Homeland Security Computer Forensics Specialist Careers and Job Description

Terrorism and other homeland security threats are a stark reality of life today, and finding ways to combat terrorism and reveal terrorist threats remains a top priority. And because technology is often the channel through which intelligence is transmitted and disseminated, the need to acquire this information is critical to thwarting acts of terrorism.

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Computer forensics, also called digital forensics, involves investigating, gathering and analyzing digital evidence from any number of electronic devices, such as personal computers, cell phones, tablets, digital cameras, digital media players, flash media, CDs and DVDs. Law enforcement officials often use the information gathered by computer forensic specialists for investigative purposes and for court proceedings.  Computer forensic specialist jobs also include advising law enforcement officials on the credibility of data acquired and preparing evidence for trail.

Computer forensic specialists may search emails, files, pictures and Internet searches for relevant information related to homeland security issues and threats. These professionals may work for local, state, and federal agencies, law enforcement agencies, or for private forensic consulting firms.

There are also large agencies devoted primarily to computer forensics, such as the FBI’s Computer Analysis and Response Team (CART), which consists of more than 500 highly trained agents working at the FBI’s headquarters, at the FBI’s 56 field offices, and at regional computer forensic laboratories throughout the nation.  During FY2012 alone, CART supported more than 10,400 investigations.

How to Pursue a Career in Computer Forensics

Computer forensics specialists are highly trained and educated professionals who have a thorough understanding of not only computers and computer systems, but of cyber and computer crime investigation, as well. Degree programs in computer forensics involve the study of data analysis, software engineering, file formats, networking protocols, and cryptology, among others.

Bachelor’s degree programs in computer forensics involves developing and implementing data recovery programs, developing and implementing policies and procedures to ensure the protection of data, and the legal considerations surrounding computer forensics.

Many professionals that hold computer forensics specialist jobs pursue a degree in computer science or engineering and then focus their graduate degree program in computer forensics.

Professional Certification in Computer Forensics

Computer forensics specialists also often choose professional certification as a way to advance their profession. The American Board of Information Security and Computer Forensics provides training and credentialing programs under the American Board for Certification in Homeland Security. The Board provides training and certification for computer forensics and information security practitioners in both the government and private sectors:

Sensitive Security Information (SSI), Certified

Eligibility Requirements:

  • U.S. citizen (or a current member of the U.S. military)
  • At least 18 years of age
  • No felony convictions
  • No record of disciplinary action from any state, licensing or certification board within the last 10 years
  • No dishonorable discharge from the U.S. military
  • At least 2 years of experience in the field of sensitive security information

The SSI Certification must be renewed every 3 years, and certification holders must acquire at least 30 certification maintenance units during each recertification period.

Certified National Threat Analyst (CNTA)

Eligibility Requirements:

  • At least 2 years of experience combined with general training, knowledge or education in a homeland security-related area
  • No dishonorable discharge from the U.S military
  • U.S. citizenship (or a current member of the U.S. military)
  • At least 18  years old
  • No record of disciplinary action from any state, licensing or certification board within the last 10 years

The CNTA involves at set of 8 certification examinations on aspects of terrorism. Individuals must complete at least 5 of the 8 examinations to acquire initial CNTA certification. The CNTA certification is renewed every 3 years, and certification holders must obtain at least 30 certification maintenance units per renewal cycle to qualify for recertification.

The International Association of Computer Investigative Specialists (IACIS) presents the Certified Forensic Computer Examiner (CFCE) certification program.

This program includes a two-week IACIS Basic Computer Forensic Examiner training course, an intense program that includes a peer review process and an independent certification process. Candidates must have some formal training in the field of computer/digital forensics to qualify for enrollment in the CFCE program.

Salary Statistics and Forecasts for Computer Forensic Specialist Jobs

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, professionals in the field of computers earned the following (according to median salary) in 2010:

  • Computer and Information Systems Managers: $115,780
  • Computer Programmers: $71,380
  • Computer Systems Analysts: $77,740
  • Information Security Analysts: $75,660
  • Network and Computer Systems Administrators: $69,160

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