Since computer forensics is a relatively new field (the first personal computers were invented in the 1970s), skills needed, knowledge required, and even definitions of the field itself are constantly changing. To account for this, we shall define computer forensics as the study of techniques used to identify, collect, and analyze information which is stored electronically. While we will discuss specific applications of computer forensics practitioners in another section, several key skills are helpful to all computer forensics practitioners. Having said that, let’s look at some skills that different computer forensics practitioners need in order to succeed in this field.
Be Computer Savvy
As the name suggests, computer forensics practitioners are exposed to computers daily in their field of work. With different forms of operating systems (for example, Windows, MacOS, Linux) and countless computer manufacturers (for example, HP, Apple, Asus), it is important for computer forensics practitioners to be experienced in using a wide variety of computer technology. Having knowledge in programming and using command prompts further allows computer forensics practitioners to manipulate computers to their benefit.
Many times, computer forensics practitioners are hired to help solve a problem with computers. Unlike programmers, designers, or other computer experts, computer forensics practitioners are required to innovate and improvise when solving a computer-related problem. For example, a computer forensics practitioner may be asked to retrieve a deleted file from a hard drive. In the case that the computer is password protected, the practitioner will need to improvise means of cracking the password in addition to having knowledge of recovering deleted files in order to complete his or her job.
Have Law and Business Sense
Many times, computer forensics practitioners work with traditional forensics experts in criminal investigations to reveal evidence. With frequent work experiences with forensics experts and lawyers, having a general knowledge of relevant laws and ethics is a nice complement to any computer forensics practitioner’s skill set. Furthermore, as many audits are conducted on businesses and illegal organizations are done electronically, computer forensics experts may want to have working knowledge in accounting and/or finance in order to prepare for such jobs.