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How to prepare for Entry-Level

Discussion of computer forensics employment and career issues.
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How to prepare for Entry-Level

Post Posted: Mon Jan 25, 2016 12:35 pm

Hello,

I have been interested in puzzles and technology since I was young. When I went to college, I focused on mathematics as the logic and problem (puzzle) solving was of great interest to me. I had also heard that mathematics was a great stepping stone when it came to many job fields.

Now, I have a Master's in Applied Mathematics, but job seekers turn me away due to lack of experience. In hindsight, maybe I should have gone for a degree in Computer Science, but I have a basic understanding of many programming languages. I have a better understanding of the theory behind programming, most of my issues lie in syntax which can be looked up.

I guess I'm coming to you guys to ask for any tips you may have on preparing for entry level positions in forensics, specifically digital forensics. I have always had a passion for Criminology (I minored in Sociology) and love the idea of solving puzzles in that realm. However, going back to school after already getting a Master's is daunting and I'm at a loss of what to do to make myself employable.

Thank you for any suggestions you may have.  

simpl3x
Newbie
 
 
  

Re: How to prepare for Entry-Level

Post Posted: Mon Jan 25, 2016 10:03 pm

You are not looking in the right places. Try HERE.  

BitHead
Senior Member
 
 
  

Re: How to prepare for Entry-Level

Post Posted: Wed Jan 27, 2016 9:37 pm

Thanks for your response. I've actually done quite a bit of searching on the USAJobs site and find it very useful for finding jobs given my major.

However, finding the jobs themselves isn't necessarily my issue. My issue comes once the interview process starts. For instance, I've had two phone interviews with a digital forensics company. The first was about my general background and had the typical interview questions before going a bit more in depth on my math background. They invited me to do a second interview with one of their tech guys and the questions were more computer oriented. Not having a computer background, I don't know the terminology (history of each OS, networking terminology, UNIX familiarity). So I felt like I struggled quite a bit.

Thankfully, (I'm not exactly certain as to why, but I'm trying to stay optimistic) they have invited me for the next round of face-to-face interviews. While there, I'm expected to give a 30 minute presentation, with report and handouts, on a topic of my choice. I'm confused as to what sort of topics would be acceptable, as well as how I can go about increasing my technical knowledge since I didn't have the computer courses others had in college.  

simpl3x
Newbie
 
 
  

Re: How to prepare for Entry-Level

Post Posted: Sun Jan 31, 2016 5:21 pm

- simpl3x
However, finding the jobs themselves isn't necessarily my issue.
Are you looking at jobs for mathematicians or for computer scientists?

- simpl3x
My issue comes once the interview process starts. For instance, I've had two phone interviews with a digital forensics company. The first was about my general background and had the typical interview questions before going a bit more in depth on my math background. They invited me to do a second interview with one of their tech guys and the questions were more computer oriented. Not having a computer background, I don't know the terminology (history of each OS, networking terminology, UNIX familiarity). So I felt like I struggled quite a bit.
Those are the questions that are typical in an interview for a job in forensics. Without a basic familiarity of those topics you will struggle.

- simpl3x
Thankfully, (I'm not exactly certain as to why, but I'm trying to stay optimistic) they have invited me for the next round of face-to-face interviews. While there, I'm expected to give a 30 minute presentation, with report and handouts, on a topic of my choice. I'm confused as to what sort of topics would be acceptable, as well as how I can go about increasing my technical knowledge since I didn't have the computer courses others had in college.
How do you think mathematics would help you in forensics? What do you know about encryption? What skills do you have in computational analysis? Do you have any programming skills?

For basic computer knowledge the CompTIA A+ and Network+ are really the bare minimum of knowledge one would expect (think GeekSquad) for someone in computer forensics.  

BitHead
Senior Member
 
 
  

Re: How to prepare for Entry-Level

Post Posted: Sun Jan 31, 2016 10:01 pm

It sounds like you're treating this as an entry-level job; it's not. Most people entering digital forensics for the first time already have significant background in either law enforcement or information technology/security. That's not to say that it's impossible to find a job in the field starting. There may be some employers willing to train you. But, you need to make it easy for them to take a chance on you. Start learning more about computers. As the previous poster noted, A+ level skills are basically table stakes. As a digital forensics professional, you'll potentially need to testify in court as an expert. If you don't have enough grounding in basic IT/support to get through an interview, how do you expect to do that?

My suggestions:

1) Find an A+ study guide, read it, do the practice questions, then (optional) take the real test. A+ isn't a forensics certification, but it will show an employer that you have enough background in basic computer knowledge to train in forensics.

2) Get some basic digital forensics books and start reading. Anything with decent reviews on Amazon is a good place to start. All of Harlan Carvey's books are very good but I would read an "Intro to" book first.

3) Play with all of the tools that you read about in the book(s).

4) Find as many forensics resources as you can online. Read several articles a day. Follow any good blogs you encounter. Download free tools and play with them using your own systems.

5) Image a hard drive with EnCase Imager or FTK Imager. Mount the image with FTK Imager.

6) Download OSForensics (demo version is fine) and run it on the hard drive from Step 3. Scan for "Recent Activity". What did you find? What do you not understand? (Google to learn more)

After all that, you should have a pretty basic understanding of forensics and the various technical issues involved. You'll do better in your interviews and, hopefully, be able to convince an interviewer that training you to start in a digital forensics role will be worthwhile.  

tracedf
Senior Member
 
 
  

Re: How to prepare for Entry-Level

Post Posted: Mon Feb 01, 2016 6:01 pm

Thank you both for your detailed answers.

- BitHead
How do you think mathematics would help you in forensics? What do you know about encryption? What skills do you have in computational analysis? Do you have any programming skills?

My background isn't exactly straightforward. I chose math because I love the problem solving aspect of it. I had initially started as an education major, but found I liked doing more than teaching. After some conversations with professors and a conference where I met math majors working in different industries, I kept hearing that math majors could get a job anywhere. So I chose math as my master's subject. I know there are mathematicians that work at government level jobs and I guess I was hoping that any gaps I had could be filled in through on-the-job training.

I understand the theory behind encryption, but that's the extent of my knowledge. I have studied programming languages on my own and have understanding of the theories and terminologies, but like encryption, I do not have a lot of experience actually putting the knowledge to practical use. That seems to be my theme when it comes to my "skills." I have knowledge, but not much practice and am unsure how to beef that portion up.

- tracedf
It sounds like you're treating this as an entry-level job; it's not. Most people entering digital forensics for the first time already have significant background in either law enforcement or information technology/security. That's not to say that it's impossible to find a job in the field starting.

You're correct, I am looking for that entry-level, foot-in-the-door spot and I guess I'm unsure how to get there. Hindsight is always 20/20, but I guess I've been hoping that with all the schooling I took, I wouldn't have to go back for something else. I've been hoping there was a way to supplement on my own without shelling out loads more for trainings and certifications.

I'll look into the resources you suggested (thank you very much for the ideas).  

simpl3x
Newbie
 
 
  

Re: How to prepare for Entry-Level

Post Posted: Mon Feb 01, 2016 11:34 pm

- simpl3x

You're correct, I am looking for that entry-level, foot-in-the-door spot and I guess I'm unsure how to get there. Hindsight is always 20/20, but I guess I've been hoping that with all the schooling I took, I wouldn't have to go back for something else. I've been hoping there was a way to supplement on my own without shelling out loads more for trainings and certifications.

I'll look into the resources you suggested (thank you very much for the ideas).


The easiest entry-level job that's related to what you want to do is probably IT support (help desk, computer tech, etc). It will probably be easier to land a support position now and work toward a forensics position after that.

If you're so inclined, start studying for the A+/Network+ and start applying. Since you already have a degree in math, you're on much better footing than most entry-level candidates since people will assume you're smart and have some tech exposure. You'll may find that you don't need to actually get the certs. Once you land a job, focus on doing well in that role until you get comfortable. You want to stay employed and establish a baseline set of skills that you can build from. Then you can spend more time studying forensics.

You'll ultimately need a lot of training to work in forensics, but you don't have to pay for it all yourself. If you get in with the right company, they will train you. If you can afford it, however, getting trained is a good way to raise your prospects.  

tracedf
Senior Member
 
 

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