Cyber detective

  • Education
  • Sunday, 06 Jan 2008

The rise of technology-related crime has broughtcomputer forensic analysts to the fore. 

FANCY becoming a crime scene investigator (CSI) in cyberspace? Thanks to television shows like CSI, people are now more aware of what computer forensic analysts like Aswami Fadillah Mohd Ariffin does for a living. 

Although what is depicted is not always accurate, the digital forensics head at Cybersecurity Malaysia says television has done a great job of promoting his profession.  

“You can't really enhance a poor image with the click of a mouse like what you see on TV. It's a lot more complicated,” says the 36-year-old with a laugh. 

ASWAMI: I love how challenging the job can be. – Starpix by RAYMOND OOI

Aswami graduated with an electronic engineering degree from the University of Liverpool, United Kingdom, in 1996, and has worked on several high profile cases. 

Recently, he was called as an expert witness in the murder trial of Mongolian Altantuya Shaariibuu. He helped police extract data from handphones, SIM cards and laptops. 

Aswami is currently pursuing a Masters of Management at Universiti Malaya, part-time. 

My job involves ... 

... the use of science and technology to investigate and establish facts in the court of law. 

I work with digital evidence, which includes data recovery and code breaking of CD-ROMS, USB thumb drives and handphones. 

It is our job to investigate when there are incidents of intrusion or malicious activity such as important data being deleted in systems as well as hacking and fraud.  

For example, when a malicious text message is sent, we will retrieve the data and work with the telecommunications company to trace the origin and submit the information for prosecution.  

At the end of the day, we are involved in determining whether an individual has been involved in wrongdoings or is innocent.  

Analysts are required to detect cyber crimes.

We are also starting to venture into video and audio forensics, which is rapidly developing.  

My morning starts with ... 

... browsing e-papers to catch up with the latest in technology as it is very important to be updated. 

Throughout the day, I'll also have meetings with lawyers to go through any issues or evidence. 

Besides that, I will review reports and vet through case analyses with my team of 10 analysts. 

I also manage our budget and keep an eye on expenditure.  

To qualify, you need ... 

... a degree in electronic engineering, preferably with experience in research and development. 

Be warned: If you send amalicious text message,computer forensic analystswill be hot on your trail.

A qualification in computer science or computer engineering is also quite common in this field.  

A master’s degree is also valued.  

We train and mentor new graduates. This is important so that they can then work independently. 

It is common for analysts to share and talk about their cases and give each other feedback. 

The best person for the job is... 

... someone who has a strong personality, is creative, innovative, positive, passionate and patient. 

When doing a case analysis, it can get very tense and there is also a lot to do, so it's important to be patient. 

Passion is another element that will help because when you're passionate about what you do, the job isn't boring.  

As a computer forensic analyst you want to get results and solve cases, so that keeps you going. 

This job involves a combination of technology and law so some legal knowledge would help. 

But you can also learn the legal aspect on the job so you don’t need prior knowledge. 

Prospects for the future ... 

... are very bright. I recently attended an international conference and discovered that Malaysia is not very far behind the rest of the world in terms of computer forensics although we are still relatively new in the field.  

In the past, we used to have to consult analysts from abroad because we didn't have this expertise in Malaysia. 

The demand for analysts is going to grow as the number of “cyber crimes” or computer-related crimes are on the rise. 

I love my job because ... 

... of its uniqueness. No two cases are alike. 

I love the challenge and feeling of knowing that I am learning something new every day. 

Besides law and technology, deduction also plays a role – you figure out certain things about people from just their behaviour, which can be very interesting. 

What I dislike the most ... 

... is when I'm unable to solve a case. 

For example, sometimes we are provided with CCTV footage that is of very low quality and there is no way to enhance the footage, which makes life very difficult.  

A millionaire by 30? 

I don't see why not. We've got millionaire lawyers so why can't there be millionaire computer forensic analysts? (laughs!) 

Fresh graduates can expect to earn between RM2,000 and RM2,500 a month. 

With education, effort and experience, it's possible to become a senior analyst in two to three years and earn about RM7,000. 

But this depends on the individual.  

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