Posted: Mon Nov 06, 2006 1:07 am Post subject: What should i do next?
I am a compute Science Major at Jackson State University in Jackson, MS I am wondering what my next course of action should be in order to receive a degree or be certified correctly enough to obtain a career in Computer Forensics or Security.
Try looking at some job announcements to get an idea of what sort of experience and training you should have. It will vary based on the needs of the employer. If you want to work in law enforcement you could probably get hired with less experience and get paid training and experience while on the job.
Google some private forensics experts and look at their CVs to get an idea of what they have.
If you plan on working in the private sector, you will need to have much more experience to get hired. You might consider working in IT for a few years, try specializing in security and then if you are lucky you will have an employer you can convince to pay for the training and some basic forensic equipment if they don't have it already.
You can build certifications like, CCE, EnCE, etc., which definitely help, but there is no substitute for experience. These certs both have hands-on components but you pretty much are going to need some years of experience to get hired in the private sector.
You know, at least in the U.S., there is no professional requirement or touchstone like the bar exam or medical license to start doing forensics privately. You can literally start a business as a self-taught forensic expert with little or no experience. I have seen a guy who worked in IT that was hired by a lawyer as a forensics expert and testified in court about an exam he did using Windows/Start/Search and did he not find the files, so therefore, in his opinion they were not there as claimed! I don't think he will be hired again.
I saw another guy who is a convicted sex offender but knows about computers started his own forensics consulting business! His website has all sorts of interesting reading and claimed experience. Last I heard he got arrested for a parole violation.
But if you want to do it right in the private sector for now you most likely need to start somewhere in IT/network security to get a foundation and then go from there. Some colleges are offering these forensic degrees, but I'm not sure how many entry level positions there are. I have not seen any unless it's working in the government and they train you.
You would be very lucky to get hired as an apprentice with no experience where you are taught to do some simple tasks and then slowly learn and get trained to work independently.
The reason so many people say experience is important (well the reason I say it), is that unlike IT, CS, or any other technical skill computer forensics is a job where you might be determining who go's to jail. You'll be testifying in court, providing information that will be used to find others, and further the job has fuzzy borders. There is nothing that will prepare you like experience in a variety of technical fields at differing levels of responsibility. I find that law enforcement officers bring the investigator mind set (and investigator bias), and that IT guru's bring the technical talent (and clueless investigatory skills). Maturity is another factor too. Police officers don't get out of the academy and become detectives. They spend quite awhile on patrol and in a variety of tasks rounding out their law enforcement experience. Computer forensics is the equivalent of a police detective and those skills take a long time to build and no certification, schooling, or degree will ever make that go away.
Joined: Nov 19, 2005 Posts: 233 Location: Illinois
Posted: Mon Nov 06, 2006 7:48 pm Post subject:
I personally opened my own practice. However, I spent a number of years studying criminal justice, computer technology and forensic practices before I felt comfortable in dealing with cases. Once you nail the first case, things begin to get easier and more people begin to look into your services.
I realized early on that it wasn't the fact I knew computer technology, but needed to improve my investigative skills to be an effective examiner. So when I began to study computer forensics, the first classes I took were criminal law, criminal procedure, business law, etc. as that was the section I was lacking in.
Bottom line, it is a tough field to break into. I am not making a killing in the forensics practice, however, I feel I can make a comfortable living doing it. There are many opportunities to use computer forensics other than law enforcement. You just have to keep researching the area and see what people are doing.
The folks have already addressed you question about a career in forensics. You also mentioned computer security, so I'll address that a bit. The "gold standard" of certifications is the CISSP. That does require documented experience, but is also helpful for the forensic examiner. Good entry level certifications for security include Net+ and Security+, both from CompTIA. Any SANS course and certification is good but requires serious funding. ISACA also has good exams (CISM and CISA) but also require experience. ASIS also has a good certification and experience seems to be a little more broadly qualified so you might have needed experience.
Getting experience to get a job can be a challange but I'd recommend the following: 1) Build you own lab of 1-2 machines that you can trash at will: 2) reading everything you can about anything you don't fully understand; 3) volunteer to help family, friends, non-profits, or anyone else needing assistance.
This has been a great thread. I'm working on getting into the field and I have been wondering the same thoughts. While I haven't ruled it out, I'm probably not going to easily enter the law enforecement side. I have over 13 years in IT, doing everything from cobol programming to system administration. CF has always fascinated me. [I've been into security since reading Cliff Stoll's book "The Cuckoo's Egg, back in '90.]
My thoughts have been leaning to non-law enforcement forensics. I've been reading a lot of the books. I'm building my own machines. And I'm looking into some of the certifications. It's what comes next that is the most dauntiing.
If you plan on working in the private sector, you will need to have much more experience to get hired. You might consider working in IT for a few years, try specializing in security and then if you are lucky you will have an employer you can convince to pay for the training and some basic forensic equipment if they don't have it already. _________________ solitaire card game
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