What is a Cyber Crime Investigator?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A cyber crime investigator is a law enforcement officer who specializes in evaluation of cases involving computer crimes. These personnel can work for law enforcement agencies as well as private companies and may also be known as forensic computer technicians. Work in this field requires training in information technology and law enforcement so people have the tools to locate evidence as well as the skills to secure it and make sure it will be usable in court.

Cyber crime investigators test computers and components that could have been used in a crime, such as counterfeiting.
Cyber crime investigators test computers and components that could have been used in a crime, such as counterfeiting.

When members of the public report cyber crimes, a cyber crime investigator participates in the investigation. This can include anything from testing a bank's network to determine how and when a data leak occurred to evaluating an individual computer that may have been used in a crime. Cyber crime investigators can recover and rebuild data if it is damaged or destroyed, accidentally or intentionally. They can also explore computer networks as well as individual computers and hard drives to identify evidence of criminal activity.

Computer forensics specialists can sometimes retrieve information that was meant to be destroyed or deleted.
Computer forensics specialists can sometimes retrieve information that was meant to be destroyed or deleted.

In addition to working on ongoing investigators, a cyber crime investigator may testify in court in regards to a case or assist legal teams with the discovery process. In electronic discovery, legal teams need to locate and secure evidence they will use to argue their cases in court, and they rely on information technology professionals for this process to make sure it is done correctly. Some firms employ in-house cyber crime investigators while others may use the services of a third party company.

This work can also involve making recommendations to fight cyber crime. Educating members of the public is often an important part of the mission, as is the development of better legislation. A cyber crime investigator can identify emerging trends and security issues and provide advice on addressing them before crimes take place. This proactive part of the work is critical for protecting members of the public and national security by making it harder for criminals to identify and use exploits like holes in a security system.

As part of their work, cyber crime investigators usually pursue continuing education through conferences, workshops, and professional publications. Information technology is constantly in motion, and it is not possible to rely on skills learned in school alone. Instead, the investigator must explore new areas of this field and apply these skills to criminal investigation and support of law enforcement personnel. A cyber crime investigator can also become an instructor at a law enforcement agency, college, or university, training the next generation and providing continuing education to colleagues.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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