Digital Forensics Specialist
What is a Digital Forensics Investigator?
Forensics Experts in cybersecurity go by many titles, including Forensics Engineer, Forensics Analyst, Incident Response Analyst and IT Forensics Expert.
Whatever title they have, these cybersecurity pros are investigators who work with all things digital. As such, they can assist law officers in cases where evidence from a crime is partly or totally digital. They will retrieve data, analyse it carefully – according to the scientific methods for forensics – and produce a detailed report with their findings. Besides, Forensics Experts can help advise or train law enforcers and other staff to better understand digital evidence.
These pros can work for the public or the private sectors and their duties vary a bit, depending on whom they work for. When necessary, they also testify in court as a specialist to help clarify the weight and importance of the uncovered evidence.
Are you considering a career in Digital Forensics? Or are you an employer who wants to know if this is the cyber pro you need to hire? Read more to find out.
Digital Forensics Analysts or Investigators have very specific, but versatile duties. This position isn’t the typical cybersecurity job in the sense that is not so much about prevention, but more focused on the aftermath of cyberattacks. This does not mean that forensics is not part of the security framework – because it is – but the main focus is an investigative, historical angle on what happened. It’s more about what is traditionally considered analysis (past) and not so much analytics (future predictions). Suffice to say here that any good cybersecurity strategy must include forensic measures to prevent attacks and also to know how to deal with them in case your business is targeted.
Digital forensics specialists assist legal authorities with investigations that involve electronic evidence. They follow a scientific process to retrieve, classify, analyse and report on the data and how it provides evidence to a cyber offense. They warrant that digital data is thoroughly assessed and deemed sound to be used as evidence in a court of law. To achieve this, Forensics Investigators must duplicate and hash the original datasets (imaging), keep a log of who accesses the data, follow a chain of custody, analyse the data and extract valuable information and insights relevant to the case while being extremely impartial, they should try to replicate the achieved results or give instructions on how to reproduce their findings for future investigators or case reviews, and they also have to present reports to legal authorities.
As you can expect from their duties and responsibilities, Forensics Security Experts must possess a versatile skill set. It’s essential to have knowledge about security, legal and forensic procedures, have proficiency in multiple opensource and corporate forensic tools (ProDiscover Forensics, CAINE, WinFe, FTK, DEFT Linux, Kali Linux, etc.), knowledge of anti-forensic techniques used by cybercriminals, know how to reverse engineer, monitor the dark web, auditing, pentesting and hacking practices, log analysis, threat intelligence, malware analysis, etc.
As for soft skills, they are the same as for any other cybersecurity pro, with a big emphasis on great writing and communication skills. Forensics Experts often will have to present reports and explain their findings to people who are not necessarily knowledgeable in security and forensics, but who need to thoroughly understand what’s at stake given the analysis of the digital evidence.
An academic background for forensics positions is advised and, depending on where you (want to) work, clearance tests might also be required. As usual, a bachelors and/or masters in IT, Cybersecurity and other related fields are relevant. Since forensics is also a highly specialized area, degrees in Digital/Computer Forensics or with a Law component are the best bet.
Some of the existent certifications in the field are CFCE (Certified Forensic Computer Examiner), CCE (Certified Computer Examiner), GCFA (GIAC Certified Forensic Analyst), GCFE (GIAC Certified Forensic Examiner), GNFA (GIAC Network Forensic Analyst).
According to gehalt.de, a Security/IT Forensics Expert can expect an average annual revenue of ca. €78,000, and sometimes more than €100,000 (query: Digital Forensics / Digitale Forensik).
Do you need a Forensics Expert?
When should you hire a Forensic Analyst? Well, it depends a lot on the size, scope and type/sector of your organization and what sensitive data from employees, customers and third parties is stored.
That said, the public sector, including government and law enforcement are usually required to have forensics specialists given the criminal investigations that frequently occur.
As for corporate/private environments, it’s usually the big corporations that need to hire a couple of forensic specialists to help with incidence response, backtracking offenders and assist with possible court cases.
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This is a straightforward guide made to help employers and cybersecurity professionals to find each other, providing them with current standard terminology and descriptions. It is by no means exhaustive.
While there is some discussion in cybersecurity about job titles and functions, we use the terms in their broadest sense, focusing on what can be put in a job description to make it more accurate and easy to understand.
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