Obtain a Bachelor’s Degree
As the field of digital forensics is still evolving, there are a number of paths that can help one get there. A great place to start is by obtaining a bachelor’s degree in a closely related field such as digital computer forensics, cybersecurity, or computer engineering.
These degrees can provide one with the foundational skills necessary to navigate the world of digital forensics and have an understanding of how to interact with digital technology effectively.
Step #2: Get Certified
There are no requirements in the field of digital forensics that require one to have a specific certification. However, receiving a certification, such as the Global Information Assurance Certification, can help one become an expert in the field and bolster one’s resume.
Employers typically look favorably on accredited certifications in the field, and these certifications can play an instrumental role in helping one land their first job in the field of digital forensics.
Step #3: Cultivate the Skills Necessary to Thrive as a Digital Forensics Expert
In addition to becoming qualified through educational pursuits, such as college degrees and certifications, there are a number of skills that one should cultivate before becoming a digital forensics expert. It is vital for digital forensics specialists to be well versed in several areas and developing these skills before stepping into the role can make a huge difference. These skills include:
- Familiarity with computers: A key component of being a digital forensics expert is interacting with computers and digital devices. As such, it is extremely important for digital forensics experts to be well versed in how computers, along with other digital technologies, function.
- Familiarity with hardware and software: In addition to being familiar with computers, digital forensics experts must have a thorough knowledge of how software and hardware work, and how these components interact with each other. There will be times when digital forensics experts must retrieve lost or deleted data, and a familiarity with the intricacies of software and hardware is an important part of being able to do this.
- Thinking critically and creatively: Though they are typically dealing with digital technologies, digital forensics experts are also acting in the capacity of an investigator. These professionals must be able to think critically and creatively to collect and analyze evidence, and ultimately, put criminals behind bars.
- Communication: Though digital forensics experts must have a thorough familiarity with the technical aspects of their job, they must also be effective communicators. A key part of the role is being able to communicate findings clearly in written documents to be presented in a court of law. If digital forensics experts are unable to communicate their findings, then their work may not do a good job of convincing judges that certain criminals are guilty.
The Growing Need for Digital Forensics Experts
A disheartening reality that the world is now reckoning with is the growth of cybercrime in various forms. Cybercrime is beginning to present itself in newer, more destructive ways that can hack people’s personal information, steal money, and in some cases even destabilize governments.
One form of cybercrime that is increasingly becoming a significant concern is that of cyberterrorism. Cyberterrorism utilizes digital technology to coerce governments, or non-government entities, to act in ways that further their gains. For example, the mobile company T-Mobile experienced a cyber-attack that saw hackers gain access to the personal information of tens of millions of people.
As one can see, the scale of cybercrime is growing, as are its negative effects on society. This being the case, digital forensics experts are becoming more valuable as professionals who can help find the criminals responsible for these crimes. Without digital forensics experts, there would likely be far more digital criminals free in the world today.
Keeping the World Safe
As the world is evolving, so is the way that crime is done. As a result, the way that crime is investigated has been forced to evolve as well. Digital forensics experts are key players in bringing criminals to justice, especially when it comes to cybercrime. Without these individuals, many criminals would likely walk free.
The specialized training and skillset of digital forensics experts allow them to help utilize digital technology to compile evidence that helps catch criminals, and as a result, makes the world a safer place for the rest of us.