With the growing number of TV series dealing with cybercrime, you might be wondering how to become a cybercrime investigator. The TV plots play genius-level experts against organized crime bosses and armed criminals. It sounds glamorous. So, what is cybercrime and how can you become one of the “good guys” investigating it?
What is Cybercrime?
Although it can involve organized crime and amount to millions of dollars, cybercrime is also committed by the petty thief who has a credit card reader on his cell phone. Norton, a company that makes antiviral programs, defines cybercrime as any crime with computer aspects. There are basically two types. The first involves incidents such as a user unwittingly downloading a Trojan horse virus. This virus installs a “keystroke logger” that enables the criminal to access personal information. This type includes “phishing” attempts as well. Phishing is done through email or other accounts where the criminal poses as a legitimate business, or even a government official online and requests information. The perpetrator says he is from the IRS or from a credit card company and asks the victim to give them things like social security numbers and account numbers for savings and checking accounts. These crimes can involve a few people or victimize millions, as in the theft of information from the credit cards of millions of customers at Target. The second type of cybercrime concerns cyberstalking, harassment and child predators, among others.
What Does a Cyber Crime Investigator Do?
If you become a cybercrime investigator, you probably won’t roam crime scenes with a gun in your purse or strapped to your shoulder. You will sometimes go to a crime scene to collect evidence, but you will spend your time searching computer data. Or, the computer might be brought to your office for your study. Your duties will include recovering files lost through hacking; testing computer security systems; gathering evidence for prosecution; rebuilding systems damaged through cybercrime; training law enforcement officers; testifying in court and making reports.
What Education and Certifications are Needed?
You will need at least a bachelor’s degree in computer-related fields. Cybercrime investigators must have advanced knowledge and skills in computers because the cybercriminals do. You can make yourself more marketable by adding courses in accounting and other financial disciplines, since most cybercrime deals with money. It helps to take some law enforcement courses as well. There are some two-year programs available through schools both in class and online, but to get a position as an investigator you must have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree. It is then recommended to get an internship to acquire experience. Afterward, you can apply for an entry-level position. You should seek certification, since most employers require it. There are several certifying organizations, but the main certification is from the International Fraternity of Cybercrime Investigators. Certifications can be in-depth or crime-specific, but all require additional training.
What is the Job Outlook and Salary Range?
The job outlook for cybercrime investigators is good: 22 percent over the next few years. Salaries depend upon where you are employed and by whom. Investigators who work for consulting firms make the most because they can work for law enforcement and for corporations simultaneously. The median salary for these professionals is $76,730. The FBI employs many computer forensic investi9gators and pays well, but their employment requirements are much higher.
Related Resource: Forensic Investigator
This is an exciting and worthwhile career for the right person. You must enjoy working with computers and have an analytical mind. If this is you, your next step could be to enroll in a degree program to become a cybercrime investigator.