Computer Forensic Examiners (CFE) are recruited by the FBI to assist Special Agents and other investigators in the retrieval of data stored on information systems including proprietary networks, mobile devices and the World Wide Web. Computer Forensic Examiners usually work in one of the 16 FBI Regional Computer Forensics Laboratories (RCFL), where they may assist federal, state or local law enforcement agents as they pursue criminals and terrorists.
In the course of a year all 16 combined laboratories perform almost 4,500 forensic examinations as well as 600 on-site crime scene analyses. Computer Forensic Examiners have helped apprehend and convict thousands of child pornographers, financial criminals, corporate spies, corrupt public officials and identity thieves. Computer Forensic Examiners have also played critical roles in identifying and capturing terrorists like Christopher Paul who attempted to use WMDs against targets in Europe and the U.S.
Computer Forensic Examiners bring their specialized expertise to bear on a wide variety of investigations and national security operations in the U.S. and across the globe. So much of the world’s communications, financial activity and research now occurs with the aid of information systems, that most of the FBI’s major operations would be significantly hindered without the expertise that CFE jobs provide.
In addition to performing many of the digital forensics services needed by the FBI and other agencies, CFE jobs also involve training others in their profession so that the high standards used at RCFLs can be used everywhere. This not only helps investigators pursue and apprehend the perpetrators, but it also better enables prosecutors to pursue harsh penalties based on impeccable evidence and testimony.
The number of Computer Forensics Examiners employed by the FBI is growing at a fast rate. This reflects the growing number of crimes involving data storage on electronic devices as well as the Bureau’s need for professionals with advanced skills who can counter new methods devised by criminal elements to facilitate their illegal operations.
Computer Forensic Examiner Job Functions
Computer Forensic Examiner (CFE) jobs with the FBI involve the following skills:
- Maintain awareness of new technologies, products and information storage techniques
- Recover data from damaged or erased media like cell phones, laptops and zip drives
- Train entering or returning Computer Forensic Examiners regarding judicial and industry standards
- Decode encrypted messages that intercepted on communications devices including the internet
- Investigate the methods used in a data theft or cyber-attack
- Partner with industry leaders to develop new technologies for data retrieval or interception
Computer Forensic Examiner Salary
Computer Forensic Examiners in the employ of the FBI are not required to possess Special Agent qualifications, so they may enter at the GS-7 or GS-9 level and achieve a final pay grade of GS-12. The entering pay grade is contingent upon prior academic achievement as well as demonstrated skill or experience in digital forensics. An advanced degree in information systems or a related major is often helpful in achieving a higher pay level and accelerated promotions. In 2012, the salaries for these pay levels were