What Does A Digital Forensics Analyst Do?


A digital forensic analyst investigates the effects of a cyber attack to identify and analyse clues to find those responsible, prevent similar attacks and recover key information. So, what does a forensic computer analyst do?

What is a Digital Forensic Analyst?

Forensic computer analysts work in the field of computer forensics – a specialty of forensic science applied to computer systems.

The scope of computer forensic analysis includes all types of crimes, from the most common such as theft to the most specific ones related to IT. Its main difference with conventional forensic analysis deals with the materials and evidence analysed. In other words, digital forensic analysis is limited to working with evidence on computer equipment and software.

In summary, computer forensics groups a series of methods and techniques to recover, preserve, analyse and document digital evidence in an investigation.

Types of computer forensics

There are different ways to classify computer forensics. One of the easiest ways to classify and understand the types of computer forensics is as follows:

Computer forensic analysis of systems

It corresponds to security incidents located in workstations and servers that operate under Windows, MacOS or GNU/Linux environments. Depending on the type of attack, this analysis also allows the recovery of sensitive information for the organisation, beyond its usefulness as evidence in a judicial process.

Computer forensic analysis of networks

Refers to violations of wired and wireless network security standards and protocols. Through this analysis, gaps in network security measures can also be identified, as well as vulnerabilities in existing protocols.

Computer forensic analysis of embedded systems

It is very similar to system forensics, with the particularity that it is focused on mobile devices. Smartphones and tablets function as storage devices with operating systems and applications. This analysis usually focuses on recovering messages, multimedia files and data that serve as evidence or clues during the investigation, such as the records of the calls made.

Role Overview - Digital Forensics Analyst
Role Overview – Digital Forensics Analyst

What are computer forensics tools?

Computer forensics requires different types of tools. Specialised software helps recover evidence on mobile devices, computers, damaged disks and networks.

Below, you can see some of the most popular forensic analysis tools among experts:

  • autopsy
  • OpenText EnCase Forensic
  • DEFT Linux and DEFT Zero
  • Magnet Encrypted Disk Detector
  • Digital Forensics Framework
  • volatility
  • red line
  • Wireshark
  • DumpZilla
  • SIFT workstation
  • ExifTool
  • Bulk Extractor

Responsibilities of a Forensics Analyst

A forensics analyst is responsible for the entire investigative process in the event of an attack, from identifying the incident to presenting the findings.

Experts in the field organise the functions of the digital forensic analyst in the phases of the investigation, such as:

Identify the objective of the forensic study

The complexity and diversity of cybersecurity events grows year after year. For this reason, it is vital that the computer forensics expert establishes what is involved at the outset. Additionally, if the expert provides their services in an investigation related to a traditional crime, it is important that they define the objective of their analysis at the beginning of the study.

Collecting evidence

Technically, this is usually the most challenging process. In many cases it is necessary to recover data on damaged computers or extract encrypted information. In addition, there may be evidence of different types, in storage devices, networks or applications. Finally, the need for social engineering to understand the links between criminals or internal complicity relationships cannot be ruled out.

Analyse the evidence

Establishing the causes of the incident, the reasons, vulnerabilities and damage are even more important than gathering the necessary information and data. Based on expert analysis, computer forensics offers recommendations and proposals to mitigate damage and prevent future incidents.

Report the findings

At this stage, the computer forensic analyst must be prepared to show the results of their investigation to different types of audiences. It is common for these experts to present their reports to diverse and disparate audiences. It is not uncommon for them to explain their findings to judges, lawyers, cybersecurity experts, and company managers, among others.

Responsibilities Of A Forensics Analyst
Responsibilities Of A Forensics Analyst

What are the responsibilities of a forensics analyst?

  • Perform basic forensic investigations and eDiscovery requests using forensic methodology and tools
  • Identify vulnerabilities in the security systems 
  • Retrieve encrypted or deleted sensitive data and information
  • Recover damaged systems to extract data and information
  • Assemble files with the evidence and take care of the integrity of the information
  • Assist the CIRT (Cyber ​​Incident Response Team) with incidents for forensic investigations
  • Attend audit in case of incidents or fraud

Find expert forensics analysts here

Skills needed in Computer Forensics

A computer forensic analyst knows tools, methods and techniques to capture data, visualise and analyse files. They also know how to analyse logs, internet usage data, email and/or mobile devices.

Along with strong technical expertise, a computer forensic analyst has extensive knowledge of devices, networks and systems, TCP/IP, and network protocols.

Skills Of A Forensics Analyst
Skills Of A Forensics Analyst

These analysts have extensive experience when it comes to complex computer forensics and computer and/or network incident response and they also have a deep understanding of functional areas as part of a security operations centre, such as detection and response to threats or cyber intelligence.

They are well acquainted with eDiscovery, computer forensics, and incident response tools such as Relativity, EnCase, Axiom (Cyber), Paladin, Sumuri Suite, Kali, Cellebrite, Volatility, or Intella.

In terms of skills, a digital forensics analyst is creative and analytical, and has excellent problem-solving and communication skills.

What skills do you need to be a digital forensics analyst?

  • In-depth knowledge of the security threats that affect different sectors
  • Knowledge of the fundamentals of computer forensics and incident response
  • Experience with eDiscovery processes and applications
  • Deep knowledge of the EDRM
  • Knowledge of networks, TCP/IP and other network protocols
  • Mastery of digital forensic analysis tools such as SANS SIFT, CAINE, etc
  • A good understanding of IT security and risk management policies
  • Familiarity with the legal and regulatory aspects related to the incident or attack
  • Expertise in collection procedures and analysis of computer evidence
  • Expert management of methods to preserve evidence
  • Knowledge of specific SOC applications
  • Ability to recover information, data, files and any computer record or trace useful for the investigation
  • Familiarity with cloud computing and storage devices
  • Professional management of executive presentations
  • Strong creativity skills
  • Good analytical thinking
  • Excellent problem-solving skills
  • Strong communication skills

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How do I become a Digital Forensics Analyst? Background and Education

A Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science, IT, or Systems Engineering is often a requirement for computer forensic analyst positions.

Additionally, it is expected that a professional in the area has continuous training, certifications or postgraduate degrees in Computer Forensics.

Here are some interesting certifications and training programs that you can also check out:

Additional background:

One of the most recognized certifications is EnCase Certified Examiner, a recognized tool for digital forensics. 

Given the characteristics of the position, experience in similar positions or with related responsibilities is highly valued. And so, having a few years of proven experience in digital forensics and investigation will be key in hiring. 

In addition, having experience in areas such as vulnerability reverse engineering, host forensics, malware analysis, network traffic analysis, or the collection and preservation of forensic evidence will also boost your chances of landing a good job.

Digital Forensics Analyst Salary & Freelance Rates

Like most other jobs, the salary of a forensic computer analyst depends primarily on factors such as industry, role and experience. 

However, a forensic analyst just starting out can expect a salary of about $50,000 whereas a more senior analyst can expect to make around $102,000 a year. The national average salary of an analyst in the US is $67,000

In Germany, the salary range of a forensics analyst is €38,500 – €65,000 whereas in the UK, the range is £21,000 – £80,000

How much do digital forensics analysts make?

US $67,000 – $102,000
Germany €38,500 – €65,000
UK £21,000 – £80,000

How much do freelance forensics analysts charge?

Average Hourly Rate Of Freelance Computer Forensics Analysts
Average Hourly Rate Of Freelance Computer Forensics Analysts

A freelance computer forensics analyst earns $104 per hour according to the freelancermap index in June 2022. Considering an 8-hour work day, a forensics expert could earn around $832 per day.

Natalia Campana

Natalia is part of the international team at freelancermap. She loves the digital world, social media and meeting different cultures. Before she moved to Germany and joined the freelancermap team she worked in the US, UK and her home country Spain. Now she focuses on helping freelancers and IT professionals to find jobs and clients worldwide at www.freelancermap.com

By Natalia Campana

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