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Homepage / From Computing… to Digital Investigations

From Computing… to Digital Investigations


The Digital Element

Those in the field of digital forensics are often tasked with examining digital devices and their data as part of any alleged incident. It is estimated that more than 90% of reported crime now has a digital element (UK statistics), and those involved in criminal investigations must now be able to understand the role that any technology has played. The role could range from a need to examine common device types like mobile phones and computers, to more bespoke technologies such as smart alarm systems and vehicle telematics.

Those in digital forensics are constantly tasked with learning how things work and often faced with the challenge of solving technology-orientated problems by exploring devices that they may have never seen or used before. With this in mind, just what skills do those seeking to enter this domain as a career need to have, and where do they come from?

Digital Traces

Those studying computer science and related technology and computing disciplines are very well positioned to succeed in the field of digital forensics and cyber investigation. The fundamental subjects covered in these syllabuses and the knowledge and skills that are subsequently acquired provide a solid foundation from which most digital forensic examinations are built.

All digital forensic examinations start with a need to determine how any technology subject to an investigation works and how any of its functionality and services operate in order to identify and interpret any digital traces left as a result of it being used. Those with underpinning knowledge of computing science principles and practices can begin to determine the inner workings of any technology or service and evaluate how this information can be used as part of any investigation.

Digital Detectives?

A digital forensic practitioner could be considered a ‘digital detective’ or ‘digital spy’, with a need for excellent investigative skills in order to seek to answer the ‘whos’, ‘whats’ ‘wheres’, ‘whens’ and ‘hows’ in relation to any given incident. To do this successfully, first requires strong computing and technology skills and knowledge, with those having undergraduate degrees in such fields very well placed to succeed in a career as a digital forensic practitioner.

Where can you expect to work?

If you do move into the digital forensic field, where can you expect to work? Whilst it may feel like working in policing environments is a natural pathway, it is far from the only one. The following is a list of potential organisations where digital forensic practitioners may, and do work:

  • Health care providers.
  • Government organisations.
  • Social media companies.
  • Private sector companies.
  • TV/cable providers.
  • Airlines.
  • Supermarkets.
  • Graduate schemes.
  • Academic teaching, research and training.
  • Law enforcement.
  • Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft.
  • Visa.
  • Warner Bros.


Funding Support:

If you’re interested in pursuing a Digital Forensics MSc with Cranfield University, the CCL Future of Digital Forensic Science Scholarship may be just what you need to start your journey.

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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