The Journey into Digital Forensics: Exploring Career Opportunities (Revealing Insights)

18 Apr 2024

Digital Forensics and Incident Response (DFIR) is a specialized field within information security focused on managing cybersecurity incidents. It involves identifying, mitigating, and investigating these incidents, which is known as incident response. Additionally, the field includes the application of forensic techniques, referred to as digital forensics, to analyze and gather evidence.

Digital forensics typically begins with an incident, but sometimes, merely detecting signs of unauthorized scanning of a company's IT infrastructure can thwart an attack. Hackers often infiltrate systems in phases and might remain inactive for a while, only to strike a critical digital asset suddenly. For this reason, it is highly effective when digital forensics teams collaborate closely with threat monitoring teams to intercept and block hacking attempts early on.

Paths to a Digital Forensics Career

This profession demands extensive practical knowledge of IT, encompassing everything from operating systems to mobile apps, telecommunications solutions to IoT devices, and from databases to hardware configurations. A digital forensic expert must not only have a deep understanding of how IT systems function - ideally at an admin level - but also grasp how these systems are protected and how exactly they can be compromised.

The transition of someone from a job in cybersecurity, IT administration, or a backend development job into digital forensics can be incredibly valuable. There is no quick training method; the most effective approach is "learning by doing," where individuals learn on the job by tackling specific practical tasks while addressing real-world problems. While there are now excellent courses on digital forensics that can significantly enhance this hands-on learning experience, they should only serve as a supplement, not a replacement.

Main Tasks in Digital Forensic Investigations

The role of incident responders is to analyze traces of intrusions to answer practical questions:

  • What exactly happened?

After a cyber incident, it is vital to determine exactly how hackers gained access and what actions they took. This detailed understanding helps to more accurately assess both the direct damage from the incident and the potential reputational risks.

  • How did this happen?

It is necessary to reconstruct the entire sequence of the attack. This knowledge allows information security specialists to mitigate future cyber threats by addressing vulnerabilities that were exploited in the attack, preventing hackers from using the same or similar tactics again.

  • What should you do at the moment?

Sometimes, digital forensics specialists need to be actively involved in responding to an incident, not just analyzing the traces. There are situations where hacker activity within a company's IT infrastructure is ongoing. In such cases, it is important to respond carefully, in coordination with all members of the security team, to contain the threat.

New challenges are emerging. For example, digital forensics is now used to perform compromise assessments, which involve identifying traces of IT infrastructure compromise. Detecting signs of past breaches can lead cyber investigators to uncover unpatched vulnerabilities or weaknesses in the information security framework. Often, discovering such previously unnoticed issues necessitates thorough investigations.

How Long Investigations Last

Usually, after a cyber incident, the investigation lasts about two to three weeks. While there are complex cases that require significantly more time, these are quite rare.

Most of the time is devoted to the investigation itself, which includes all its stages and the analysis of data collected. Sometimes, this also involves actions to contain the attackers.

Please remember that several days are also spent on writing detailed reports. Documentation is crucial: it is necessary to provide comprehensive information for the management of the client company, its security service, and external cybersecurity providers. In some cases, this information is also vital for law enforcement agencies, as digital forensics plays an important role in the apprehension and exposure of cyber criminals.

Investigating a company's infrastructure for signs of possible intrusion is a time-consuming task due to the extensive amount of work involved. This process can take anywhere from a month to two months, depending on the size of the customer company's IT infrastructure. It is noteworthy that traces of intrusion, such as 'fingerprints' left by malware, backdoors installed by attackers, or suspicious traffic typical of specific post-exploitation frameworks, are often found. All these findings necessitate further research and detailed analysis.

Evaluating a Digital Forensics Profession



[+] This is interesting and creative work that requires a blend of competencies, practices, and intuition.

[-] Entering the profession involves a multistage, lengthy, and complex process.

[+] The specialty is rare, which typically means the average salary is higher than that of cybersecurity officers and admins.

[-] The working day can be irregular - for example, when it is necessary to detain malefactors, one might have to spend the night at the client's office.



[+] Continuous learning about the latest developments in IT, cybersecurity, and forensics keeps you sharp and well-informed.

[-] Switching fields of activity can be problematic due to technical specialties and psychological factors. Investigations are adrenaline-driven, making it difficult to easily walk away from forensics.

The Ever-Learning Digital Forensic Expert

A digital forensic specialist needs to engage in continuous learning, constantly updating and expanding their knowledge in IT and cybersecurity. This includes not only general IT development but also specialized knowledge in forensics, such as new findings, current challenges, and new cases. This practice introduces new techniques and tools while fostering proficiency in identifying malicious acts. For example, over time, forensic experts begin to recognize the distinct "styles" of different hacker groups. Attribution is crucial as it helps quickly untangle the chain of evidence and traces.

A forensic expert continually develops their skills through practical experience and theoretical study. Specialists often need to learn independently, access information from free and paid courses, read articles and books related to their field, watch videos, and attend infosec conferences. They regularly consult specialized information resources such as This Week In 4N6,, The DFIR Report, and Sentinel Labs, along with Mandiant, Red Canary, and TrustedSec blogs. YouTube is another rich source of information, featuring channels like SANS Digital Forensics and Incident Response, 13Cubed, and John Hammond's channel. Additionally, X (formerly Twitter) is a valuable platform where tags like #DFIR and #DailyDFIR provide timely and helpful information.


The demand for digital forensics is growing along with the expansion of the cybersecurity market, but still exceeds the average for the segment. Most businesses do not require specialists with these skills; instead, digital forensic experts are often employed by specialized firms that offer various information security services. The cost of hiring a forensics specialist is usually open to negotiation and heavily relies on their qualifications and hands-on experience in handling incidents. These specialists have always been and will continue to be in short supply because there are no quick paths to becoming proficient in digital forensics.