A computer forensics analyst sounds like a job out of a TV crime show, but is the real-life career as exciting as it sounds? What does a forensic analyst do in the real world, and is it the right career path for you?
Let’s explore the definition of “computer forensics,” and how to get a job analyzing it.
What Is Computer Forensics?
If regular forensics involves checking crime scenes for evidence, computer forensics takes this skill into the digital world. With cybercrime on the rise, businesses and individuals turn to computer forensics analysts to keep their data safe.
A computer forensics analyst specializes in cybercrime. They know how criminals can access systems and what they do with the contents within.
As such, they can play one of two roles; first, they can act as an advisor for clients concerned about their security. Second, they can investigate the damage done after a hacker successfully enters a system and find the culprit.
Because of their ability to do their job either before or after a hack occurs, computer forensics analysts find themselves in different workplaces. They may work with clients to prevent an attack, or with the law to analyze an attack that previously occurred.
Some employers will also use the term “computer forensics investigator” for this job. There’s no difference between an analyst and an investigator, so be sure to search for both terms when researching.
What Does a Computer Forensics Analyst Do?
The role of the analyst depends on what they’ve been hired to do. If the analyst were brought in to stop hackers, they’d check the system for any weak spots. They’ll check for flaws from external attacks (hackers) and internal agents (espionage and theft). They’ll inform the client about their investigation, and tell them how to fix the problems they found.
If the analyst is working with the law to investigate crimes, they’ll use their knowledge to piece together a story. As UCAS states, the analyst may recover deleted files, go through phone logs, and find evidence that someone has doctored an image that’s crucial for the case.
Once the analyst has found evidence, they then type up their findings in a report. They may even appear in a court of law to present testimony for the judge!
Whichever path the analyst takes, they require the same skillset. They need in-depth knowledge of how a criminal works, and the methods they use to get into a system.
What Are Computer Forensics Salaries Like?
According to PayScale, computer forensics jobs pay between $48k-$116k. This figure is before taxes or bonuses, but it gives a good idea of what to expect. While a starting analyst won’t strike riches from day 1, it’s a career that can grow to become a great way to make a living.
How Do You Become a Computer Forensics Analyst?
To become a computer forensics analyst, it’s worth having a degree under your belt. Criminal Justice Degree Schools say that keen future analysts should get a Bachelor’s degree in computer forensics. A degree will give you a foot in the door when applying to companies.
Study says you can also get a Computer Science degree with a criminal justice background. As such, if you can’t find a university near you that teaches cyber forensics, try Computer Science instead. Computer Science is a core subject in IT academia, so you’ll have better luck finding courses teaching it than cyber forensics.
You can also try climbing the job ladder to reach the analyst role. The National Careers Service for the UK recommends beginning as an IT support technician. From there, you can put in the years and go up the ladder until you finally land yourself in a forensics job.
Is a Computer Forensics Analyst Career Right for You?
If you’re interested in this career, you should have a deep passion for cybersecurity and digital forensics. You want to learn how criminals break into systems, and how to defend against them.
A good analyst will know how to recover after an attack. They’ll know that a deleted file can linger on a file system, and how drives never securely erase data unless cleaned by a third-party tool. They’ll know how to check system logs to find unauthorized entry and find how the hacker got in.
To be an efficient forensic computer analyst, you need to “be a thief to catch a thief.” You’ll need to learn hacking techniques so that you can advise companies on how to defend themselves properly. Your expertise could make or break catching a criminal, so you’ll have to be confident in your abilities!
Fortunately, there are legal ways you can test your hacking skills. If you want to learn more, try a website that you can hack legally and take on their challenges.
Where To Learn More About Cyber Forensics
If you made it to this point and you’re eager to become a computer forensics analyst, why not take the first step? These days, you can download resources and attend online courses to see if a career is right for you. These will teach you what computer forensics is, and what would be expected of you as an analyst.
For one, there’s the Guide to Computer Forensics and Investigations textbook. While it’s quite expensive, it’s the best way to learn more about the career and what’s needed. Unlike a full course, you can take it at your own pace with zero commitment.
If you want to commit a little more, you can try looking for local colleges and universities that offer a course. If you’re not sure you can invest the time, try Udemy online courses. You can do Udemy courses in your spare time, and each course awards you a certificate that proves you completed it.
The Computer Forensics Fundamentals course is an affordable and quick way of learning the basics. Once you graduate from that, you can step up your game with the Digital Forensic Series: Computer Forensics course, which contains over 13 hours of video content at the time of writing!
Finding the Right Tech Job for You
The world of tech jobs is vast, and with it comes a variety of different roles. Digital forensics jobs are one such niche and require in-depth knowledge of how hackers operate. If this sounds exciting, try a course or a textbook and see how it fits you.
If you’re looking for an IT job but don’t know your C# from your Java, why not try the tech jobs you can get that doesn’t require coding?