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Career Story: Computer Forensics Expert

Computer Forensics Expert

Job Title: Computer Forensic Analyst

Type of Company: Federal government IT security and forensic analysis contract support.

Education: High School Degree

Previous Experience: Detective Sergeant with the Washington State Patrol.

Job Tasks: I'm a senior manager in charge of the forensic computer programs for several federal projects. But in addition to being responsible for their day-to-day management, I lend my energies and expertise to the quest for new contracts and new business.

With current national security concerns and the increase in security-related incidents such as fraud, corporate espionage, and the theft of proprietary information of all kinds, computer forensics has become an important and burgeoning field. Our forensics specialists help to minimize and prosecute computer-based crime, offering a long list of services, including electronic data recovery, evidence collection and analysis, and expert witness testimony.

We work with our clients to ensure that industry-best practices are used in the collection, preservation, and tracking of electronic evidence; that lost data is recovered; that the evidence we collect will stand up to judicial scrutiny; and that the results of our analyses are accurate and thorough. We present complex issues in ways that are easily understood in a courtroom.

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: Best part of my job is the actual forensic analysis. Supporting criminal investigations and going through computers, recovering deleted, hidden and encrypted files that support the investigation is very rewarding. Sending bad guys to jail feels really good.

But this is not a job for everyone. Finding the needle in a haystack, putting puzzles together the way we do takes a lot of time and energy. And for some people (though not me) sitting in front of a computer monitor, sifting through thousands of e-mails, documents, spreadsheets, databases and images is a real turn-off.

Job Tips:
1.) Law enforcement offers a fast-track to this type of work. You usually have to be a regular street officer for several years before getting into a specialty like this, but the training and the work can be worth it.

2.) Some colleges offer BA's or Masters in Computer Forensics or Computer Security. If you don't want to go through the law enforcement steps, this would be a great way to get a leg-up.

Additional Thoughts: Computer forensics is a tough field to break into. We have hired interns, though, who've worked in our offices as level 1 analysts. It is important to note, however, that there's a big difference between computer forensics and network security. They're fields with different skill-sets, but both are growing rapidly. Computers are everywhere and companies and government bodies need more and more people to support their computer systems and investigations.

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