Computer Forensics is a field that continues to grow in record numbers year after year. As computer technology becomes ever more ubiquitous, the effectiveness and relevance of this specialization becomes more useful in criminal cases. Common crimes that are investigated using computer forensics are: identity theft, online fraud, embezzlement, child pornography, and hacker activity. The amount of identity theft, unethical activity, and embezzlement going on in the white color business world becomes more sophisticated, which makes this particular aspect of computer forensics more relevant in today's world.
So, lets back up a step and give you a basic definition of what computer forensics is all about. Computer Forensics analysts gather digital evidence that can be used in a court of law. They spend their time gathering particular incriminating evidence from computers, and other devices such as PDA's and cell phones. Individuals in this career may have different sub specialties, but the end goal is usually the same and that is to gather evidence to support a case.
Typical Duties for Computer Forensics Analysts
On a typical day, you may spend time searching through files, looking for keywords or dates of interest where activity relating to the alleged crime may have occurred. You may also need to search through Internet history files to find out For example, if you are looking for evidence of the consumption of child pornography, you may need to search through historical data on their Internet usage, including deleted pictures, files, or emails that may include incriminating evidence. If you find that they have been visiting known sites that convey this material, it can be used in your official finds or downloaded to a disk for evidence in a court of law.
Child pornography is just one of many uses of Computer Forensic Analysts. Law enforcement agencies need to have these tech savvy, specially trained individuals on staff in order to find evidence of other cyber crimes as well. You may spend a day investigating a ring of identity theft victims who have fallen victim through phishing scams or other related attempts to gain sensitive bank account information. Some of these operations may have several people involved in identity theft rings. Tracing IP addresses, which provides locations where a computer being used in the scam is a common practice. This information can then be passed to the law enforcement officers in the field to obtain a warrant and confiscate computers at a particular residence or place of business. Computer Forensics is also used broadly in violent crimes and homicide cases where emails or files on a computer can be used to incriminate a suspect.
Employment & Career Options
Most individuals work in either a law enforcement office such as a local police department or the FBI. Another option is to find employment with a private computer forensics agency. The FBI has a team named CART, which stands for Computer Analysis and Response Team, which has a primary function of computer forensics tasks related to large national level cases. It is common in these types of cases for a suspect and a victim to stay in other states, due to the nature of the Internet. It is for this reason that the FBI agencies work closely with local law enforcement offices in an effort to resolve cases and gather evidence.
Others may choose to work in private firms, which are often contracted with to monitor criminal activity that may be going on inside a large corporation. Common examples of crimes investigated in large companies range from embezzlement to sexual harassment cases. Where there is a will to commit crime through the use of computer technology, there is a need for a trained computer forensics analyst to solve the crime.