There was a time when criminal investigations literally followed a paper trail, tracking down evidence that was buried in huge reams of documentation. Now, however, the world has become much more complicated. The volume of information related to crimes has exploded, and is now stored digitally on hard disks and other media, as well as online. The trail can span many computers, and indeed many countries, making the challenge of detecting and analyzing cybercrimes an enormous one.
The complexity of cybercrimes is much greater than that of the traditional crimes of the past, and the amount of cybercrime is also rising. Not only is there financial cybercrime, other types of cybercrime are increasingly prevalent. These crimes range from electronic fraud and industrial espionage right the way through to illegal acts such as cyber bullying and the production and distribution of child pornography. This is creating an opportunity for students to embark on a rewarding career in digital forensics, knowing that it will give them an interesting and lucrative future, and that they will be doing something that benefits society at the same time. If they want to work as a government investigator, taking a digital forensics degree Washington DC is a good place to start, but other paths are available.
The field of digital forensics is very broad, and can offer areas of interest to everyone. For example, it is possible to specialize in extraction of evidence from devices such as smart phones and computers, or to become an expert in network forensics. On the other hand, some people specialize in white-collar crimes, focusing on skills such as forensic accounting – following those digital paper trails across the world. It is also possible to follow a career solving more violent or individually damaging crimes such as online pedophilia, or cyberstalking.
Another area of digital forensics which is extremely important is tracking down evidence of planned terrorism. This can include everything from analyzing call patterns through to interception and analysis of emails – as well as looking for suspicious activities on social media. While there has been quite a lot of publicity – and even criticism – of government activities in this area, it is important to remember that digital forensics is an essential component of keeping our nation secure. The work of organizations such as the NSA is crucial to prevent the recurrence of outrages such as 9/11 on American soil.
For all of these reasons, digital forensics skills are in high demand, and yet the number of people with the experience and knowledge to fulfill these roles is very limited. This makes taking a degree in digital forensics an excellent investment, giving the prospect of a career that is financially rewarding and stable, with the possibility of developing into increasingly senior positions over time. Because of this, any student who thinks they have the skills and motivation should seriously consider taking a degree in digital forensics. The job market is strong, the work is interesting, and there are lots of opportunities to move into other areas.