What is a Cybercrime Investigator? (and How to Become One)by@marcusleary
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2,531 reads

What is a Cybercrime Investigator? (and How to Become One)

by Marcus LearyOctober 1st, 2023
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rapidly growing. With so many scams popping up online, a new career path has been created to protect people from this rising issue: the cybercrime investigator. This article will go over what this job is and lay out all the info you need to decide if it’s the right career path for you.

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Over 50 million US citizens have been affected by cybercrime to date, and that percentage is rapidly growing.

With so many scams popping up online, a new career path has been created to protect people from this rising issue: the cybercrime investigator.

This article will go over what this job is and lay out all the info you need to decide if it’s the right career path for you.

What is Cybercrime, and What is a Cybercrime Investigator?

Cybercrime refers to any illegal activity conducted through digital technologies or the internet. It usually involves an individual or a group of individuals gaining unauthorized access to a victim’s bank account.

A cybercrime investigator may sound like a made-up job on a bad network TV show, but it’s a real career becoming more prevalent every day.

This type of investigator is a specialist who collects evidence of cyber crimes and fraud on the internet. The evidence collected is later used to prosecute these cyber criminals in a court of law.

As an example, there may be a string of SIM swap attacks in your local area where victims are losing access to their bank accounts due to their phones getting hacked. If you’re in the cybercrime investigation field, it would be your job to interview each victim, collect and organize any clues you find as to who the perpetrators are, and hopefully trace any digital prints you may find back to those who are responsible.

In this line of work, you’ll be embedded with a local police station or a bigger organization such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

There are also many different titles for this career path, all of which do basically the same thing with a few added responsibilities here or there.

Here’s a quick list of some of the titles this career may go under:

  • Digital Forensic Investigator
  • Computer Forensic Analyst
  • Digital Forensic Examiner
  • Multimedia Forensic Analyst
  • Network Forensic Analyst
  • Cyber Fraud Investigator
  • Dark Web Analyst
  • Senior Cybersecurity Analyst

The Daily Life of a Digital Forensic Investigator

So, what exactly would your daily work life look like as a cybercrime investigator? Well, it’s a lot like normal police work.

Yes, a good amount of the job will involve being behind a desk and looking at a computer screen, but most cybercrime will eventually make its way into the real world, mainly through illegal bank transfers. It’s legal for someone to trick another person online, but once they attempt or succeed in stealing their money, the line has been crossed, and that’s where you come in.

Your daily work life will consist of:

  1. Conducting interviews with victims and witnesses.
  2. Conducting interviews with suspects.
  3. Finding clues on the dark web.
  4. Recovering destroyed data and examining its contents.
  5. Piecing together how a cyberattack may have occurred.
  6. Testifying in court.
  7. Training police officers on cybercrime-related issues.
  8. Going undercover as a cybercriminal to infiltrate black-hat hacking organizations.

Required Education to Become a Cybercrime Investigator

To become a cybercrime investigator, in most cases, you’ll need a bachelor’s degree in cybersecurity, computer science, information technology, or criminal justice.

Sometimes, it’s recommended that you obtain a certification, but it’s not an industry standard.

There are two main certifications to consider, and you only need to complete one:

  1. Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP): This is a six-day course that requires you to pass a 100 to 150-question exam. This certification promises to validate your expertise and unlock exclusive resources and educational tools you may need.

  1. Certified Ethical Hacker: Receiving this certification requires you to complete a 125-question exam in four hours. By the end of the course, you’ll understand everything you need to know about ethical hacking laws and requirements.

How Much Does Someone in Cybercrime Investigation Make?

The answer to this question depends on the state that you live in, but according to Zip Recruiter, cybercrime investigators make, on average, about $75,000 per year.

Some states are as low as $47,000, while other states are as high as $135,000.

Skills You’ll Need as a Cyber Fraud Investigator

To truly know if cybercrime investigation is the path you want to take, you can ask yourself if you have the skill set required to do the job. This career path may pay well, but you’ll need to make sure you have what it takes to do the job.

Here are the 5 skills you’ll need for the job:

1. Advanced Computer Skills

Sure, you know how to use Google Chrome and how to find a saved image on your hard drive, but do you know the difference between a dynamic and static IP address? Do you know why IPv6 is starting to replace IPv4? Do you know what IPv6 stands for?

Cybercriminals understand current-day technology like the back of their clammy hands, and you’ll need to understand it just the same to catch them.

This includes coding skills so you can understand how each crime is committed.

2. Critical Thinking Skills

As an investigator, you'll need the ability to think outside the box and put yourself in the shoes of the criminal.

Critical thinking skills will help you establish the criminal’s motive and understand why they committed the act in the first place (it’s usually for money).

Here are a few questions to ask yourself to determine if you have good critical thinking skills:

  • Do you challenge the assumptions of others? Do you challenge your own assumptions?
  • Do you tend to analyze information objectively from multiple perspectives?
  • Do you seek out different viewpoints and backgrounds?
  • Do you assess the credibility of the sources of information that you read? Do you check the author’s credentials? Do you look for any potential conflicts of interest that the author may have?
  • Do you practice active listening by reflecting on what the other person is saying before formulating your response?
  • Do you engage in logical reasoning by basing your opinions on evidence and identifying logical fallacies?
  • Do you engage in activities that require problem-solving and strategic decision-making, like puzzles, brain teasers, and video games?

If you’re interested in improving your critical thinking ability, this article is a great resource to hopefully broaden your horizons.

3. Organization Skills

A big part of this career path is keeping your evidence easily accessible.

You can’t just have random screenshots and files thrown all over your hard drive. You’ll need to keep the information you find nice and tidy.

The main thing to remember is that someone else will be looking at the evidence you collect, so if you’re an unorganized person, this career may not be for you.

4. Communication Skills

A career in cybercrime forensics requires a good amount of talking, and I don’t mean with a keyboard.

You’ll have to explain your findings to law enforcement officers, lawyers, and judges. You’ll also have to conduct interviews with witnesses, victims, and suspects.

To do this job, you’ll have to:

  1. Use clear and concise language when expressing your ideas and findings.
  2. Tailor your communication style to different individuals and situations, considering factors such as the other person’s level of technical knowledge.
  3. Ask open-ended questions that will encourage detailed responses.
  4. Build a rapport with colleagues and victims to establish trust.
  5. Practice empathy by putting yourself in the shoes of the victim.

5. Acting Skills

In some cases, you may be asked to infiltrate criminal organizations by pretending to be a cybercriminal yourself. Doing so will require you to act like one of the bad guys to gain their trust.

You will receive special training when it comes to these undercover situations, but to pull this off, you’ll need to be able to adapt to any situation quickly.

Consider taking some acting classes or studying the craft to improve your improvisation abilities.

To hear what it’s really like to infiltrate an online criminal organization, check out this podcast titled “Day in the Life of an FBI Undercover Cybercrime Agent.” The podcast features special agent Darren Mott as he explains how he remained undetected during his role in Operation Sudden Urge and Operation Fast Link, two of the largest online cybercrime stings in history.

So, Should You Become a Cybercrime Investigator?

If you’ve been scammed online in the past and you want to get revenge on the cybercrime community, a career in cyber fraud investigation might be your calling.

However, if you’re an introverted person with few computer and critical thinking skills, this career path may not be for you.

If it turns out that cybercrime investigation is not for you, that’s okay. You can at least rest assured that there are people out there ready and able to catch the person who scammed you.

In the meantime, it’s always a good idea to keep track of the newest scams online, so you won’t have to call up a cybercrime investigator in the first place.