The computer forensics industry is slated to be among the fastest growing industries over the coming decade. With so many households using computers today, the need for computer forensics is growing exponentially, for just about every reason you could think of. And many reasons you may not think of. Crimes include identity theft, fraud, child pornography, computer hacking and many more.
As stated, although you may have guessed the fields listed above, there are computer forensics fields that you may not have guessed either. Computer forensics is indeed not isolated to online crimes. Many instances involve the use of computer forensics to solve violent crimes such as homicides, rapes, kidnapping and even assault and stalking. Forensics examiners use computer, cell phones and other electronic device analysis containing evidence of crimes, suspects and their victims. So it comes as no doubt that with the increase in both computer-related and non-related crimes, the demand for computer forensics specialists in a number law enforcement capacities, as well as private consulting agencies, has skyrocketed, and is expected to continue.
What is Computer Forensics?
The definition of computer forensics is the gathering of digital evidence, pieces of information from computers and other personal electronic devices, including computers, laptops, cell phones, etc. This gathering of evidence many times involves searching for files, emails, calls or other correspondences, pictures or video, internet search history or many other types of data. This information may then be used as evidence for anything from locating suspects to providing evidence toward a criminal prosecution in a court of law.
What is Cyber Crime, Exactly?
Unfortunately, much of the work done today in the computer forensics labs of America’s law enforcement agencies is child pornography and exploitation. However, these agencies work harder each year, learning more about how to find the evidence needed to convict these criminals, as well as how to find additional suspects through new forensics methods.
Additional common crimes include identify theft and online fraud, especially with the rise of online commerce and companies such as eBay, Amazon and Overstock.com. Intellectual property theft is also a growing problem, however many foreign and developing countries struggle with this more than the US. unfortunately, as business becomes more international each year, American companies fall victim to intellectual property theft from countries such as China more and more. This then becomes an international matter, for federal agencies such as the CIA and the State Department.
What are some Career Options?
To put it quite simply, the most common areas to find computer forensics specialists are with local and state police, FBI, CIA and various consulting agencies. This brings about two main areas of practice: law enforcement and private forensic consulting agencies.
Although starting mostly with government and military cases, digital data began to be used for evidence more and more in the 1970s and 80s. Computer-related crimes have increased exponentially over the past decades, and law enforcement agencies have added forensics to just about every office in the nation. Most local and state police departments hire professionals ‘in house’ dedicated solely to computer forensic. The leader, however, is the FBI. The Computer Analysis and Response Team (C.A.R.T.) is tied to every law enforcement agency in the country, as they are the only one with jurisdiction between state lines. As computers and internet lines know no state boundaries, the FBI is in a leadership position to find and prosecute these criminals.
Private Consulting Agencies
Consulting agencies work mostly with corporations and business, however they work for individuals as well. Many of these investigations involve intellectual property theft, sexual harassment, corporate fraud and misuse of investor funds. These agencies can also be hired much like private investigators, to track anything from theft to embezzlement to adultery.
This is merely an overview of the types of investigations one would find with computer forensics careers. A degree in computer forensics or a closely related field such as computer science, information security or information technology is helpful, but not always necessary, depending on who your future employer is.