What is a Computer Forensics Investigator?

A computer forensics investigator might also be known as a forensic analyst. A person in this position is specially trained to retrieve data from electronic devices. While the career specifically names computers, any devices from phones to tablets and smart watches can be analyzed for data retrieval.

Specific Job Description

Most often, the analyst or investigator works for law enforcement, but can work for private firms too. The investigator digs through the electronic device for information that can be used by detectives when a crime has occurred. When investigating crimes, the computer has to be examined without losing any of the data. This can take hours of detailed analysis. The investigator might be hired to test the security of law enforcement’s information systems against hackers and viruses.

Job Duties

Almost everyone has a smart phone or computer, and it’s a device that records every step we take. From the trip to the corner store to the email that was sent detailing a criminal enterprise, a computer is a wealth of information that can be used in criminal investigations. The computer investigator has to recover that data to be used by the detectives investigating the crime. Data retrieval can be difficult if the device was damaged or the criminal tried to destroy it. There might be viruses and encryption that can make the task more detailed and intricate. After retrieving evidence, the investigator hands the data over to the detectives, but this person’s job doesn’t end there. The investigator will have to testify in court regarding the exact method of retrieval to help with the prosecution’s case.

Education and Certifications

The exact degree program that a student would take in school will depend on what focus they’d like to have as a computer investigator. Whether it’s technology, security systems, computer administration or development of applications, the student can benefit from a background in technology, but further specialized training is required. The student has to be prepared to be certified as an IACRB Certified Computer Forensics Examiner, a Certified Cyber Forensics Professional or a Mobile Forensics Examiner.

Training on the Job

While the investigator will receive their education in the form of a degree plus a certification in their chosen field, there is always the need for on-the-job training. Every law enforcement agency has their procedures for investigation and data collection, which have to be followed by law. That differs from the internal computer investigations that might occur in a private company. International security firms also have their own procedures that a new investigator will have to follow. Most positions allow for training when the new investigator is hired.

Salary and Job Outlook

The median pay for an information security analyst is approximately $92,000 annually, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The number of jobs in the year 2014 was 82,900 with an expected growth of 18 percent. The job requires a bachelor’s degree and a minimum amount of experience in the field. One of the most important parts of the job is education. This is a job that requires continuing education to ensure that the investigator learns about new advances in technology.

Related Resource: What is a Computer Systems Analyst?

The computer forensic investigator is a growing field that will have plenty of jobs in the future. If you have a passion for technology and want to uncover data from computers, smart phones and other devices, this is a career that can be very satisfying. This is especially true when the investigator’s contribution puts a criminal behind bars.