Are you an aspiring computer forensics student or current professional? As data breaches become more prevalent, the need for computer forensic specialists has never been higher. The field is dedicated to investigating the cause of security breaks, retrieving data from electric devices, and working with agencies to prevent future attacks. Professionals often work with law enforcement officials and private firms; they may also relate evidence found during investigations and/or testify in court.
There are a number of helpful resources available to assist individuals as they pursue or expand upon a computer forensics career.
Depending on your specific needs, you may find any of the following helpful:Read More
- Job boards
As a computer forensics student or professional, you can capitalize on what these various resources have to offer. With so many options available, it can be easy to become overwhelmed. To simplify your search, the resources discussed here have been organized by subject for easier referencing.
Resources for Before and After College
Resources for Computer Forensics Students
The first step to choosing a good computer forensics degree program is determining your chosen institution’s accreditation status. All colleges and universities have the option to become accredited at the regional and/or national level. Accredited schools must be evaluated and found to possess certain standard educational criteria to earn accreditation.
Most colleges and universities are regionally accredited by one of the six regional accreditation agencies. Institutional departments and individual programs may also seek additional accreditation. Computer forensics students should give preference to programs accredited by the Accreditation Board of Engineering and Technology (ABET) or known as National Centers of Academic Excellence, a title provided by the NSA and DoD to school that offer particularly strong computer science/cyber security programs.
It is important to realize that accreditation is not mandatory, so be cognizant as you consider potential programs. Attending an unaccredited college or university can have significant drawbacks. Not only will the value of your education be brought into question, but you may be unable to transfer credits, qualify for further education, and/or find professional employment. Many employers will only consider candidates who have graduated from an accredited university.
Questions About Financial Aid
For some, paying for a computer science degree, or any degree, can seem almost impossible. This is especially true for students applying to schools immediately after high school. The cost of higher education can be daunting even for working professionals. Fortunately, there are options available to help mitigate the financial burden. Applying for financial aid can help you offset at least some of the monetary responsibility. The primary financial aid types available are scholarships, grants, work study, and loans. Awarding agencies often dictate how aid money can be used, but it is most often to be used only for tuition, fees, living accommodations, and books.
Scholarships in Computer Science are the ideal form of financial aid, as the money received never has to be paid back. These funds can be provided by individuals or private organizations. Award amounts differ significantly, with some scholarships offering only a few hundred dollars while others fund all four years of an undergraduate computer degree. Applicant criteria also vary; candidates may be assessed in a variety of areas including financial need, academic performance, athletic ability, religious affiliation, career goals, and/or race. It is also acceptable, even encouraged, to apply for multiple scholarships to cover tuition costs.
Grants can help pay for your college education and are similar to scholarships because the money awarded does not require repayment, but there are some distinct differences. Primarily, this type of funding is usually offered by state governments, the federal government, or the educational institution itself. Money may be awarded based on merit, need, or career goals.
Work study is another way students can earn money to lower the cost of higher education. Often based on financial need, those approved for work study programs can apply for federally funded jobs on campus. Funds earned are meant to assist with education-related expenses and do not require repayment, though you will usually not be paid quite up to the equivalent of minimum wage.
Federal and private loans are some of the most common forms of financial aid. While scholarships, grants, and work study funds need not be repaid, loan recipients are responsible for the borrowed amount (plus interest) after graduation. Federal loans are often preferable due to lower interest rates and the possibility of receiving a loan that is subsidized, meaning the interest that gathers while you are in school is paid by the government. Private loans have higher interest rates but are readily available through most banks and the funds can be used as recipients see fit.
Most traditional students will receive financial assistance through government-funded aid programs. Your future college or university will likely encouraged you to submit a FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) application, which is required to determine the amount of aid you can receive each year.
Computer Forensics Associations for Students
Students working towards computer forensics degrees should strongly consider joining one or more related associations. Associations are often perceived as a professional resource, but most organizations are dedicated to supporting student interests as well. In fact, many have divisions specifically designated for computer forensics students and young professionals. It is also not uncommon for colleges and universities to have field-specific organizations on campus.
Becoming a member of a computer forensics association can be extremely beneficial. While every organization is different, many provide members access to field-related resources, training, certifications, conferences, continuing education, scholarship, and networking opportunities.
Some of the best computer forensics associations for students or with student memberships include:
- National Cybersecurity Student Association (NCSA):
The National Cybersecurity Student Association (NCSA) is the largest association of cyber security students in the nation. The organization strives to cultivate a national community supporting student endeavors in the field. Benefits include extracurricular activities, career opportunities, and mentoring.
- American Academy of Forensic Sciences (AAFS):
The American Academy of Forensic Sciences (AAFS) is a multidisciplinary organization that provides leadership and educational opportunities for members. Student members of the Digital & Multimedia Sciences discipline have access to a professional journal, reference library, employment opportunities, and educational videos.
- The Chartered Society of Forensic Sciences (CSFS):
The Chartered Society of Forensic Sciences (CSFS) represents Forensic Sciences around the world, with representation in 60 different countries. Professionals and undergraduate students can take advantage of a huge assortment of benefits including access to four prominent publications, events, workshops, and discounts.
- Information Systems Security Association International (ISSA):
Information Systems Security Association International (ISSA) is a non-profit, international community for individuals involved in cyber security. Its primary goal is to promote and secure the digital world. Student members gain access to local chapter networking, regional events, web conferences, exclusive savings, journals, and certification opportunities.
- American Society for Industrial Security (ASIS):
The American Society for Industrial Security (ASIS) advances and reinvests in the security profession, with membership fees directly supporting scholarship programs, educational development, and certifications. Student members receive exceptional networking, learning, and professional development resources.
Student or Open Access Journals
As a computer forensics student, it is also a good idea to read professional journals. Publications like this often focus on research and theory and recommend ways to effectively utilize standard practice within the field. Reading published articles is a very easy way to remain informed about computer forensics news and trends. Staying updated ensures you know how, who, and what is happening, as well as how it impacts you and your work. The best professionals depend on field-relevant research to influence their careers.
While it is not uncommon for many professional journals to require a paid subscription, thrifty students may be able to access some for free. Open access journals, which require no subscription, are a good option for students.
Some free computer forensics journals include:
Computer Forensics Online Resources
Computer forensics students should also take advantage of the wide assortment of resources available online. In addition to the information provided in undergraduate and graduate curriculum, there is a lot to learn about the field. Many companies and organizations serve as valuable sources of materials that can help you build and expand upon your academic career. Fortunately, most offer free, high-quality, educational information to anyone interested in pursuing it. Some of the following resources may help you develop and hone the necessary skills to excel in your academic and professional pursuits.
Technology is constantly evolving and the production of ground-breaking advancements with huge implications for students and professionals is significant. While there have been few apps developed specifically for the computer forensics field, there are countless apps designed for computer science in general. There are certainly numerous options available to help students perform research, gather resources, maintain communications, and manage their finances.
The following apps may be beneficial to students interested in pursuing a career in computer forensics:
In addition to enrolling in a computer forensics program, studying hard, and getting good grades, those interested in this career field should seriously consider applying for an internship. Seeking hands-on experience can provide valuable insight and will likely give you an advantage after graduation. Internships offer students an opportunity to explore their chosen career while gaining a better understanding of what it means to be a working professional.
While computer forensics internship programs are prominent within the government, there are plenty of other companies and agencies that take on interns in this field. Few industries are against receiving free or inexpensive work for skill-developing experiences. Positions are common among law enforcement and corporate consulting firms as well.
Finding internships is also easier than you may expect. Many colleges and universities have internship programs specifically designed for student placement. In fact, most institutions offer academic credit for internship experiences and some even require them for graduation. There are opportunities outside of your school as well, however. If you want to pursue an internship independently, check local company websites for postings. Even small businesses can provide big professional benefits.
The following websites offer internship opportunities to computer forensics students:
Resources for Students and Professionals
Computer Forensics Certification Options
Some colleges and universities offer computer forensics certificate programs to help individuals further their education in the field. The programs are designed to broaden professional experience, deepen understanding of specific topics, and prepare students for certification exams. Academic certificates demonstrate expertise and can lead to better employment opportunities.
Appropriate for both new and seasoned professionals, certificate curriculum is generally designed to develop students’ hands-on investigative skills. By using the most modern and up-to-date tools and technologies, instructors can set graduates up for future success. While curriculums vary, most cover emerging trends, access methods, data hiding, investigation, networking, and network analysis.
The following are examples of a few of the computer forensics certificates available:
Additionally, professionals can pursue certification in various areas from prominent agencies and organizations. These serve as a way to specialize within the field and often help set professionals apart. Some employers may also give preference to, or require candidates to have, certain certifications. Becoming certified in a number of areas can greatly improve employment prospects and/or lead to promotions and higher paying jobs.
The following are examples of the various computer forensics professional certifications available:
- Certified Forensic Computer Examiner (CFCE) offered by the International Association of Computer Instigative Specialists (IACIS)
- Certified Computer Examiner (CCE) offered by the Worldwide Security of Forensic Computer Examiners (ISFCE)
- Computer Hacking Forensic Investigator (CHFI) Certification offered by the International Council of E-Commerce Consultants
- Global Information Assurance Certification (GIAC) offered by GIAC Certifications
- ACE Computer Forensics Certification offered by Access Data
Certification Study Resources
While earning a professional certification can be extremely beneficial for your career, meeting the requirements can sometimes be challenging. In addition to various academic prerequisites, most programs also expect candidates to take and pass a certification exam. These tests are not easy and passing will require significant time dedicated to studying preparatory materials. Past professional experiences and education can help, but additional study resources will be necessary. Luckily, preparatory materials are often offered by the vendor or organization providing the certification.
Depending on the certification you intend to pursue, one of the following study resources may prove helpful:
- Certified Computer Examiner (CCE); ISFCE provides an extensive list of suggested study materials for those pursuing this certification
- Computer Hacking Forensic Investigator (CHFI); NICCS offers an online preparatory course to help professionals pass the certification test
- Global Information Assurance Certification (GIAC); The SANS Institute offers online and classroom training with SANS-certified instructors
- ACE Computer Forensics Certification: Access Data provides their own ACE study guide as a free download
Whether you are a recent graduate looking for your first job or a current professionals hoping to change positions, it is important to become familiar with computer forensics job boards. While general employment search engines can be helpful as well,
the following job boards can help you find available positions within your field:
Temp Agencies / Remote Forensics
In addition to job boards, computer forensics students and professionals may also find work through temp agencies. Also known as staffing agencies, temp agencies can be particularly helpful for recent graduates or professionals who are having difficulty finding work. While they most often offer short-term assignments, employment through these agencies will provide valuable work experience that could lead to full-time employment in the future.
Temp agencies typically interview a large number of individuals and then match them to jobs offers at different companies. Every agency has its own guidelines and pay is based on contract specifics with each hiring organization. After filling out an application and going through the initial interview process, the temp agency will contact applicants when work that requires their expertise is available. Some agencies, however, expect you to call regularly regarding job availability.
The following employment resources may be helping when looking for temporary or remote jobs:
Alternatively, some computer forensics professionals seek remote employment opportunities. This is becoming increasingly popular and allows workers to have more control over their schedules. And there are sites meant for these professionals as well.
Resources for Computer Forensics Professionals
Professional Computer Forensics Associations
Becoming a computer forensics association member as a student can be extremely rewarding, but joining associated organizations as a professional is almost a necessity. While many of the benefits are similar, such as discounts and job resources, professionals are likely to get even more out of their memberships.
As a working professional, you are likely responsible for continuing your education. Many associations and organization offer training and courses that fulfill this requirement. Additionally, policies and practices are constantly evolving. In order to remain up-to-date on current news, issues, regulations, and standards, having access to career resources is important. Most associations make the task of reading journals, attending conferences, and participating in training a lot easier.
It is also important that computer forensics professionals network with others in their field. This can help broaden your reach and increase employment opportunities. Hosting networking events is a huge aspect of most professional organizations.
Some of the most prominent computer forensics associations for professionals include:
- American Society of Digital Forensics & eDiscovery (ASDFED)
- International Society of Forensic Computer Examiners (ISCFE)
- High Technology Crime Investigation Association (HTCIA)
- Association of Former Intelligence Officers (AFIO)
- Women in CyberSecurity (WiCyS)
- Information Security Research Association (ISRA)
As a professional, staying relevant in the ever-changing world of computer forensics is no small task. One of the best ways to achieve this is by subscribing to and reading professional journals on a regular basis. Reading articles helps keep professionals informed about recent policy changes, upcoming events, prominent trends, helpful resources, and new technology.
Some of the most prominent computer forensics journals are available through professional associations. Paid members can gain access to extensive publication databases that are not available to non-members. While most professional associations charge yearly fees, the cost is usually nominal and there are additional benefits that more than make up for the expense.
Industry Conferences for Computer Forensics Professionals
Conferences provide yet another great way to stay updated as a computer forensics professional. There are literally hundreds of industry conferences hosted throughout the world each year. In most cases, this type of event is relatively inexpensive or free, though you may need to travel to attend, and those in attendance gain access to a wide variety of developmental opportunities that take place over a two- to four-day period.
Every conference is different but most offer educational workshops, keynote presentations, and networking opportunities. Attendees can expect to greatly expand their knowledge in the field. It is also a good time to look for solutions to workplace problems, present projects and ideas to others, and promote a brand. Professionals may find conferences helpful when looking for new vendors and/or suppliers to enhance proficiency.
Some of the most prominent conferences for computer forensics professionals include:
- Techno Security & Digital Forensics Conference San Diego, CA:
The Techno Security & Digital Forensics Conference in San Diego, California blends digital forensics and cyber security. The event serves as an important resource for corporate network security professionals, federal, state, and local law enforcement digital forensic specialists, and cyber security industry leaders. Presentations raise awareness of new developments, teaching, training, responsibilities, and field ethics.
- Annual ADFSL Conference on Digital Forensics, Security and Law:
The Annual ADFSL Conference on Digital Forensics, Security and Law is the official annual conference of the ADFSL. It was created to explore how digital forensics goes beyond digital evidence and with the goal of expanding field research. Attendees can enjoy presentations and discussion on original research and curriculum.
- SANS DFIR Summit & Training:
The DFIR Summit & Training is hosted by SANS. The event focuses on digital forensics and incident response. Attendees participate in two days of in-depth summit talks and can choose between ten hands-on SANS DFIR courses.
- International Conference on Digital Forensics and Justice System:
The International Conferences on Digital Forensics and Justice System hosts several events each year. The goal is to bring together scientists, researchers, and scholars to exchange their ideas and experiences in the field. Attendees can choose from presentations on innovations, trends, concerns, and practical challenges.