How To Become a Digital Forensic Analyst ? Career Overview (USA 2021)

The idea of data forensics was born in the 1970s, with the first known data crime occurring in Florida in 1978, when deleting files to conceal evidence was made illegal.

During the twentieth century, the FBI formed the Computer Analysis and Response Team, which was quickly followed by creating the British Fraud Squad.

Because of these organizations’ small scale at the start, civilians were called in to help with inquiries.

In reality, it’s fair to say that computer hobbyists helped government agencies create software tools for investigating data-related crimes in the 1980s and 1990s, which allowed the profession to gain momentum- thereby, the need for forensic analysts was deemed worthy!

In 1993, the FBI Academy in Virginia hosted the first conference on digital evidence; it was a significant success, with over 25 countries in attendance.

It ended with an agreement that digital proof was valid and that laws governing investigative procedures should be drafted. 

Until now, no federal legislation governing data forensics had been enacted, which cast doubt on its validity.

The final part of the timeline took place in the 2000s when the sector exploded in size. During this period, the advancements in home computing enabled the internet to play a more significant role in illegal activity and more efficient software to assist and fight unlawful activity.

Digital Forensic Analyst: The Need of the Hour

Forensic data analysis, which is a subset of digital forensics, analyses structured data and often employs statistical modeling to discover fraudulent activities.

This distinction distinguishes forensic data analysis from other types of forensic analysis that receive from communications equipment and office applications.

The keyword here is structured data, which refers to data contained inside computer application systems and their embedded databases.

Forensic Data Analysis v/s Digital Forensics

Simply put, digital forensics is a catch-all word for a range of forensic services aimed at detecting fraudulent behaviour on digital systems and storage devices.

In other words, forensic data analysis, electronic forensics, and other forensic resources related to communications systems are all used in digital forensics.

The way this works varies depending on the type of data being analyzed. Unstructured data refers to information obtained from computer systems, networked communications, and cell phones, among other sources.

Unstructured data lacks a top-level framework to adhere to and is thus stochastic. Blackhawk’s Digital Forensics is in charge of this.

The forensics team focuses on data obtained from physical media such as hard drives, memory sticks, and CDs, among other storage devices, in the case of forensic data analysis.

We look at how data is processed and accessed in different areas of the hard drive. The way a storage device is formatted for a specific operating system results in a ‘structured data’ format on these media.

The Techniques Involved:

Investigations into financial fraud often led to the study of structured data. Rather than the system or the program itself, the aim is to analyze and detect patterns of fraudulent behavior within the data contained in the system.

Given the vast amounts of data that can be involved – ranging from gigabytes to terabytes – detecting any crime would necessitate a meticulous approach carried out by professionals with years of experience.

Steps to identifying fraud using data analysis

Exploratory data analysis techniques – generally, statistical techniques that look at the characteristics of large data sets, often presented using visual techniques from which patterns of behavior can be detected more efficiently – are often used by our investigators to begin these tasks.

The actual recovery of data from the system in question is a crucial stage of the procedure (which can be a hard drive, memory stick, or other storage devices). It is also possible to recover data that has been lost or deleted.

The next step is to generate queries, process the responses, and review patterns once a usable data set has been retrieved. It’s also popular to come up with theories using exploratory data analysis methods.

The aim is to create a simulation of who the offenders are and how their actions could have aided them in achieving personal benefit.

Every piece of the data is examined, and if no proof is discovered- the theory is abandoned in favour of a new one, and the process begins all over again.

The investigators’ expertise is crucial in this regard; they are hands-on experts with an established track record who are familiar with the patterns of behavior used by fraudsters to achieve their objectives.

The iterative processes involved in forensic data processing can be time-consuming, and if left in the hands of people who lack expertise, they can be very costly.

As a result, the team of forensic investigation specialists mainly consists of engineers and forensic scientists who excel at conducting technological steps, who understand the investigated company’s procedures and internal controls, and who are familiar with fraudulent behavior trends.

Their Contribution: The method of detecting fraudulent behavior in a company data often reveals details about the insecurity of the systems and processes that store the sensitive data.

If the data has been thoroughly explored and the implications of its conclusions understood, the forensic data review process can help an organization understand where the security of its systems and methods can be strengthened.

Companies can switch from a reactive risk reduction environment to a proactive one using the analytics processes used in forensic data analysis, where lessons gained, and information from advanced analytics tools can help strengthen systems, process security, and enforcement.

The following are a heads up taking a more constructive approach to ongoing data analysis:

  • Increasing the accuracy of corporate risk assessments
  • Increasing the pace at which fraud is detected by better training and knowledge
  • Detection of fraud and risk areas in large data sets is more likely.
  • Responding more quickly to fraud inquiries
  • Internal corrective actions are becoming a part of a broader change mechanism.
  • Meeting regulatory and enforcement requirements.

Furthermore, advances in machine learning algorithms and artificial intelligence (AI) in fraud detection applications, procedures, and specialists are making it more feasible for businesses to invest in and incorporate what was once a reactive, damage-limitation exercise into a continuous proactive method of risk reduction and enhancement.

Skills Required For Digital Forensic Analyst:

Have you ever met a technical person who works in criminal justice? A digital forensic investigator is the ideal combination of these skills. Since several pieces of evidence associated with cybercrime can be found on computers, a digital forensic investigator is also known as a data forensic investigator.

To keep up with the ever-changing industry, anyone interested in a career in digital forensics must possess a collection of technical and functional skills.

To work as a digital forensic investigator, you’ll need the following skills:

 Technical Skills

A digital forensics profession is technology-focused, as the name implies. Basic technological skills required of those employed in digital forensics include a thorough understanding of how digital devices function, technical principles, networking, and computer system expertise.

This role involves working on a variety of technological platforms, such as computers, cell phones, IoT cameras, and so on.

Remember that you can only detect and react to security breaches and network hacks if you have solid technical knowledge. The following are the professional skills that a digital forensic investigator can learn:

(a) Digital understanding: To work as a cyber-forensic expert, you must be able to work with a variety of digital devices.

You may need to communicate with different endpoints such as a cell phone, printer, IoT, USB, external hard disc, iPad, notepad, digital camera, and projector while investigating a cyberattack and gathering information.

As a result, having a thorough understanding of digital devices and endpoint instruments will assist you in gaining access to them on your own terms.

(b) Communication and Networking: Computer networking, LAN, and server expertise are essential skills for forensic investigators.

As an investigator, you should be concerned about networking principles and communication skills because the investigation will not be limited to a single device but will look at any system connected to the LAN.

As a result of this, you should be able to access the served as well as the entire LAN without relying on IT professionals. Another recent field that a forensic investigator should investigate is digital storage and cloud databases.

(c) Understanding of the operating system: You can’t get away from the operating system of the machine you’re investigating when it comes to cybercrime.

Windows, Linux, and Unix are only a handful of the operating systems you should be familiar with. The majority of servers and databases run on the Linux operating system, and you should be able to access them as a forensic investigator.

You may be required to perform investigations on smartphones and other endpoint devices as a forensic investigator.

Smartphones typically run Android or Windows, but other endpoint devices can run a different operating system, which you should be able to operate with.

Ability to Analyze

To consider a career in digital forensics, you’ll need an advanced level of analytical ability to analyze facts, observe cyber-crime trends and cyberattacks, and interpret cyber data to solve the case.

To carefully sort, uncover, and analyze digital data, a high pace of critical thought and precise observation abilities are needed. This form of high-level critical thinking is often developed and evaluated at the highest levels of military and cyber intelligence.

Comprehension of Cybersecurity

Digital forensics is about cybercrime, period! In order to resolve any case, you will need to have a better knowledge of the most recent breaches, threats, and possible vulnerabilities.

When one is training to be a digital forensics investigator, you must ensure that it has in-depth, solid elements of cybersecurity or information technology security.

Without learning the concepts of cybersecurity, it is impossible to guard systems and investigate the crime at hand.

Legal and investigative skills

Cybercrime is dealt with in digital forensics, so experience in criminal law and investigation would be beneficial.

Though a degree in law is not required for this role, knowledge of crime investigation procedures can be obtained by other means such as online reading and group discussions.

A thorough understanding of a white-collar crime, criminal procedure, and investigation would be beneficial.

Communication Capabilities

In digital forensics, communication skills are crucial because you must communicate technical details concisely to people of varying levels of technical understanding.

Digital forensic investigators often operate in groups, and your communication skills will be crucial in effectively relaying the process of action on the forensic case to the team members.

As part of the case process, you might be required to clarify your conclusions to others or even present them in court.

Will to learn

Digital forensics, like cybersecurity, is often changing. To ensure a better job opportunity, anyone entering this field should keep up with the latest developments and technologies.

The digital forensic industry needs constant learning and self-education, both on and off the clock.

Certification in Data Forensics

Digital forensics is a severe IT stream, qualified and certified experts are in high demand. Digital forensics certifications, on the other hand, remain a bit of a wild frontier.

We’ve compiled a list of the top five credentials from a pool of over two dozen options. There is currently a wide range of high-quality certification packages available that focus on digital investigations and digital forensics.

However, there are several certifications and programs that are less well-defined, systematic, and widely accepted. The top 5 certifications in Data Forensics are:

CHFI: Computer Hacking Forensic Investigator V8

EC-Council, or the International Council of E-Commerce Consultants, is a well-known coaching and certification organization that focuses on anti-hacking, data forensics, and penetration testing.

The Computer Hacking Forensic Investigator (CHFI) V9 qualification focuses on forensics tools, investigative techniques, and methods for collecting, preserving, and presenting digital forensic evidence and information in a court of law.

The CHFI course is five days long and covers a wide range of topics and instruments (an in-depth course description is out there).

It includes a concise summary of cybercrime as well as a digital forensics investigation course. It covers information system searches and seizures, operating with digital evidence, incident handling, and first responder procedures.

It also involves collecting dangerous and non-volatile information from a Windows device, retrieving deleted information and partitions from Windows, Macintosh, and Linux systems, steganography and steganalysis, and image file forensics, as well as using the Access Data Forensic Toolkit (FTK) and EnCase instruments.

Password breaking, log recording systems and techniques, investigating group site users, wireless assaults, Internet assaults, and e-mail crimes are also included. Courseware is always available, as well as instructor-led classroom instruction.

The EC-Council also offers credentials in related fields such as disaster recovery, encryption, and network security architecture, among others. For more information on these well-known and respected qualifications, visit the EC-Council website.

CCE: Certified Computer Examiner

The Certified Computer Examiner (CCE) is a designation given by the International Society of Forensic Computer Examiners or ISFCE.

It is widely regarded as the industries and law enforcement community’s most prestigious certification for digital forensics specialists.

Security officers and managers, IT directors or executives, security or forensics contractors, program and information security analysts and inspectors, and even some legal professionals and human resources managers are typical personal-sector holders.

Holders of law enforcement positions often work as forensic investigators, researchers, or technicians, conducting official investigations to analyze or prosecute crimes.

The CCE BootCamp coaching course occurs in a classroom setting for five days (or 40 hours of online or self-paced supplies).

The course, which costs USD 2,995, is offered by specific accredited coaching organizations; law enforcement, authorities, the Navy, and educators can get a $200 discount.

While online or self-paced versions can be less expensive, they do not always have direct teacher interaction.

CFCE: Certified Forensic Computer Examiner

The Certified Forensic Computer Examiner (CFCE) certification has been administered by the International Association of Computer Investigative Specialists (IACIS).

This organization mainly serves law enforcement officers. However, the company also offers affiliate membership to former law enforcement officers and full-time law enforcement contractors.

To obtain the CFCE, you must complete a two-step assessment process that includes peer review and CFCE certification testing.

Accepting and completing four assigned practical issues based on the credential’s core data and knowledge areas constitutes the peer evaluation. These must be solved before being submitted for peer review.

They must then be presented to a mentor for the preliminary examination. Candidates have 30 days to complete all of the practical problems.

Candidates are required to advance to the qualification section after passing the peer examination. During this section, candidates work individually to investigate and report a desperate person’s forensic image.

The stressful drive sensible downside can be completed in forty days. A written report is ready to record the candidate’s conduct and results after following specific instructions.

Candidates should have at least 72 hours of coaching focused on CFCE core competencies before attempting to obtain the CFCE credential.

Despite the time and money required to obtain a CFCE, this certification has a high value and is widely accepted in the field of digital forensics.

Many forensics professionals consider the CFCE to be an “advantage badge” that must be earned, particularly for those who work in or for the law enforcement

CSFA: Cyber Security Forensic Analyst

The Cyber Security Institute in Monroe, Washington, offers digital forensic services to government agencies, enterprises, and individuals, as well as a limited but well-respected certification program.

The Cyber Security Academy, the Institute’s training arm, offers information security and forensics programs.

 The Institute offers the Cyber Security Forensic Analyst, or CSFA, a one-time credential intended for security experts with at least two and a half years of experience conducting digital forensic evaluations on computer systems and units, as well as writing investigative stories.

Candidates must also fully comprehend the rules of evidence, maintain a chain of custody, and be familiar with a variety of legal procedures and documentation associated with forensic investigations (affidavits, declarations, subpoenas, and so forth).

 Once certified, it must be retained by enrolling in digital forensics or information security training programs (minimum of 80 class hours) and passing four or more digital forensic exams.

GCFE And GCFA Certificate Programs

SANS is the sole organization behind the Global Information Assurance Certification (GIAC) program, and it is a well-known and well-respected participant in the information security field in general.

SANS not only teaches and researches in this field, but it also provides breaking news, runs a security alert service, and serves on a variety of government, academic, and educational information security task forces, working groups, and business organizations.

Both the GCFE and the GCFA deal with digital forensics in the sense of investigation and incident response and thus place a premium on the skills and knowledge required to collect and interpret data from Windows and Linux computer systems in the course of such activities.

Candidates must have the necessary skills, expertise, and experience to perform formal incident investigations and outstanding event management, including dealing with internal and external data breaches, intrusions, and excellent persistent threats, understanding anti-forensic techniques, and building and recording exceptional digital forensic cases.

NOTE: Other Equally Important Certifications- ASIS Worldwide offers the Professional Certified Investigator (PCI), a senior-level, vendor-neutral device investigations, and forensics certification.

The organization’s credential program also includes the Certified Protection Professional (CPP), which consists of a part of the investigation, and the Physical Security Professional (PSP).

Candidates for forensics may also obtain one of the many vendor-neutral certifications offered by the High-Tech Crime Network, such as the Certified Computer Crime Investigator or Certified Digital Forensic Technician, all of which have a Fundamental and Superior credential.

You can also find a number of different forensics hardware and software program distributors that offer certifications if you check online.

However, before you go beyond the topics covered in this post, you may want to look into the history of the sponsoring party.

Analyze the number of individuals who have received the sponsor’s credentials, and then determine whether or not the sponsor not only wants to coach but also stands to profit from the purchase.

You will not be burnt if you complete your homework. Certified digital forensics experts are expected to be in high demand for the foreseeable future. 

Wrapping It Up:

Data security is a significant concern in our society, and it will continue to grow in importance as our dependence on digital storage and communication grows.

Both forensics and anti-forensics techniques will improve as more sophisticated and intelligent software is built as computer technology continues to upgrade at its current pace.

It’s likely that future forensics tools will be adaptive, learning to identify trends on their own, thanks to AI studies being conducted at research universities around the world.

We already have learning security tools for home computers, such as Norton or McAfee virus protection, that remember which programs you say are safe and make educated guesses based on your preferences in the future.

This is like barely scratching the surface of what such apps can do, with even more to come in the future. With increasingly effective tools for cybercriminals to carry out their operations undetected comes the downside of software development.

As a result, data forensics and information security, in general, can be viewed as a never-ending race to stay ahead of computer criminals. As a result, the industry continues to grow, as new analysts are constantly required.

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