There are popular television shows that chronicle the work of medical forensics specialists, who examine bones and remains to determine facts about a crime. But there is another area of forensics that hasn’t been made into a television show, and that’s computer forensics. This is the field that uses investigation along with techniques for analyzing computers to determine whether or not a crime has been committed, or to derive evidence that can be used in court.
Most computer experts understand that when you erase a file, you don’t completely erase it. Even after you empty the “trash can” icon, there are often still traces of files left. That’s why many experts recommend that when you discard a computer, you actually remove the hard drive.
Computer forensics is a highly specialized and exciting field, it’s in high demand and it pays exceptionally well. Computer forensics experts are often called in by high-powered law firms to derive evidence in a case. In addition, prosecuting attorneys often use computer-based evidence, as well as the services of computer forensics experts, to find incriminating documents. Another big user of computer forensics is insurance companies, who may use these techniques to ferret out fraud. Even individual municipal police departments use them, especially if they have carried out a warrant to seize computer equipment.
Computer forensics is used surprisingly often, in criminal cases, white collar crime cases, intellectual property investigations and others. In general, it is very time-consuming work, and probably not glamorous enough to make a television series, but as a career path, it can be quite rewarding. Many computer forensics professionals have not specifically taken forensics courses, but rather have a deep understanding of hardware and software, computer security protocols, and several years’ experience. Many computer forensics experts are former law enforcement professionals who have combined expertise in technology and law enforcement investigation. Today, there are several certifications and programs for studying this field, from places including the International Association of Computer Investigative Specialists, which educates law enforcement professionals in the field of computer forensics.