What Does A Forensic Computer Analyst Do? Career Information, Salaries, Skillset

With the increasing rate of cybercrimes, the need for forensic computer professionals who will investigate data breaches, security incidents and criminal activity can’t be overemphasized. With good analytical skills, you are most likely going to succeed in a career as a forensic computer analyst.

As a science that can be used in the legal system, forensic analysts examine and analyze digital data. They use techniques to gather and preserve evidence from a particular computing device in a way that is suitable for presentation in a court of law. Though much forensic work applies to criminal cases, sometimes it applies to civil proceedings as well.

This article will provide the necessary information on what a forensic computer analyst does, education requirement, career information, and skillsets. In addition, you will get to know how to become a forensic computer analyst, the job description, how much you can earn as one, and also answers to some of the FAQs.

Here is a breakdown of what to expect:

What is Computer Forensics?

According to Wikipedia, Computer forensic science is a branch of digital forensic science pertaining to evidence found in computers and digital storage media. It is the information security branch of law enforcement and is closely related to forensic science and criminal justice work

The goal of computer forensics is to examine digital media in a forensically sound manner with the aim of identifying, preserving, recovering, analyzing and presenting facts and opinions about digital information.

Who is a Forensic Computer Analyst?

A Forensic Computer Analyst is a specially trained professional who works with law enforcement agencies, as well as private firms, to retrieve information from computers. Computer Forensics Analysts are also referred to as computer forensics investigators, examiners or specialists.

Computer forensic analysts combine their computer science knowledge with their forensic skills to recover information from computers and storage devices. In addition, they are responsible for assisting law enforcement officers with cyber crimes and also to retrieve evidence.

Furthermore, forensic computer analysts are also responsible for following all safety and privacy procedures when handling sensitive financial or personal information such as documents, videos, or pictures. Additionally, they must handle and receive evidence carefully and keep accurate records of duties performed.

What are the Qualities of a Computer Forensic Analyst?

Basically, computer forensic analysis involves the proper handling of all digital media involved in criminal cases. To do this, the following skill sets will be required from a prospective computer forensic analyst:

  • IT skills
  • Analytics skills
  • Attention to detail
  • Communication skills
  • Organizational skills
  • Problem-solving and creativity skills
  • Time management
  • Personal Character
  • Security Clearance

What Does A Forensic Computer Analyst Do?

Basically, the job of a forensic computer analyst is to use a range of specialized methods and techniques to retrieve and analyze data linked to a range of criminal activity.

  • Network intrusions
  • Hacking
  • Online fraud
  • Political, industrial and commercial espionage
  • Terrorist communication
  • Theft of confidential information

Haven seen the crimes, below are some of the responsibilities and roles of a Forensics Computer Analysts:

  • Conduct investigations on data breach and security incidents.
  • Retrieve and examine data from computers and electronic storage devices.
  • Dismantle and rebuild damaged systems to recover lost data.
  • Identify additional systems/networks compromised by cyber attacks.
  • Compile evidence for legal cases.
  • Draft technical reports, write declarations and prepare evidence for trial.
  • Provide expert counsel to attorneys about electronic evidence in a case.
  • Advise law enforcement on the credibility of acquired data.
  • Provide expert testimony at court proceedings.
  • Train law enforcement officers on computer evidence procedures.
  • Keep abreast of emerging technologies, software, and methodologies
  • Remain proficient in forensic, response, and reverse engineering skills.

Steps A Forensic Computer Analyst Takes While Carrying Out an Investigation

Below is a summary of the steps a Forensics Computer Analysts is most likely going to take while carrying out his or her duties:

  • Firstly, during criminal investigations, an analyst recovers and examines data from computers and other electronic storage devices in order to use the data as evidence in criminal prosecutions.
  • In a situation where the equipment is damaged, the analyst must dismantle and rebuild the system in order to recover lost data.
  • Following data retrieval, the analyst writes up technical reports detailing how the computer evidence was discovered and all of the steps taken during the recovery process.
  • The analyst also testifies before the court regarding the evidence he or she collected.
  • The Analyst keeps current on new methodologies and forensic technology and trains law enforcement officers on proper procedure with regard to computer evidence.

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How Can I Become A Computer Forensic Analyst?

Below are the steps you can follow to become a computer forensic analyst:

  • Earn a degree and/or gain experience in a related field.
  • Get a certification from a certifying body.
  • Apply for an open position as a computer forensics investigator.
  • Complete an interview.
  • Get hired as a computer forensics investigator.
  • Receive training on the job once hired.

Prospective computer forensic analysts should earn a degree in information technology, computer science or any other related field. At the very minimum, a person who wants to pursue a career as a computer forensic analyst should earn at least, an associate’s degree in a field such as computer forensics, criminal justice, forensic computing, or another area of computer majors with a specialization in digital forensics.

However, most places of employment prefer those with a bachelor’s degree in one of these fields. Also, a good understanding of how computers operate is necessary to succeed in this field.

Educational Requirements for Computer Forensic Analysts

Typically, a 4-year degree, such as a Bachelor of Science in Information Technology or Computer Science, is required to begin a career as a computer forensic analyst. In addition, undergraduate studies in accounting and criminal justice can also help prepare analysts for the types of skills and experience they need in the workplace.

As an emerging program, just a few colleges and universities offer computer forensics programs. However, most computer forensic analysts learn advanced investigative techniques on-the-job after obtaining a degree in a related subject.

What Degree Programs Do You Need For Computer Forensics?

A computer forensics degree will help prospective computer forensics professionals gain the skills and knowledge needed to pursue employment in this rapidly changing and competitive field. Below are some of the available degree programs available in computer forensics:

  • Associate Degree in Computer Forensics
  • Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Forensics
  • Masters Degree in Computer Forensics
Associate Degree in Computer Forensics

An associate’s degree program in computer forensics is designed to prepare individuals for entry-level jobs in digital security. The program here covers the criminal justice system, including courtroom procedures and search and seizure regulations, as well as computer networking and security. Also, the curriculum includes internships programs where students work as apprentice computer forensics technicians under direct supervision.

Basically, coursework covers the following:

  • Accounting
  • Criminal law
  • Criminology
  • Computer networking
  • Ethics
  • Introductory criminal justice

Typically, associate’s degree programs in computer forensics last for two years.

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Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Forensics

Students who enroll in a bachelor’s degree program in computer forensics learn the basic skills needed for detecting and preventing digital crime. The program covers the methods and means of information technology management, as well as, digital evidence investigative procedures. Students also explore the latest software tools used for collecting and analyzing computer forensic evidence.

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Basically, bachelors degree in computer forensics program coursework will cover the following:

  • Digital evidence laws
  • Digital forensics research
  • Forensic science history
  • Networking and security
  • Website safety

Bachelor’s degree programs in computer forensics can be completed in 4 to 5 years.

Master’s Degree in Computer Forensics

Master of Science in Computer Forensics degree programs covers advanced techniques to spot, stop and solve cybercrime attacks.

Typically, some computer forensics master’s degree programs are designed for working computer security or forensics professionals who seek higher-paying employment opportunities.

Also, most masters degree programs in computer forensic feature a graduate thesis or research project as a final graduation requirement.

Generally, the program of a master’s degree program in computer forensics covers a few elective requirements and covers the following coursework:

  • Advanced digital evidence collection techniques
  • Digital evidence processing
  • Software vulnerability
  • Theories and methods of investigative analysis
  • Wireless security

A master’s degree in computer forensics can be earned in two years.

Computer Forensic Analysts Certification

Although certification is not an absolute necessity for finding employment, however, most employers prefer candidates who have received certificates from one of several groups. Below are some of the computer Forensic bodies that offer certification:

Global Information Assurance Certification Group – GIAC

Founded in 1999, GIAC validates the skills of information security professionals. The mission of GIAC is to provide assurance to employers that their people and prospective hires can actually do the job. GIAC certifications are trusted by many companies and government agencies, including the United States National Security Agency (NSA). GIAC offers the Certified Forensic Analyst certification to candidates who can pass a 115-question examination. Click on the link below for more certifications by GIAC open to the forensic computer analysts.

International Association of Computer Investigative Specialists (IACIS)

Created in 1989, the International Association of Computer Investigative Specialists is a world leader in digital forensic training and qualification. IACIS certification programs are meticulously designed around a comprehensive set of core forensic principles that attest to entry-level and specialized forensic competency. IACIS awards the Certified Forensic Computer Examiner(CFCE) certification to analysts who pass their examination. For more information on IACIS forensic computer analysts certification.

The International Society of Forensic Computer Examiners (ISFCE)

The International Society of Forensic Computer Examiners (ISFCE) is a private organization dedicated to providing a compelling, internationally recognized and world-class computer forensics certification that is available to anyone who qualifies, for a reasonable cost.

The principal certificate offered by ISFCE is the Certified Computer Examiner (CCE). Basically to get this certification, you will need the board approved training, professional experience and study as well as passing an exam. This certification must be renewed every three years. For more information on this ISFCE certification open to forensic computer analysts, click on the link below.

Furthermore, analysts can also earn Advanced Computer System Security, Computer Forensics or Advanced Computer Forensic certification through Cyber Enforcement Resources Incorporated through passing their examination and showing proof of adequate work experience or training. This certification does not require renewal.

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Job Outlook of Computer Forensic Analysts

The two closest job descriptions closest to that of a computer forensic analyst in the occupational outlook handing of the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, are the computer system analysts and the information security analysts. Therefore, we will be looking into the career outlook of the two.

From the report, the employment of computer systems analysts is projected to grow 9 percent from 2018 to 2028, faster than the average for all occupations. The further adoption of cloud computing by both large and small businesses and the increasing use of IT services in healthcare settings is expected to increase demand for these workers.

On the other hand, the employment of information security analysts is expected to grow 32 percent from 2018 to 2028, much faster than the average for all occupations. This is because these analysts will be needed to create innovative solutions to prevent hackers from stealing critical information or causing problems for computer networks.

From the two career projections above, you will see that the need for a forensic computer analyst will be very high as the world gets computerized and cybercrimes exist.

How much do Computer Forensic Analysts Earn?

From the report of the US BLS, the median annual wage for computer systems analysts was $88,740 in May 2018. In other words, computer analysts earn $42.66 per hour. Meanwhile, the median annual wage for information security analysts is $98,350. That is they earn an hourly wage of $47.28 per hour.

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According to Glassdoor, the national average salary for a Computer Forensic Analyst is $96,629 in the United States.

On the other hand, Payscale reports that forensic computer analysts earn an average annual salary of $72,019. That is they earn an hourly wage of $27.64.

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Where do Computer Forensic Analysts Work?

Generally, computer forensic analysts, examiners, investigators, specialists and other forensic professionals work for law enforcement agencies and computer forensic companies specializing in digital forensic investigations.

Below is a list of workplaces where computer forensic professionals can work:

  • Financial service organizations – such as banks and accountancy firms.
  • Forensic computing companies and consultancies.
  • Government agencies and departments – both national and regional.
  • Government intelligence services – for instance, Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) in the Uk.
  • IT and telecommunications companies.
  • Police forces and law enforcement agencies – such as the National Crime Agency (NCA).
  • The public sector – including the health sector.

Work Schedule of Computer Forensic Analyst

Generally, computer forensics examiners work a typical full-time workweek; working hours range from 35 to 40 per week. However, as an analyst, you will need to be flexible as exact hours will depend on the type of assignment or investigation you are working on.

For instance, the employer may require the forensic computer specialist to be on call and available to work evenings and/or weekends in the event of an emergency.

Also, some organizations require 24/7 cover, with staff working on a call-out rota. This is to allow for fast responses to information and cybersecurity or criminal incidents.

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Computer Forensic Tools

For better research, investigation, and analysis, developers have created many computer forensics tools. Police departments, law enforcement and investigation agencies select the tools based on various factors which includes but not limited to budget and available experts on the team.

Basically, computer forensics tools can also be grouped into various categories:

  • Disk and data capture tools
  • File viewers
  • File analysis tools
  • Registry analysis tools
  • Internet analysis tools
  • Email analysis tools
  • Mobile devices analysis tools
  • Mac OS analysis tools
  • Network forensics tools
  • Database forensics tools

Notwithstanding, here are some popular tools that a computer analyst can use. Do well to click on any of them to know more.

FAQs on the Forensic Computer Analyst

Is Computer Forensics a good career option?

Definitely, a career in computer forensics is a good options. With a positive career projection which is above the average rate for other careers as reported by the US bureau of Labor Statistics and also, the salaries as projected by payscale, Glassgoor and the US BLS, pursuing a career as a computer forensic analyst will not be a bad idea.

How long does it take to earn a computer forensic degree?

Typically, a bachelor degree program in computer forensic will take 4 to 5 years to complete. However, a master’s degree program will take agt most 2 years to complete.

What jobs can I get with a computer forensics degree?

With a degree in computer forensics, you can work as one of the following:

Computer Forensics Investigator.
Computer Forensics Technician.
Information Security Analyst.
Information Systems Security Analyst.
Forensic Computer Analyst.
Security Consultant.

What kind of schedule does a digital forensics specialist work?

Generally, computer forensics examiners work a typical full-time workweek; working hours range from 35 to 40 per week. However, they will need to be flexible as exact hours will depend on the type of assignment or investigation they are working on.

Conclusion

As seen above, computer forensic analysts basically assist law enforcement officers with cyber crimes by retrieving and analyzing evidence. They help to fight cybercrimes by combining their computer science knowledge with their forensic skills to recover information from computers and storage devices.

To become one, you need to earn a degree in forensic science, computer science or any IT related field. Also, getting certification from the appropriate bodies and having the appropriate skillsets will be a plus.

I hope the information above helps in making your decisions.

Good Luck and Success!!!

Reference

  • Study.com – Computer Forensics Analyst: Job Description, Duties, and Requirements
  • InfoSec – Computer Forensics Investigator
  • Criminal Justice Degree Schools – How to Become a Computer Forensics Investigator
  • Graduate Prospects Ltd – Forensic computer analyst job profile
  • US BLS – Occupational Outlook Handbook of Computer Systems Analysts
  • US BLS – Occupational Outlook Handbook of Information Security Analysts
  • Study.com – Degree Programs in Computer Forensics

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