Digital forensics is a modern-day field of forensic science, which deals with the recovery and investigation of material found in digital devices. When needed, this is often because of a (cyber) crime, whether suspected or established. The most common reasons for performing digital forensics are:
- Identifying a leak within an organization
- Assessing the possible damage that occurred during a breach
The field of digital forensics consists of several subdivisions, depending on the nature of the digital device that is the subject of the investigation:
The same variety applies to graduate programs in this major. Different schools offer different degree names to provide students with a study plan that encompasses digital/computer forensics. The following is a synopsis of some of your degree options.
Master of Science in Digital Forensics
An obvious name for a degree that teaches students how to conduct forensic analysis on a full-spectrum of digital devices. You also gain an understanding of the legal issues affecting the science of digital forensics. The curriculum covers digital crime scene issues, the rules of evidence, and specific computer crime laws. Other courses examine digital forensic investigative techniques, current technologies, storage device architecture, and file system forensics.
Master of Professional Studies in Homeland Security
This program has an option in Information Security and Forensics directed at computer and information systems specialists. In particular, those who want to advance their career, move into the government or private sector supporting government initiatives. As a graduate of this program, you will have a broad range of skills associated with information security and assurance, cyber and network security, cyber threat defense, digital forensics, intelligence analysis, risk assessment, and security policy development.
Master of Science in Information Systems
The concentration in Computer Security Management teaches you the ability to design firewalls and network security systems, as well as analyze system vulnerabilities, counteract and remove Trojans, back-doors, and malware. Topics include the various vulnerabilities of operating systems, software and networks, and the different means used by hackers to access unauthorized information and resources.
Master of Science in Digital Forensics and Cyber Investigation
This program prepares you to meet the growing demand for investigative, leadership, and executive skills in evaluating and managing complex cybersecurity incidents and threats. You will learn how to determine whether a digital system has been attacked or compromised. Upon completion, you will master reliable methods to identify, preserve, analyze, and present evidence for legal prosecution, administrative proceedings, and business purposes. Additionally, as part of the coursework, you will analyze complex data scenarios, examine digital media for evidentiary artifacts, and write detailed digital forensic examination reports.
Master of Science in Cybersecurity
The specialization in Computer Forensics explores forensic tools, analysis, and methods used to investigate network-based incidents. These include unauthorized observation and manipulation of data and the illegal use of digital devices. You will be able to conduct a forensic examination of a computer and understand the legal and privacy considerations in collecting digital evidence. You will also learn key Windows artifacts, such as the Windows Registry, Internet History artifacts, event logs, key Linux artifacts, and key telecommunication artifacts.
Master of Science in Information Assurance and Cybersecurity
There are programs that offer this degree with a specialization in digital forensics. The degree prepares you as a cyber security professional to perform computer forensics. You will explore the legal challenges associated with conducting computer forensics investigations. Graduates will have the skills to analyze what you can and cannot retrieve from various operating systems in digital forensic investigations. You will understand how to employ “best practice” methodologies used in host/ network digital forensics.
This program prepares you for the Certified Cyber Forensics Professional (CCFP) and Certified Hacking Forensics Investigator (CHFI) exams.
These are only a handful of the degree choices and areas of specialization available in computer forensics. Technical investigation specialties include network forensics, mobile device forensics (from text messages to calls, access, and videos), and forensic data analysis. A multilingual candidate with a master’s could work for the Department of Homeland Security analyzing international cyber threats or computer crimes in various world locations. Some cyber forensics experts serve as expert witnesses in criminal cases. Other specialties focus on the type of data involved in criminal activity, including video analysis, audio analysis, and work analyzing “big data” collected across digital networks.
The FBI has several teams specializing in different types of computer and digital forensics, including the Computer Analysis Response Team. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) actively recruits recent graduates for a variety of positions as cryptanalysts. The DHS, in addition, offers jobs in digital forensics, computer security, investigations, threat response, analysis, and assessment.