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What Is Computer Forensics?

March 31, 2021 | Staff Writers

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Even though digitalization has been groundbreaking for most individuals and organizations, there is no doubt that technological advancement has come with its shortcomings. We have unarguably found ourselves in the harsh realities of the computer age due to attempts to regulate and control how we conduct ourselves and our businesses online. That said, this regulation is likely because of the increased number of cybercrimes witnessed across the globe. 

To try to tame these activities and prevent massive data breaches and other cybercrimes, law enforcement agencies collaborated with forensic investigators and developed new strategies for conducting appropriate investigations and analysis. 

One way that law enforcement attempts to prevent these crimes and catch the people responsible is through computer forensics. 

So, what is computer forensics? Computer forensics uses investigation and analysis techniques to gather and preserve digital evidence from computing devices in a suitable manner to present to the courts. Forensic investigators typically do computer forensics. 

Computer forensics has increasingly become popular, with more people considering pursuing computer forensics jobs. There are several computer forensics jobs, including the computer forensics analyst, among other related computer forensics professionals.  However, some of these individuals lack the appropriate information on the computer forensics certifications needed to become a computer forensic professional. Well, if you are such an individual, I bet you are in the right place. Keep reading as this page will give you detailed information on:

  1. Education requirements for a computer forensic degree
  2. Benefits of a computer forensics degree 
  3. The typical career path of a computer forensics 
  4. Best programs for computer forensics. 

Educational Requirements for a Computer Forensics Degree

A successful career path for computer forensics professionals begins with experience in computer security or law enforcement. In most cases, it is law enforcement officers with the hope of bolstering their careers who pursue computer forensics programs to become forensics specialists. But, must you have a law enforcement or computer security background to pursue computer forensic programs? If you are a high school graduate looking forward to pursuing a computer forensics career, you need not worry. All you need is a computer forensic degree. Let’s explore this in detail. 

What Coursework Is Included in A Computer Forensics Degree Program? 

The first step to becoming a computer forensics professional is obtaining a computer forensics degree from an accredited higher learning institution. The degree program, especially master’s in security, helps students develop the technical skills and knowledge needed to become computer forensics professionals. Students learn the legal and technical aspects of computer forensics. Here is sample coursework that students are likely to encounter when pursuing their computer forensics degree. 

Introduction to Cybercrime: A computer forensics investigator’s primary responsibility is to investigate and analyze digital evidence about cybercrime-related activities. This course will help train students on digital crime investigation concepts, including identifying, collecting, and preserving digital data. The coursework covers fraud and theft detection. 

Cyber Criminology: As a computer forensics analyst, you will undoubtedly have to work with law enforcers on the criminal justice system to unearth cybercrime. Cyber criminology course trains students on the effective ways of examining cybercrime and how to identify the perpetrators. Students study various aspects of digital crimes, including cyber terrorism, system hacking, and white-collar crimes. 

Malware forensics: The coursework seeks to address issues related to malicious software. As a student, you will learn malware detection and prevention techniques. Other areas covered include timeline construction, infection vectors, and volatile memory. 

The curriculum also entails several other courses, including: 

  • Network security 
  • Mobile forensic analysis 
  • Database design 
  • Compute ethics 
  • Information systems security planning and audit. 
  • Software and hardware forensics 

What Fieldwork or Internships Are Required to Earn a Computer Forensics Degree? 

Like any other university degree program, computer forensics degree students should enroll in various fieldwork and internship opportunities to earn a computer forensics degree. These fieldwork or internship programs are usually undertaken in organizations within the criminal justice setting, especially in courts or law enforcement agencies. Some of the possible internships include: 

  • Cybersecurity and Privacy Intern: As a cybersecurity intern, students will gain knowledge and expertise in ethical hacking, cyber threat monitoring, security code design, privacy, and data protection. 
  • Security Intern: A security intern is another excellent opportunity to help students explore and gain expertise in their future careers as forensics professionals. You will gain expertise in information security monitoring and analysis, vulnerability and exposure management, insider threat and threat intelligence, among others. 
  • Network Intern: As network intern, students gain substantial knowledge on various aspects of network security, including software and hardware securities. 

Interestingly, some of these organizations might send you to fieldwork to gain first-hand experience collecting digital evidence. They are also taught evidence presentation mechanisms to courts. Some law enforcement agencies also subject students to the court process by allowing them to testify against cybercrime criminals. 

Who Should Enroll in an Online Digital Certificate Program in Computer Forensics? 

With increased digitalization, network and system administrators must understand the fundamental aspects of computer forensics. Digital certificate programs help students familiarize themselves with the essential elements of computer forensics. The digital certificate program will most likely land you a job as a computer forensics technician, computer forensics investigator, information security analyst, or security consultant. A computer forensics online digital certificate program is mainly undertaken by law enforcement professionals required to pass the credentialing process.

Benefits of a Computer Forensics Degree 

Computer forensics degree is becoming one of the most sought university degree programs. This is mainly because of the increased demand for computer forensics experts. Why a computer forensics degree? On this page, we explore some of the benefits of earning a computer forensics degree. 

What Can You Do with A Computer Forensics Degree? 

A computer forensics degree opens up several career opportunities, with a considerable potential for career advancement. The computer forensics industry is poised for rapid growth in the next decade, providing opportunities for those who want to enter and grow in the forensics field. Here are some of the hot careers open to computer forensics degree holders. 

  • Computer Forensics Analyst: These computer forensics computer experts are tasked with examining digital information from cybercrime scenes, gather, store and analyze the digital evidence to determine the source of cyber-attacks. With their expertise, they can extract data from destroyed computing devices. They are highly skilled in programming languages, hardware and software, and hacking patterns. 
  • Malware Analyst: The increased number of malware attacks on computing devices has led to increased demand for malware analysts. Malware analysts identify, analyze and report cases of cyber threats. However, with the ever-changing malware code, it is prudent that these specialists be highly skilled and competent in programming languages, dynamic analyses, data recovery, and software development. 
  • Information Security Analyst: Information security analysts are among the highly paid computer forensics experts. Also, the profession is a high-growth career. They develop and implement security measures to help protect computer networks and systems from external attacks. They regularly monitor the organization’s computing network to help detect breaches. 
  • Information Technology Auditor: As a computer forensic investigator, information technology auditors are tasked with organizations’ networking and security systems to help determine security weaknesses. These security weaknesses are ordinarily prone to external attacks. The information technology auditor’s role is to develop effective security measures to protect the security systems. 

Other careers that you might pursue with computer forensics include: 

  • Computer forensics investigator 
  • Security consultant 
  • Mobile forensics expert 
  • Computer crime investigators 
  • Cryptographer 
  • Disaster recovery expert 

Where Can You Work as A Computer Forensics Analyst? 

Computer forensics professionals continue to play a vital role in taming cybercrimes that have become more prevalent. They provide critical services in detecting and preventing external attacks on different organizations’ networking and security systems. If you are a recent computer forensics degree graduate with no idea where you can work, you are in the right place. This page explores some of the sectors where you are likely to land a forensics analyst job. 

  • Law Enforcement Agencies: Law enforcement agencies have been the biggest computer forensics analyst employers for several years. These agencies are mainly tasked with preventing and detecting crime-related cases, including cybercrimes. With this, the agencies have represented the most extensive employment base of the forensics experts. 
  • Financial Services Companies: Financial service companies such as banks and insurance companies own and manage sophisticated data storage systems. This system, if attacked, could lead to dire implications for the companies. To help prevent external attacks by cyber criminals, these organizations employ computer forensics analysts in droves. The role of the cybersecurity experts will be to develop and implement data security strategies. They will be responsible for monitoring the network and security systems to help detect breaches. 
  • Information Technology Companies: Techno companies are always at the receiving end of cyber-attacks. To effectively mitigate cybersecurity threats, the techno companies seek experienced computer forensics analysts, especially those with good command of programming language, data security, network security, software development, to help develop software with complex security features for their clients. 

Why Is a Computer Forensics Degree Important? 

An average law enforcement agent may not be well-conversant with the technological trends. The digital worlds need agents with high levels of skills and knowledge to solve cybercrime puzzles that affect our lives today. Computer forensics degrees offered in accredited learning institutions are considered the stepping stone to a computer forensics career path. Pursuing this degree program enables you to learn and develop the technical and legal skills needed to work as a forensic professional. 

To become a computer forensics expert, you will need proficient knowledge of cybercriminals, cyberattacks, and the possible driving factors that lead to digital attacks. Computer forensics degree programs help train students on these cybercrime aspects. A forensics expert always needs to go beyond the common knowledge on computers and software. This degree program gives you a deeper understanding of the computer system, including programming and networking knowledge. 

Typical Career Path of a Computer Forensics Specialist 

Typically, a computer forensics specialist’s career path begins by earning a computer forensics degree from an accredited institution of higher learning. Why do we emphasize accredited institutions? Several other smaller colleges might lure students into pursuing computer forensics degree programs without having the credentials to do so. 

Degrees from college without the proper credentials are always null and void, and your personal credentials might be revoked. Recent computer forensics specialists might start their careers at lower levels, preferably as law enforcement officers. However, with the right combination of computer forensics certificate programs, you might bolster your career to advance levels, depending on your education levels. 

Who Hires Computer Forensics Investigators? 

Computer forensics investigators are specially trained computer forensics experts who have worked in various agencies to help retrieve digital evidence and other related information from computer devices. After retrieving the data, these computer forensics professionals prepare a detailed report on how the digital evidence was discovered and the retrieval process. Law enforcement agents always use the recovered information as evidence in criminal prosecutions. 

Even though a computer forensics investigator is a newer career path, the profession is expected to grow with the technological advancement and increased cybercrime cases. The career leads to high-paying jobs in various sectors. Here are some of the organizations that are likely to hire computer forensics Investigators. 

  • Federal Bureau of Investigation: This is the leading employer of computer forensics investigators. The FBI is mandated to prevent and investigate multiple crimes, including fraud cases. Computer forensics investigators always help this agency retrieve information destroyed in computing devices used to commit a crime. 
  • Central Intelligence Agency: As the FBI, the CIA’s central role in the prevention and investigation of criminal-related activities, mostly acts of terrorism. With the advancement in technology, terrorists have digitized their criminal activities. The CIA uses the expertise of computer forensics investigators to retrieve information from destroyed devices. 
  • Banking institutions: Banking institutions are generally among the most targeted financial institutions by cybercrime criminals. According to a survey, banks usually report cases of data and security breaches at least three times a year. In case of infringements, primarily due to malware attacks, banking institutions typically seek computer forensics services to determine the cause of the malware, the extent of damage, and how to prevent future episodes. 

Other organizations that are likely to higher computer forensics investigators include: 

  • Information and technology companies 
  • Insurance companies 
  • Organizations with complex data systems. 

How Do You Become a Computer Forensics Specialist? 

A bachelor’s degree in computer forensics or a related field is the first requirement to become a computer forensics specialist. After graduation, you will likely begin your career in forensics-related areas such as law enforcement. After several years of experience, you may advance your career to higher levels, including becoming a computer forensics specialist. But this is just the tip of the iceberg. Here are the steps leading you to a career as a computer forensics specialist. 

  • Earn Your Computer Forensics Degree: The degree provides you with a foundation in cybercrime, computer use, and the techniques of detecting and preventing cybercrime. The degree program will take approximately four years. 
  • Obtain Computer Forensics Specialist Certification: Certifications are essential to ensure you grasp legal and ethical issues related to computer forensics. There are several certifications, including certified forensic computer examiner (CFCE), Global Information Assurance Certification (GIAC), and Certified computer examiner (CCE). 
  • Job Search: You are likely to land a job in law enforcement agencies or other private organizations such as banks and law firms. Some of the skills needed to land a job include communication, problem-solving, and analytical thinking in addition to computer forensics knowledge. 
  • Advance in your career: Improved professional experience and knowledge in computer forensics will undoubtedly help advance your career. You might land senior positions, with increased remuneration. Or, you may choose to go back to school to pursue an advanced degree.

What Are Some of the Entry-Level Positions for Computer Forensics Specialists? 

Fresh computer forensics technicians are exposed to several entry-level job opportunities in law enforcement agencies, law firms, financial institutions, and other private sector organizations. If you are considering pursuing a career in computer forensics, here is a list of some of the common entry-level positions that might interest you. 

  • Computer forensics technician 
  • Forensic examiner 
  • Forensic scientist 
  • Forensic nurse 
  • Junior data analyst 
  • Junior Forensics analysts 
  • Incident Investigator

Best Programs for Computer Forensics 

In computer forensics, digital evidence exists on several platforms and in different forms. With this, the forensic investigation might take various forms, including the analysis of networks, emails, digital files, to determine the potential causes of a cyberattack and its impact on the organization. Due to these varied forms, it is always essential to choose a computer forensics program that considers almost all computer forensics aspects. But which are the programs for computer forensics that accounts for all these aspects? We made it easier for you. 

Which Are the Best Online Schools for Computer Forensics? 

Many people prefer online schooling for various reasons. If you’re looking for the best online programs for computer forensics from reputable colleges in universities, look no further. These schools have some of the best programs out there. 

Champlain College, Burlington, VT

Champlain college began in 1878 as Burlington Collegiate Institute and Commercial College but was later renamed in 1958 to Champlain College. Unlike most public colleges, the college has slightly over 2000 students, leading to increased student-faculty interaction. Data collected from various labor reports shows that you are likely to get your entry-level job within six months after graduating from school. The college requires students to complete 30 credits in the course to complete the computer forensics program. Ideal applicants for the program need to submit educational transcripts and resumes. 

The University of Central Florida, Orlando, FL 

The University of Central Florida was started in 1963 primarily as a research institution. The college attracts a massive number of students, with the university awarding over 16,000 degrees annually. The school is ranked as the 16th most innovative learning institution in the country and offers forensic science programs that emphasize cybersecurity, where students learn some of the technical and legal skills to become computer forensics investigators. Like most school’s coursework include 30 credits, with the coursework categorized into criminal justice, computing and technology, and legal studies. Applicants must submit original transcripts and their resumes.

Robert Morris University, Moon Township, PA 

Robert Morris University began as Pittsburgh School of Accountancy in 1921. Currently, the school offers over 70-degree programs. A graduate student will likely enter the workforce within 12 months after completing your degree program from various surveys. The college offers a masters of science in cybersecurity and information assurance, which equips prospective students with the right knowledge and skills needed to pursue a computer forensics career. The school offers 30 credits in computer forensic coursework. Some of the related courses include network technology, information technology governance, and microcomputing technology. 

University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ

The University of Arizona, which began in 1885, currently awards over 10,000 degrees annually. The university is highly ranked among the top national universities and the top public schools in the country. It offers an online master of science in cybersecurity. The degree program allows students to learn cybercrime issues related to governments, companies, and even individual security systems. The programs require students to complete 33 credit courses before completing the master’s degree course. 

Other highly ranked schools offering computer degree programs include: 

What Do the Best Programs for Computer Forensics Have in Common? 

Computer forensics degree programs offer a solid foundation to the fundamentals of forensics science and other related fields. Despite the programs being offered in different institutions, the best computer forensics programs have some common aspects. Some of the common elements include:  

  • Development of Technical and Legal Skills: Computer forensics programs, through various courses, enables students to learn and develop technical and legal skills, including software development skills, programming crime investigation, and critical thinking. 
  • Specialization: The best computer forensics programs allow you to specialize in a field of your choice, especially areas that best fit your career goals. Some of the programs offer an additional course, such as associate degree programs. 
  • Wide Range of Careers: The best programs help prepare students for a wide range of careers, including law enforcement agents, computer forensics investigators, and computer forensic analysts. With a master’s degree in forensic science, you might consider pursuing a cybersecurity consultant profession. 

Where Are the Best Programs for Computer Forensics? 

Are you having problems identifying some of the institutions that offer the best programs for computer forensics? You don’t need to scratch your head. We got you covered. If you are interested in colleges and universities that go beyond the online option, here are some of the schools with the best programs for computer forensics:

  • Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA: Carnegie Mellon University was founded as a technical school. To date, the school still offers technology programs, including computer forensics. The schools provide cyber forensics and incident response programs that prepare students to take up roles in the computer forensics field. 
  • Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD: The university is highly ranked for offering some of the best degree programs, including forensic science. The computer program provides a wide range of courses including data security, cryptography, and network security. 
  • Boston University, Boston, MA: The university is a world-class university offering several programs, including degrees in computer forensics. Students will study information technology, cryptographic methods, network security, and software development under the program. 

Final Words 

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, computer forensics professions are rapidly growing careers due to the increased demand for forensics experts. Technological innovations have significantly changed the way organizations operate and conduct their business. To remain competitive in the industry and ensure efficiency, most of these companies have digitized their operations. However, digitalization has its shortcomings. One of the harsh realities that currently faces organizations is the increased cybercrime incidents. 

Cybercrime-related activities had devastating implications on companies’ data and security systems, which has led to the increased demand for computer forensics professionals to help identify and prevent system breaches. The computer forensics field is a broad field that exposes experts to several careers. Some of the most common occupations include computer forensics analysts, computer forensics investigators, malware analysts, and other law enforcement agents working within the criminal justice system. 

To pursue a career in computer forensics, you must first obtain a degree in computer forensics. Computer forensics degree programs are essential as they help you learn some of the skills needed to pursue a computer forensics career. The degree program also helps train and prepare you on computer forensic techniques such as data analysis, cybercrime detection and investigation, collection, storage, and digital evidence presentation. It would be best to have computer forensics certifications to familiarize yourself with the various ethical and legal issues surrounding the field. In case you were having doubts about the importance of computer forensic programs, we hope the provided information will help clear your doubts.

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