Cybercrime continues to rise at an alarming rate. For example, IBM reports that in 2022, ransomware attacks grew by 41 percent from the previous year. Meanwhile, email cyberattacks — the majority of them in the form of phishing attacks — increased by 48 percent, according to Security Magazine. IBM notes that the cost of these attacks has also risen, with the average data breach costing $9.44 million, more than twice the global average.
Cybercrime investigators represent a crucial line of defense against cyberattacks. Using investigation, interrogation and surveillance techniques, these law enforcement professionals gather essential intelligence that can be used to track and locate the source of cybercriminal activity, and can aid in the recovery of stolen data.
Individuals interested in pursuing a career in cybersecurity can benefit from an advanced education.
Cybercrime Investigator Job Description
Cybercrime is a persistent threat to any person, company or government agency that uses internet-connected devices and computer networks. For that reason, cybercrime investigators may work in many environments and on a wide variety of cybercrime cases.
Typically, cybercrime investigators work for a law enforcement agency, such as the U.S. Secret Service, which investigates incidents of financial cybercrimes. However, they may also be employed by private sector organizations that require protection from cyber threats.
Depending on where they work and the types of cybercrimes they investigate, a cybercrime investigator may perform the following duties.
- Performing analytical and investigative work pertaining to viruses, phishing attacks, malware and other cyberattacks on computer systems and networks
- Navigating the dark web in search of illegal forums and markets
- Recovering lost, stolen or compromised data
- Interviewing potential suspects, victims, witnesses and other individuals regarding cybercrime activity
- Providing courtroom testimony on cybercrime cases
- Examining computer networks and software for vulnerabilities and design flaws
- Training coworkers and law enforcement officials on the best practices of cybercrime awareness
- Collaborating with other cybercrime investigators and law enforcement personnel
- Using digital forensics tools to gather evidence of cybercrimes
- Developing and implementing cybercrime investigative strategies
- Remaining current on the most effective techniques and latest technologies for cybercrime investigation
How to Become a Cybercrime Investigator
Becoming a cybercrime investigator entails gaining the proper education, certification and experience that potential employers look for in a candidate. Although each person’s career path will be different, there are some key steps aspiring investigators should take:
- Earn an undergraduate degree in cybersecurity, criminology, computer science, information technology or a related field.
- Earn relevant certification. Candidates should consider the Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) credential or Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) credentials. Both certifications demonstrate to employers a certain level of knowledge and skill that can be applied to the role of a cybercrime investigator.
- Gain on-the-job experience through entry-level work. For example, candidates can apply for roles as an analyst, coordinator, or other entry-level position.
- Earn a graduate degree with a focus in cybersecurity, information technology, or homeland security and emergency preparedness. Although not always required, many employers prefer to hire candidates with an advanced education.
Individuals pursuing a career as a cybercrime investigator should also make sure they stay current on the latest industry trends, such as what cybercrimes are on the rise and what skills and competencies are in high demand. Cybercrime is constantly evolving, so investigators need to embrace a learning mindset to ensure they have expert knowledge of their field to remain competitive in the job market.
Cybercrime Investigator Salary and Job Outlook
Considering the threat of cyberattacks is increasing at a rapid rate, demand for cybercrime investigators is significant. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of information security analysts, a similar type of role, is expected to grow by 35 percent between 2021 and 2031. Cybersecurity Ventures, meanwhile, reports that there are roughly 3.5 million unfilled jobs in cybersecurity worldwide in 2023 — with more than 750,000 of those in the U.S. alone.
The median annual salary for information security analysts was $102,600 in 2021, according to the BLS. Although the BLS doesn’t report on a cybercrime investigator’s salary specifically, the salary figures should remain fairly consistent considering the similarities between the roles of information security analysts and cybercrime investigators.
Join the Fight Against Cybercrime
Given the increasing prevalence of cybercrime, and the growing sophistication of cybercriminals’ methods, cybercrime investigators have an important role to play in cybersecurity as well as national security.
Professionals seeking to develop their investigative skills and expertise in cybersecurity can benefit from pursuing an advanced education that’s relevant to the role, such as a Master of Arts in Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness (HSEP) from Virginia Commonwealth University. The program features courses such as Cyber Security Law and Policy and Risk Assessment, which can help prepare individuals for the challenging yet meaningful work of a cybercrime investigator.
Learn more about the program and how it can support your professional aspirations.