Computer Forensics Expert: Joey

Q: In what ways do you feel your degree adequately prepared you for your computer forensics career?
A: Primarily, it made me more familiar with computers and how they work. Also, most companies won’t hire you unless you have a degree.

Q: Why did you choose to go into computer forensics?
A: I became less and less interested with the data recovery side of the business which is what I was involved in previously. I wanted to do something different that challenged me in a whole new way. Computer forensics did just that, it was a challenging and exciting new career path for me.

Q: What personality traits and skills do you possess that you feel help you in computer forensics?
A: Attention to detail, creativity, persistence and an interest in continuing to learn more. Attention to detail is important in the computer forensics business because there are a lot of ways to ruin a case. Without making sure you are following the correct forensics procedures, a lawyer can throw your findings out. This includes but is not limited to always being aware of the chain of custody report and keeping the evidence highly secured. Creativity comes in handy when you come across a file that you are not aware of. This includes password protected and encrypted files. Many times you have to be creative and figure out “backdoor” ways to gain access to those files. That can be quite challenging but with persistence a good forensic examiner can usually figure it out. Ultimately, I am interested in finding and documenting the truth. I am also always interested in learning more. Computer forensics is a business that is growing fast; there are new methods and technologies coming out every day. It is important for a forensic professional to have a desire to continue learning more because this field changes and advances so rapidly.

Q: What steps does someone go through to get a job in computer forensics?
A: Having a degree in computer forensics is a good start. Then applying that degree to gain real world experience is paramount. One way to gain real world experience is through internships and volunteer work. I was hired on at my company to do data recovery. I always knew I wanted to eventually move over to the forensics side of the business. Many companies will hire you in on the ground floor and expect you to prove yourself before any promotions are given. This is particularly true going into something without experience. I started at my company on the ground floor but gained experience with forensics by volunteering to help on forensics cases while keeping up with my data recovery work. Also, while I was doing data recovery, I used my personal time to learn more about computer forensics and ultimately gained my EnCE certification. This certification finally opened the door to step into the forensics position full time.

Q: What are ways to advance in your field?
A: Earning an advanced degree, obtaining a certificate, and experience are all essential.

Q: What is the most enjoyable thing about your job?
A: Dealing with clients and helping them find the truth – or finding that “smoking gun” piece of evidence. The job is also fulfilling when you know someone is being hurt in a situation and you find a necessary piece of evidence. It is satisfying to find what your client is looking for.

Q: What is the biggest challenge regarding your job?
A: When the evidence is just not there and I cannot think of anything else to try.

Q: What are your daily tasks like?
A: I talk with all our clients and get them set up with a case. Once they have committed to using our company, I acquire their drive. Then I conduct the forensics analysis to look for whatever our client wants found. I document all my findings in a final report which is eventually sent back to the client. Depending on the severity of my findings I could eventually be called to testify in court.

Q: What skills do you use at work?
A: Patience, persistence, organization, and customer service.

Q: What is one thing you didn’t know about computer forensics before going into the field that you wish you had known?
A: I didn’t realize how much paperwork would be involved. There is a lot of documentation that needs to be done throughout the process that can become quite tedious at times. However, it is very important to follow good forensics practice throughout the entire process. What kinds of people tend to be successful in this field? People who are willing to go the extra mile for the client are usually successful. We are in business to make our clients happy so it is important to find what they are looking for.

Q: What would you tell incoming college students regarding the field?
A: I recently had lunch with a professional colleague of mine. He is a Computer Forensics Special Agent for the FBI. He told me that computer forensics is now up there with counter terrorism and homeland security as the top three areas of interest for the FBI. Computer Forensics has grown drastically over the last few years as computer crimes have. From what I have read, and seen while working in the field, this is true in the business industry as well. If you are looking to get into a career that has guaranteed longevity and you have a natural talent with computers, a career in computer forensics is for you.

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