You may have heard about the sensational Florida murder trial of Casey Anthony for using chloroform in the murder of Caylee, her 2-year old daughter. In the trial, the prosecution used digital forensics evidence to reveal that someone had done Google searches for “chloroform” on the family’s computer. But it didn’t work out as the prosecution expected. Watch Cindy Anthony (Casey’s mother and Caylee’s grandmother) help clear Casey by testifying she performed the Google searches.
Bits and Bytes Investigators
Only Casey and her mother, Cindy, really know who searched “chloroform” on Google. But the fact the searches actually occurred is the sort of valuable evidence that digital forensic analysts present in court every day.
That embarrassing text message or tweet you think was vaporized with a click of the delete button may well have left a hidden data trail on your computer, phone or iPad. You can’t see it, but each bit of data we create leaves information that a digital forensic analyst can uncover to reveal the intimate details of our lives.
A career in digital forensics can mash up a passion for all things digital with investigative skills in policing, law, the military or business. Wherever you find data – and that’s pretty much everywhere – digital forensics analysts use it to pursue hard-core criminals, terrorists, hackers and corporate crooks.
Not every path to digital forensics career is a direct one. Canadian John Bradley, president of SiQuest, was one of the digital forensic investigators who helped retrieve the Google search evidence in the Anthony case. Bradley began his career as a police officer and became interested in digital forensics when he managed the electronic crimes unit at Durham Regional Police.
After leaving the police force, Bradley developed an Internet forensic software called CacheBack, which he used in the Anthony case. He also uses his talent for translating technical issues into understandable, compelling testimony as an expert witness at homicide trials like Anthony’s.
For people who
- Are fascinated with the technical aspects of digital information
- Are detail oriented and persistent
- Are innovative thinkers and problem solvers
- Are interested in the legal and business aspects of cybercrime
You can get a bachelor of science degree specializing in digital forensics and forensic investigations. Or, focus first on the technical expertise needed for digital forensics with a degree in software engineering or computer engineering. Then add courses in forensics tools and techniques such as password cracking and cryptology.
As well as police and government agencies that focus on intelligence gathering, digital forensics analysts work for business consulting firms like Deloitte and PwC. These companies collect digital forensics evidence related to accounting fraud or theft of intellectual property. They also provide digital forensics expertise in reverse by closing loopholes in corporate systems in order to prevent corporate cybercrime from happening.