Computer technology has dramatically improved the way we live. But it’s not all upside. If you’ve ever had your credit card number stolen and used, you understand how easily—and stealthily—thieves can operate when they take advantage of computer technology. And credit card theft is just the tip of the iceberg. Computers play a role in a wide variety of crimes, both as an instrument of crime and as the target for the crime. That’s where computer forensic analysts come in.
What Is a Computer Forensic Analyst?
The most succinct description of a computer forensic analyst is someone who collects and analyzes data from a digital device as part of an investigation. What does that mean exactly? It means computer forensic analysts spend their careers digging through the data stored on devices like laptops, servers, smartphones, digital cameras, flash drives, etc. Their goal is to find and extract any data that might help solve a crime or prove someone’s innocence.
What Kinds of Cases Do Computer Forensic Analysts Work On?
A computer forensic analyst may be called in for any type of crime that includes the storage or transfer of data, particularly if that data is difficult to extract or complex to interpret. In some instances, forensic computer analysts are asked to find hard evidence that can lead to a conviction—such as going through the computer of a suspected child pornographer to locate stored images and evidence those images were distributed via e-mail or other means. In other instances, computer forensic analysts search for clues that can advance an investigation—such as helping investigators narrow down the source of a computer security breach by examining the server that was hacked and uncovering where the hack originated and what techniques the hacker used to break in.
Crimes that computer forensic analysts investigate include:
- Computer security breaches
- Digital espionage
- Online components of terrorism such as communication and money transfers
- Denial-of-service (DoS) attacks
- Ransomware attacks
- Identity theft
- Money laundering through online means
- Dissemination of malware and viruses
- Online scams
- Any other crime that may have a computer/online component, including drug trafficking, human trafficking, and child pornography
What Do Computer Forensic Analysts Need to Know?
There are two basic parts to computer forensics. The first is finding and securing the data. The second is analyzing the data. While some computer forensic analysts do both, others focus primarily on the analysis aspect, relying on a team of IT professionals to handle technical elements like digital decryption and data defragmentation.
How Can You Become a Computer Forensic Analyst?
If you’re interested in computer-based crime—or any other aspect of crime and criminology—one of the best ways to enter the field is to earn a BS in Criminal Justice. When you enroll in a criminal justice program, you can specialize in computer information systems and security and take classes focused specifically on computer forensics.
Thanks to online learning, earning your bachelor’s in criminal justice doesn’t have to be inconvenient. That’s because, when you enroll in an online criminal justice degree program, you don’t have travel to a university or take classes at times that can interfere with your job or other responsibilities. Instead, the online university experience is designed to let you study from home on a schedule that can give you the flexibility you need to keep working full time while you earn your criminal justice degree.
The extensive use of computers in our society has made computer forensic analysis one of the newest—and most fascinating—criminal justice jobs. If this is where you want to focus your criminal justice career, you can put yourself on the path with an online bachelor’s in criminal justice.
Walden University is an accredited institution offering an online BS in Criminal Justice degree program. Expand your career options and earn your degree in a convenient, flexible format that fits your busy life.
Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission, 1-800-621-7440, www.hlcommission.org.