Computer forensics is a field in demand. Computers have become valuable targets of theft. The information they contain can be stolen or altered for malicious purposes. The need for trained professionals in this field has never been greater.
In law enforcement, computer forensics professionals may work for local police departments, state police departments, or the Federal Bureau of Investigation. They may go to the scene of incidents, gather evidence, investigate the evidence, and write reports. They may also provide testimony for criminal cases in court. Individuals who specialize in the forensic study of computers may also be called "cyber investigators", "cyber cops", or "digital detectives".
Computer forensics experts investigate crimes such as identity theft, credit card fraud, intellectual property theft, threats/harassment, pedophilia, and unauthorized computer system intrusion. These computer crimes or "cyber crimes" constitute a significant risk to individuals, companies, and governments. Cyber crimes result in tens of millions of dollars of dollars in losses each year.
Computer forensics examiners need a wide range of technical skills and knowledge. They must have expertise in network security, protocols, software, computer file formats, routing, cryptology, reverse software engineering, password cracking, and diagnostic techniques. In addition to technical skills, professionals in this field must have good oral and written communication skills, understand and comply with investigation procedures, work under tight deadlines, have problem solving abilities and be creative and persistent in the pursuit of evidence.
Experts in this field may also be involved in crimes that were not directly committed via computer. There may be information stored on a computer or storage device that is important for the case. For example, e-mail evidence can be used in cases against robbery and homicide suspects. Computer forensics experts are needed in these cases, as there are very specific procedures that must be followed for digital information to be presented as valid evidence.