Do people describe you as detailed, accurate and methodical? How about
curious? Are you interested in fighting growing crime problems -- and do you
have a knack with computers? If so, a career as a cyber detective may be
for you. This relatively new but fast-growing field needs employees now. And
the future demand is likely to remain just as strong.
Cyber detectives fall into two general categories: cyber detectives and
computer forensic examiners. That's according to Robert Hopper, computer crimes
manager at the National White Collar Crime Centre (NW3C). NW3C provides entry-level
to very advanced computer forensic training. During the training, they assist
law enforcement in the investigation of cyber crimes.
"Cyber detectives work crimes involving computer-related evidence," he
explains. Some of the more obvious examples include child exploitation, cyber
stalking and fraud cases where a computer was used as part of the crime.
Other people work as computer forensic examiners. These specialists recover
data from devices like computers, cellphones and cameras. Hopper says that
neither of these career paths will result in a typical 9-to-5 job.
"Detectives and computer forensic examiners are often called on to serve
search warrants at odd hours of the day and night," he explains. "And they
are often required to work long hours to collect and examine the electronic
evidence they collect."
"This is mostly in a desk/lab environment," says Gord Hama. He works with
law enforcement in a technological crime branch. "On occasion, civilian specialists
are requested to provide offsite services to [police] and other law enforcement
agencies for assistance in search and seizure of computers and other electronic
This is a dynamic field that has evolved a lot over the years. What started
largely as pranks a few decades ago has turned into a serious crime problem.
"It started off as mischief, like unauthorized access to computers, and
was often a game of curiosity," says Hama.
"Now, many traditional crimes such as fraud, child exploitation and hate
crimes have moved onto the Internet."
"Criminals recognized that there was a lot of money that could be made
using computers," Hopper adds. "They have a feeling that the Internet allows
them to hide from their victims and the police and to some extent that is
Hopper explains that it is very difficult for a suspect who lives in another
country to be prosecuted if he commits a fraud on someone who lives here.
"The information highway moves at light speed, and it is sometimes a challenge
for law enforcement to keep up with it when they have to chase the bad guys
with paper, like subpoenas, search warrants, etc."
Because of the scope of this work, cyber detectives can work for a number
of employers. Law enforcement agencies hire a lot of detectives or train their
own personnel. But private businesses and corporations, detective agencies,
regulatory agencies, the military and the government all have use for these
Physically challenged individuals can attain very good positions in this
field. "Within some constraints, physically challenged persons can be ideal
candidates in the field of computer forensics," says Hopper.
"Private sector pay in this career field can be in the six-figure range
so this is a field that can result in a very good career choice for some challenged
Both Hopper and Hama also identify embedded systems as a continuing trend
in computer crime. Embedded systems are dedicated computer systems serving
a specific purpose -- think of PDAs, cellphones, etc. These systems are constantly
changing, so they can be challenging to work with.
"The use of computers and embedded systems has seen a steep rate of growth
in the last five to 10 years," says Hama. "Technology is constantly and rapidly
evolving to such a degree that we currently project continued demand and growth
in this field."