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Top Four Digital Forensics Certifications

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By: Nihad Hassan

April 7, 2021

As society moves steadily to become completely digital, cybercriminals moved with the wave and shifted their activities to cyberspace. The ongoing spread of COVID-19 has forced most organizations worldwide to adopt the work-from-home model. In this new scenario, employees have to access their corporate resources remotely using personal computing devices considered less secure than their work counterparts. This created a golden opportunity for cybercriminals to intensify their cyberattacks during the pandemic.

As people and businesses become more reliant on technology, the number and sophistication of cyberattacks intensify. Cybercrime damage is expected to cost the world $10.5 trillion annually by 2025. Cybercrime losses are massive and exceed the cumulative damage caused by natural disasters in the entire globe!

To counter the accelerated number of cyberattacks, computer forensics jobs are in high demand. According to the U.S. Bureau of labor statistics, information security analysts' related jobs are projected to grow by 28% between 2016 and 2026.

The Computer Forensic job title (also widely known as Digital Forensics) has become popular because of the increased number of data breaches. Many private organizations have already developed a digital forensics capability to solve internal policy violations and respond to cyber incidents more efficiently.

Digital forensics certifications are very important for proving the proficiency of the digital forensics examiner, to confirm the ability to detect compromised systems, identify how and when a breach took place, discover what attackers have acquired or changed in the target system, and, finally, present investigation findings in an official report to interested parties. Having a digital forensics certification is also considered a prerequisite to occupy some job rules. Besides, all police departments and many jobs in the Department of Defence require digital forensics skills, and owning this credential is considered the best way to confirm your skills.

This article will shed light on the most popular four digital forensics certifications.

Top four digital forensics certifications

Computer Hacking Forensic Investigator (CHFI)

CHFI, issued by the EC-Council, certifies IT professionals in computer forensics from a vendor-neutral perspective. A CHFI certified professional would possess valuable skills to solve digital crimes such as: acquire digital forensic evidence, examine and analyze the acquired image for interesting leads, recover deleted data, use a plethora of digital forensic tools using all phases of digital forensic investigation, maintain chain of custody when handling digital evidence, and follow strict procedures to acquire, analyze, and present forensically sound evidence in a court of law.

Although EC-Council recommends following in-house training before attempting the exam, professionals can enroll to take the exam if they possess two years of experience in information security and pay a non-refundable $100 eligibility application fee.

CHFI is valid for three years; after that time, examiners should either retake the exam or participate in EC-Council Continuing Education (ECE) Program to renew the certification.

AccessData Certified Examiner (ACE)

Created by the developer of the popular Forensic Toolkit (FTK) program used widely in digital investigations. ACE tests a user's proficiency with AccessData's Forensic Toolkit (FTK). ACE will not test the examiner with the general digital forensics methodologies and concepts as it is strictly related to testing a user's knowledge with the tool.

Although there is no prerequisite for taking this exam, AccessData advises examiners to have a working knowledge of using this tool and a general background in conducting computer investigations. ACE is valid for two years; after that, the examiner should retest again to renew its certification validity.

EnCase Certified Examiner (EnCE)

(EnCE) certification tests a user's proficiency with Opentext EnCase Forensic toolkit. EnCE certification confirms that professionals have mastered a general computer investigation methodology and have become confident enough with EnCase software to conduct complex computer investigations.

The EnCE exam prerequisite is attending 64 hours in an authorized computer forensic training (online or classroom) center OR having one year of work experience in conducting computer forensics investigations.

EnCE Certification is valid for three years. To renew the certification, one should either retake the exam or fulfill one of the following prerequisites:

  1. Attend a minimum of thirty-two (32) credit hours of documented continuing education in computer forensics or incident response.
  2. Earn another computer forensics or incident response-related certification within the renewal period.
  3. Attend one Enfuse conference within the renewal period.

GIAC Certified Forensic Examiner (GCFE)

The GCFE tests a professional's digital forensic analysis knowledge, focusing on the core skills required to collect and analyze digital evidence from Windows operating systems. GCFE certification holders will possess the necessary knowledge, skills, and ability to conduct different investigations. Such as e-Discovery, forensic analysis, reporting, digital evidence acquisition, web browser, email and log analysis forensics, USB forensics, and gathering users and application activities on Windows systems.

The organization behind GIAC is the famous SANS Institute. GIAC offers numerous digital forensic certifications, which include:

  1. GIAC Certified Forensic Examiner (GCFE)
  2. GIAC Certified Forensic Analyst (GCFA)
  3. GIAC Reverse Engineering Malware (GREM)
  4. GIAC Network Forensic Analyst (GNFA)
  5. GIAC Advanced Smartphone Forensics (GASF)
  6. GIAC Cyber Threat Intelligence (GCTI)

GIAC certifications are valid for four years, after which they must be renewed using either of the following ways:

  1. Taking the current version of the certification exam
  2. Earning Continuing Professional Education credits (CPEs)

Summary

As cybercrimes continue to escalate, more qualified digital forensics investigators are required. There are different digital forensics certifications to test user's ability to investigate cybercrimes; some are vendor-neutral, while others are tool-specific. Having such certifications becomes essential to prove user proficiency in the subject certification field.

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