Correct handling and interpretation of digital evidence is fundamental to the way crimes are investigated, prosecuted, and presented in court. Developments in technology happen rapidly, and professionals who rely on digital evidence need to be kept informed. The fast-paced growth in digital technologies and evolving laws governing search and seizure and privacy mean that DHS must develop new digital forensic investigative procedures and develop new tools for training its personnel and law enforcement in general in the use of such procedures. The team looked for best practices for digital forensics that can be immediately applied in investigations and used, along with gaps and requirements identified as the basis for developing training materials.
The research team worked with the Federal Law Enforcement Training Centers (FLETC) to develop and analyze a survey questionnaire focused on required competencies, training needs, certification, and the importance of various skills for first responders dealing with digital evidence as well as for advanced forensics examiners. The team’s analysis of survey results identified common training requirements, certifications desired, and the importance of advanced forensics analysis skills across the different kinds of organizations. Separately, the team collected information about and categorized digital forensics courses and certifications available to those in the field by type, length, NIST job function, forensics lifecycle area, and more. The work identified gaps in certification and training offered by FLETC and available to DHS, and presented available options to fill these gaps. The team also created digital forensics certification pathways based off of their findings. A primary objective of this research is to contribute to the analysis of cyber forensics training and certification for DHS investigators, the standardizing of cyber forensics training, and the development of a consistent certification program. The information gathered could be a start in understanding how to attract and retain cyber professionals to this in-demand area of the government sector.