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Homepage / The traits of a Digital Forensic Investigator

The traits of a Digital Forensic Investigator


What traits does a Digital Forensic investigator need?

The role of a digital forensics practitioner can be both challenging and highly rewarding. In many cases, private clients and criminal justice system officials rely on the findings of digital forensic examinations in order to determine how to progress their scenarios. Knowing this carries pressure to make sure that the work done is accurate and reliable. So what sort of person may be suited to being a digital forensic practitioner? Well here are a few traits we think are important.


  1. Time management: Practitioners may need to engage with more than one case at a time, manage the expectations of multiple clients, and adhere to any legal deadlines that have been set. Doing this requires good time management skills in order to ensure that all investigative requirements are fulfilled, and work is completed accurately and reliably within an agreed time frame.
  2. Attention to detail: Many investigations contain large volumes of complex data that must be sifted and understood in order to identify any information that may be of potential relevance to an inquiry. This task requires a keen eye for detail in order to ensure that nothing important is missed.
  3. Inquisitive: Wannabe practitioners must be ‘digital detectives’, having the ability to identify and follow any trail of ‘digital breadcrumbs’ that may be present on a system in an attempt to find out what actions may have occurred on a system or device. This means constantly being watchful for the presence of digital traces and having the ability to question and test what they may mean.
  4. Methodical: When faced with vast amounts of data, an individual must adopt methodical and logical approaches to interrogating this content to limit the chances of error and relevant content being missed, whilst ensuring an investigation is conducted efficiently.
  5. Lifelong learning: The field of digital forensic science is fast paced and subject to constant change and development. Those seeking to operate in this field must be willing to undertake life long learning and constant knowledge development in order to keep pace with technological change and be able to operate at the cutting edge of forensics.
  6. A good communicator: The findings of any forensic investigation must be communicated to clients effectively, in many cases both orally and in written form. It is vital that practitioners can communicate clearly, concisely and accurately.
  7. Problem solving: Those in digital forensic science must be good problem solvers. Given the vast array of technology, no single person can know everything, and there will be times when there is no obvious solution to an issue, or the meaning of a digital trace is unknown. In such cases, an individual must be able to plan, test and evaluate information in order to determine meaning.
  8. Sound decision making:- Practitioners must be able to exercise sound, objective decision making that aims to be free from bias as part of their examinations.

As you can see, the digital forensic practitioner role is multifaceted – do you have these traits to be successful in this field?

Dr Graeme Horsman

Written By: Cormac Mcmanus

Dr Graeme Horsman is a Digital Forensic expert and practitioner as well as course director of Digital Forensics at Cranfield University.

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