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The darker side of being a computer forensics analyst

Discussion of computer forensics employment and career issues.
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Senior Member

The darker side of being a computer forensics analyst

Post Posted: Jan 25, 10 14:37

A sobering piece for those looking to find employment in law enforcement forensics. bit.ly/5WTcYP Please be warned; the article is not for the faint-hearted.

The issues he mentions are some of the reasons I left working on behalf law enforcement and went to the corporate side. The 2 year time limit he mentions sounds familiar, the only thing that doesn't ring true is that he mentions that forensics in law enforcement pays well; quite the opposite in the UK at least.
Forensic Control
St Bride Foundation, 14 Bride Lane, London, EC4Y 8EQ 

Last edited by Jonathan on Jan 26, 10 14:10; edited 1 time in total

Site Admin

Re: The darker side of being a computer forensics analyst

Post Posted: Jan 25, 10 16:41

Very good post, Jonathan, thank you. As I think I may have mentioned to you briefly some time ago this continues to be an area which I think is under-reported and indeed, under-valued in many workplaces (and I include within that number some where "processes and procedures" are already in place - I think there needs to be more than that.) I applaud the frankness of the post in question - if we're going to discuss this kind of thing, and I think we certainly should be doing so, there's no point in being anything other than brutally honest.

On a side note I tried last year to push someone involved in this area (i.e. dealing with the psychological effects on examiners) to put togther something for the site so that we could at least kick off some discussion but it didn't pan out. I have something else in mind which may be useful later this year but need to lay some groundwork first. In any event, thanks again for raising the issue.

Jamie Morris
Forensic Focus
Web: www.forensicfocus.com
Twitter: twitter.com/ForensicFocus
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Senior Member

Re: The darker side of being a computer forensics analyst

Post Posted: Jan 25, 10 17:04

I have always felt extremely fortunate that I do not deal in the areas of computer forensics mentioned in the article. I've dealt with intrusions, data breaches, malware infections, etc...but not illicit images. Thank God.  


Re: The darker side of being a computer forensics analyst

Post Posted: Jan 25, 10 17:26

- Jonathan
The issues he mentions are the reasons I left working on behalf law enforcement and went to the corporate side.

It is an interesting article and worth a read for those considering working in law enforcement computer forensics and for private companies. You just never know what your going to come across. Yes, we are exposed to a lot as examiners and the psych wellbeing needs to be maintained, knowing the stuff were exposed to can be left behind after a days work. This is why, in our department at least, it is now mandatory to see the psych every 6 months for assessment. I wonder how many other agencies initiate this.  


Re: The darker side of being a computer forensics analyst

Post Posted: Jan 25, 10 19:00


I haven't read the article yet, but as I read the critique of it, I wanted to comment on the very same thing...how working like that ate my soul.

It wasn't until I left that I realized I COULD do that work AND live with the images and memories....if only I were allowed to work.

Also, I used to work for JJI...


Re: The darker side of being a computer forensics analyst

Post Posted: Jan 25, 10 19:52

Nice Post! As with rrwashing, up until 3 months ago I worked for JJI too. I agree with everything he said. While I did not leave b/c I couldn't do it anymore - my soul is definitely different, humor darker, jaded etc. However, I'm now forced to question myself. Who am I now (if decapitations, rapes, child pornography/molestation and all the others) don't seem to bother me anymore? I remember rrwashing and I working a case that required counseling for everyone who had worked it. There were ppl in the room that seemed like they weren't affected by it at all. Well, after numerous cases like that and things I couldn't swap out or purge from my memory if I tried, I understand how and why they were like that. I guess I've joined the ranks of the extremely numb.  

Senior Member

Re: The darker side of being a computer forensics analyst

Post Posted: Jan 25, 10 20:02


I had to put my two pence into the equation.

I became an examiner/analyst about the same time as Jonathan. In fact we worked for the same unit in those early days. Whilst Jonathan has moved into the commercial world I remain in LE. It could make a person wonder was Jonathan not strong enough? Or is there something wrong with me that I should chose to stay?

Yes Jonathan was strong enough and I don't think I'm that insane but it is interesting to consider, can only the warped stay in LE?

For me remembering the successes makes it all worthwhile. Back in 2004 I did a job where I identified another current victim of abuse that we hadn't previously known about when I began the job. I 'felt' there was more to find and carried on after finishing the original work request. Because of that work further arrests were made and a little girl was taken out of a situation of abuse.

Whatever happened after that, I had saved this little girl from further abuse. Any future job I did from then on might present this same opportunity. So I stick with it, with that thought in mind.

Child abuse victim identification units exist and hearing their success stories can raise the spirits of even the most cynical examiner. Knowing that a particular child has been found and that there will be no more videos of them is a positive result that can make it all worthwhile. More information like this should find it's way to and from LE agencies.

Maybe these victims will never get over the abuse, maybe they will. Tomorrow is always another day for them and one day further since the abuse stopped. At least it has stopped.

I've limited my responses to child abuse jobs because I didn't want to get graphic on here with tales of murder and terrorism work. Sometimes with those jobs all you can do is provide evidence that proves guilt. Nobody wins in that scenario, even for the family of the victim this provides little or no comfort. Maybe a future victim is safe now we've put the perpetrator in prison, maybe.

In these situations objectivity and professionalism must become the overriding factors. A job well done is all you might achieve. Maybe you learn something new from a technical point of view for a future case. Find all the positives, no mater how small, that's what I believe.

As for the article's remarks concerning personal interaction outside of work. It can be hard as a parent to not let my children become cynical based on my experience, rather they should become cynical from their own experiences. When I get home I have to look like I've been on the golf course all afternoon, cheery and happy. I can achieve that but some people might need a means of unwinding some days.

Despite going to scene attendances, getting a bullet proof vest, going into police buildings and occasionally knowing about breaking news stories before they break, according to my teenage daughter I am still not cool. Damn.

Anyway, I've droned on long enough.

Forensic Computer Examiner, London, UK 

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