Does Digital Forensics Require Coding or Programming Skills?

A career as a digital forensics analyst sounds exciting, especially when it involves uncovering digital evidence, helping to apprehend suspects, and testifying in a court of law as an expert witness giving expert opinions.

But what are the prerequisites involved?

Do you need Python coding skills, assembly language, or C++ language before you can become a digital forensics expert?

This article will answer all the questions relating to this specialized niche field of study as a career.

Are Coding and Programming Skills Necessary in Digital Forensics?

When learning digital forensics or pursuing a career in this field, it is not necessary to have coding and programming skills. You do not need these prerequisites to get started with digital forensics.

In fact, most commercial and open-source forensic tools have fully automated features, e.g., automated file carving, automatic parsing of system artifacts, etc., using the graphical user interface (GUI) that enables forensic analysts to focus more on the data analysis portion.

Forensic analysts do not need to code their own applications or do any form of programming.

Digital forensics software is built and designed to be GUI-friendly to facilitate point-and-click file analysis.

When it comes to attending digital forensics courses and certifications, there are no coding and programming tests or requirements as well.

The main competency of any digital forensic analyst lies in their ability to perform file analysis, e.g., finding out where a certain file comes from or using metadata to tell a story of what really happened.

What are the actual topics being taught in the field of Digital Forensics?

These are the actual technical skills required by forensic analysts (most of which can still be learned while on the job);

  • General knowledge of basic file systems (e.g., NTFS, exFAT, APFS)
  • General knowledge of operating systems (e.g., Windows, macOS, Linux)
  • Disassembly and assembly of hardware (e.g., removal of hard drives from desktop PCs)
  • Understanding of system artifacts (e.g., Windows Registry, system log files)
  • The usage of commercial and open-source forensic tools (e.g., how to use the features)

What academic qualification (e.g., degree) do you need to apply for a digital forensics job?

For academic qualifications, this largely depends on the recruiting company.

The field of digital forensics largely depends on getting relevant forensic training (which can be done after you get the job) and spending time on the job analyzing data extraction (obtaining experience along the way).

Although a computer science or technology-related degree can certainly help in terms of better understanding forensic technology, there is no direct correlation between the two.

In short, anyone can learn digital forensics regardless of the academic discipline he/she had previously obtained, as long as the passion and interest are there.

Tools used in Digital Forensics

Digital forensics software can be broadly classified into two (2) types, namely commercial and open-source tools.

Commercial Forensics Tools

These paid tools include technical & customer support, as well as frequent new updates. Some of them are;

  • OpenText EnCase
  • Exterro FTK
  • Cellebrite UFED

Open-Source Forensics Tools

They are free to use; however, they lack customer support and frequent version updates to support newer devices. Some of them are;

  • Autopsy
  • Sleuthkit
  • SIFT Workstation

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