Consider all the apps on your phone – your photos, notes, and contacts. Now imagine someone examining them. What story could they tell about you from what they found?
That’s the purpose of digital forensics. It’s like being a tech detective, where important leads are uncovered by identifying, acquiring, and analysing the data stored on media devices. And in many ways, it’s never been more vital.
The data that’s available today has changed beyond recognition since UK Intelligence Agencies’ inception in the 1900s and has become essential intelligence. So, to fulfil our mission and keep the country safe, we must understand and embrace rapidly changing technology, and the legal framework that underpins this area. That’s what makes our Investigative Analysts so crucial to what we do; they work on the front lines often (re-)defining what digital forensics looks like.
Computer Forensics Advice
To learn more about this area, I spoke with Jessica, Harriet, Mia, and Claire about how they got involved in computer forensics and the advice they have for anyone considering it as a future career choice.
Jessica said: ‘I joined the Intelligence Agencies from school at 18 through a software engineering apprenticeship. This meant I got to do placements across various teams and then chose to pursue capability development in the digital forensics space.’
Claire said: ‘I joined through the administrative assistant campaign. University is not a prerequisite for your dream role. I have a master’s in physics, but this entry-level route allowed me to gain experience working in different teams and have more flexibility in my career early on. Building knowledge of the wider business and honing transferable skills proved valuable to my progression through internal promotion to digital forensics which I’d always been interested in, especially as I learnt more. I’ve enjoyed this role so much that I’ve been doing it for nine years now!’
Mia entered the Intelligence Agencies as a Software Engineer. ‘This team is a testament to the benefits of multi-disciplinary working and the nature of technical and cyber security expertise. It helps to look at things from different angles, using various techniques and thought processes to solve puzzles like password encryption or interpreting coded language and messaging to stay one step ahead.’
Harriet uses skills gained during a science PhD to enhance her career as a Senior Data Analyst. ‘I applied for the Intelligence and Data Analyst Development Programme (I&DADP) graduate scheme. I don’t have a tech background, but access to internal and external training, as well as mentoring and learning on the job has meant I can feel confident and thrive in this space.’
Our team’s top three tips for succeeding in the data world:
- Look deeper for the details. In this work, curiosity and attention to detail is essential. It comes down to understanding people’s motivations, creating opportunities and anticipating challenges before they arise.
- Be more tech-savvy. Technology is always evolving, so getting comfortable with different devices, operating systems and apps is a great idea. Think of it as a learning journey that’s never too late to start, and always has more to discover!
- Embrace coding. Learning basic coding and practising lateral thinking is an invaluable skill. It helps you understand the relationship between things and how they work together, and that makes it something that will set you up for success in this field.
There are many routes into cyber security, analysis, and tech in UK Intelligence Agencies no matter your background. Why not start with I&DADP or the Cyber Security Development Programme? Who knows where it might lead?
To find out more, visit the MI5 I&DADP Career Page.