Before computers, forensics involved paper trails and other evidence used in court. Today, digital forensics collects “virtual footprints” — file fragments, activity logs, timestamps and metadata — used to prosecute cybercrime, optimize security processes and develop effective incident-response protocols.
As a branch of information security, digital forensics is distinct from cybersecurity. On the one hand, cybersecurity protects networks and data from intrusion by unauthorized users; on the other, digital forensics comprises the technologies and processes that react to a breach.
However, whether securing data from hackers or following the “footprints” they left, the processes are intrinsically related, according to a vendors’ marketplace, Cyber Security Kings: “The way they use the information collected during an investigation is the same: they want to find their vulnerabilities, patch them in the short-term, and eliminate them in the long-term.”
Graduates of an online Master of Science in Information Systems (MSIS) with a Concentration in Information Security equips professionals with in-demand knowledge in digital forensics, data processing, risk management and other areas that employers in multiple industries seek.
What Role Does Digital Forensics Play in Global Information Systems?
As international commerce and communication become more deeply connected through networks and computer systems, information security and digital forensics take on added importance.
Complex issues ranging from state-sponsored cybercrime and geo-specific data governance to varying degrees of technological expertise put additional demands on security processes. CrowdStrike, an information security services provider, calls digital forensics and information recovery “a central capability within” organizations’ information security strategy.
“The shift to the cloud, as well as the acceleration of remote-based work, has further heightened the need for organizations to ensure protection from a wide variety of threats across all devices that are connected to the network,” it notes.
In addition to identifying, preserving, analyzing, documenting and presenting evidence on a global scale, digital forensics has a pivotal role in a variety of legal applications, including:
- Criminal prosecution in data theft and corruption and misappropriation of financial assets
- Civil litigation in intellectual property, employment and contract disputes
- Corporate investigations into employee misconduct, fraud and data-security breaches
- Family law divorce and child-custody cases to identify social media and other digital harassment
- Government investigations in antitrust, regulatory and contractor investigations
Moreover, as American Scientist notes, the value of digital forensics goes beyond the legal arena. For example, information security specialists routinely use the processes to collect and organize evidence of network intrusions “not to convict the attacker but to understand how the perpetrator gained access and to plug the hole.”
What Is the Career Market for Information Security Professionals?
The federal government predicts demand for professionals with advanced expertise in information security will grow by 35% through 2031 — seven times faster than the average for all other jobs — as employers add nearly 57,000 positions.
Graduates of a Master of Science in Information Science with a concentration in Information Security online program have a distinct advantage in the competition for such high-demand, lucrative roles as information security analyst and manager, digital forensics examiner and IT auditor.
For instance, the online MSIS with a concentration in Information Security program from Murray State University equips participants with expertise and insights in developing and deploying systems that protect digital assets. The program curriculum includes the following courses:
- Information Systems Security explores issues in network intrusion prevention and detection, incident response, malware, encryption and data privacy.
- Information Security Risk Management challenges students to use an industry-standard risk management framework to conduct qualitative and quantitative assessments, develop policies, report protocols and define mitigation security metrics.
- Legal Issues in Information Security investigates the legal processes in cybersecurity data privacy concepts, intellectual property protections, contracts, governance and investigation.
There is a widespread push to fill information security roles, according to Infosec, an information security professional development provider. Infosec adds that “people get snatched up as soon as they walk out the door with their certificate or diploma,” but “there’s hardly an influx of newly-minted security professionals eager to flex their freshly acquired white-hat skills.”
Professionals in the information and digital forensics space can make the most of this demand with an MSIS in Information Security degree, such as that offered online by Murray State University.