Considered one of the upcoming careers in the IT industry, the salary of a computer forensic professional is enviable, and someone with experience can command a huge pay packet. Read on to gain more knowledge about it.
The salary graph for computer forensic experts has witnessed an incline, as cyber crime has gone up, and the preference for data storage has shifted from the traditional paper books to computer spreadsheets. These experts are fast emerging, as the new age detectives of crime have shifted base from the real world to the virtual world. The 9/11 attacks in the US have also put the focus back on terrorism and cyberterrorists.
Identity theft, credit card fraud, and pedophiles surfing the Internet for prey are some of the cases, where these experts help the police to investigate better. Such an expert finds employment with law enforcement, detective agencies, corporate businesses, and private players, who are at risk of such crimes. As the information goes digital, and our dependence on the Internet and computer grows, the job outlook in this field is believed to be lucrative for the coming years.
The computer forensic analyst uses sophisticated hardware and software tools to investigate cyber crimes, computer hacking, and to decrypt data, which may help in furthering a case. The analyst uses various techniques to get information on suspects, such as IP address tracing and packet sniffing. In IP address tracing, a reverse search is done to find out information about the Internet Service Provider (ISP), and then to get information on the suspect.
This technique is widely used to track down pedophiles, who use computers to lure kids. Nowadays, traditional ransom notes or threat notes have been replaced by e-mails. The computer forensic analyst tracks email scams with the email header, which contains source IP address, server information, and information on the date and time of email generation. He/she also helps decrypt information that is on a storage device such as CD, DVD, hard drive, or USB.
Digital media is fast emerging as the new means of information transfer, and devices such as desktop computers, laptops, Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs), and mobile phones are some of the equipment that an analyst has to go through to get the information they want. The technique of packet sniffing is used to collect valuable information from networks, such as email ids, passwords, and personal information.
To do their job, these analysts use tools like hex editors, which are computer programs that allow them to manipulate the binary data and ensure network security. Other tools that are used include decryptors, disk analyzers, packet sniffers, and DNS tools. The analysts use all the tools at their disposal, along with technical know-how to sniff out digital clues. They have to track down hackers, who cause a menace in the lives of ordinary people and corporates, and pose a threat to network security.
The field of computer forensics is relatively new, and people working in this field have no specific qualification, other than extensive knowledge about computers and Internet crimes. Nowadays, there are several colleges, which offer degree and certificate programs in computer forensics and information systems security. Some colleges even offer online degree programs that are quite helpful in securing a good salary.
The average salary is between USD 47,000 and USD 80,000. Law enforcement and legal services are emerging as top employers in this field, and the salaries offered are also at par with some private organizations. Salary ranges for jobs in metropolitan areas such as New York and Los Angeles have been reported to be as high as USD 90,000 to USD 100,000. Detective agencies are also good employers, as they seem to offer anywhere between USD 45,000 and USD 80,000, depending on the experience and qualifications of a professional.
The salary largely depends on the employer and your geographical location, and like any other IT job, this field promises a lucrative future, too.