Computer Forensics Investigator Traits

If you’re looking for a career and not just a job, computer forensics is the place to look as the field grows in terms of need and expended resources on an annual basis. The trend promises to continue. One big misconception about the field is that anyone with a strong technical background will excel. However, while technical skills are essential, there are many other skills and traits that will dictate success or failure.

Legal Knowledge and Investigation Experience

In law enforcement, computer forensic examiners are commonly found from the ranks of already sworn officers. These examiners usually bring a tremendous amount of ‘real-world’ experience, people skills, report-writing skills, and testimony skills to the lab, which are all extremely helpful to becoming a strong examiner. These examiners also bring legal experience and knowledge as well as investigation experience. Why are these skills helpful? Oftentimes finding the digital data and the files of interest is not difficult. The challenge for a good examiner is telling the case agent, the prosecutor, and the jury a story about how the data or files got to the computer, who did it, and when. Other skills, including the ability to know and understand criminal motives, also help in this way.

Working Under Tight Deadlines

In the private sector, the same skills elevate a good examiner to the ranks of a great one. One other trait that is also essential is loyalty and the willingness to go the extra mile for the client. Forensic investigators work for clients that pay sometimes significant amounts of money for quality work, and a determination of whether or not evidence exists in particular locations. Like all other examiners, they often have tight deadlines for an abundance of work. An ability to work well with people, and excellent communication skills, are critical to working with clients.

Excellent Communication Skills are Essential

Good communication skills are essential for when forensic investigators are in court testifying to the information they have found in their forensic examinations. In the end, a computer forensics examination is worth nothing if the examiner cannot explain his/her findings to a jury. Research has shown that most randomly picked juries are comprised of persons of only average intelligence. Thus, an examiner who is extremely knowledgeable in a highly technical specialty, who uses sometimes complicated data extraction methods, must be capable of reducing that information to its most fundamental and simplistic terms for trial. This can be difficult to accomplish, and the ability to communicate effectively is critical in achieving it.

The Importance of Being Detail Oriented

Whether on the law enforcement side of the computer forensic field or the corporate consulting side, it is important for a forensics professional to be detail oriented. Little pieces of information mean a tremendous amount when recreating past events. Other traits that make a successful examiner include an inquisitive mind and problem-solving ability. An ability to think outside the box for other creative ways to find the necessary information is also helpful. And last, one of the most critical traits, is persistence. Examinations can oftentimes be frustrating. The best examiners know how to step away, do some research, and come back to the evidence to see it in a new light.

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