Computer Forensics Expert: Bill
Q: Why did you choose to go into computer forensics?
A: I enjoy working with computers, I love computers. I like to take them apart and put them back together. I think they’re very challenging.
Q: What personality traits and skills do you possess that you feel help you in computer forensics?
A: I teach my students that to be a good examiner, you need experience and ability in three areas. The first is some technology background, the second is some legal education, and the third is an investigative background. People with skills in these three areas are, in my opinion, ultimately the best examiners. The reason being is this, finding a file is typically easy, telling a story about how it got there by investigating and testing the circumstances, being able to write a good report, and presenting the evidence to a jury full of people with an average 8th grade cognitive ability is extremely difficult. Critical skills include the ability to communicate orally and in writing, good problem-solving/analytical skills, the ability to deal with and understand people, and attention to detail.
A: I think there’s an open market out there for the private industry for IT. As far as I know if you apply somewhere and have a strong computer background there is pretty much an open market out there.
Q: Do you spend a lot of time in the office?
A: A lot of our time is spent looking at the computers because people can hide data in so many places. We have encryption, stenography, we have all these ways people hide the evidence of their crime that it takes forever. Now they have terabyte internal drives on the market. One terabyte of internal hard drive storage is volumes and volumes of data that takes forever to go through. Even with Encase you can do keyword searches but the little snippets of the things you need to look for to make sure they intentionally did this, have to prove intent, knowledge…not just that there’s pictures in unallocated space because that won’t do the crime.
Q: What is the most enjoyable thing about your job?
A: When I got appointed to this position the majority of my cases were child exploitation cases and that’s become a calling now. I love the computer stuff but getting these people who are abusing and victimizing children put in prison for an extended period of time is very rewarding. Also, every day I come to work I learn something new.
Q: What is the biggest challenge regarding your job?
A: It is always a challenge. The challenge of getting into the computer and finding that someone is trying to hide something from you and see if you’re able to find it but also learning something different about computers. I learn something every day.
Q: What types of individuals end up being successful in this field?
A: The next person for this unit doesn’t have to have a great knowledge of computers. You just have to have the desire and ability to learn. It is not rocket science. If you’re someone who doesn’t want to learn or doesn’t like change you probably won’t do well since things are constantly changing. You have to have the basic knowledge of how to investigate a crime. If you have good investigative experience for us, you have to be able to interview and talk to people, investigate a crime and understand how a criminal might think so you can try to figure out what he did.
Q: What would you tell incoming college students regarding the field?
A: Computer forensics is “the” field to be in because it is cutting edge, a field that changes in its procedures and challenges on a daily basis, and a field that makes demands for excellence, or the ramifications to the people relying on the examiner can be serious. It is not a television show – computer forensic examinations often lead to the most powerful evidence in serious cases.