How to Become a Cybercrime Investigator

Do you have an inquisitive mind? Do you enjoy solving puzzles and riddles and like searching for evidence? If so, you might want to consider becoming a cybercrime investigator. While this job is similar to that of a computer forensics investigator, the cybercrime investigator focuses more on crimes that are committed over the internet.

Cybercrime investigators investigate all types of cybercrimes occurring all over the world, against private citizens, companies and government agencies. Unfortunately, fraud has increased in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. By 2021, it is projected that $7 trillion will be made globally from cybercrime. Cybercrime investigators therefore have much work available, as they work with one foot in computing and the other in law enforcement/criminal justice.

Cybercrime investigators may work for a company or as a consultant who offers services to companies and/or law enforcement agencies. They may also work for law enforcement agencies like the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) directly. Cybercrime investigators investigate all types of crimes, from cyberstalking to data theft to drug smuggling over the dark web. They may also be called to testify as expert witnesses in court.

Does this sound exciting to you? Want to see if you have what it takes to become a cybercrime investigator? Keep reading.

Education and Experience Required to Become a Cybercrime Investigator

Cybercrime investigators typically need a bachelor’s degree, in cybersecurity or criminal justice, in order to be hired. Search our Cybersecurity Bachelor’s Degree guide to find an accredited bachelor’s degree program in your state. Examples of degrees that could apply here include:

  • Bachelor of Science in Cybercrime – Old Dominion University, Norfolk VA and online
  • Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice, Concentration in Cyber Crimes – NUC University, online
  • Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice & Criminology – Concentration in Cybercrime – Georgia Southern University, Statesboro, GA
  • Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice – Cybercrime and Security Concentration – Colorado Technical University, Colorado Springs, CO and online

Experience working in cybersecurity is helpful to cybercrime investigators, as they become familiar with understanding the ins and outs of cybercrime. Often, however, experience is not necessary, as there are entry-level cybercrime investigator positions. Internships can help you to gain valuable experience while you are still in college. Check out our Guide to Cybersecurity Internships for more information!

A few industry certifications may be desired for aspiring cybercrime investigators, but are not usually a necessity. They include:

  • Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) – (ISC)2
  • Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH)- EC-Council
  • Certified Cybercrime Investigator (CCI)– International Fraternity of Cybercrime Investigators
  • GIAC Certified Forensic Analyst – Global Information Assurance Certification
  • Certified Computer Forensics Examiner (CCFE)- Information Assurance Certification Review Board

In addition to the optional certifications listed above, you might want to consider joining professional organizations designed for cybercrime investigators, such as the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE) or the BCS Cybercrime Forensics Specialist Group.

Job Description & Skills Required for a Cybercrime Investigator

The job duties and responsibilities of a cybercrime investigator can be many, and may vary depending upon the employer and/or the crime being investigated. They may include:

  • Analyzing computer systems
  • Recovering data
  • Gathering computer/digital evidence
  • Processing crime scenes
  • Conducting interviews with victims, suspects and witnesses
  • Fusing computer network attack analyses with criminal and counterintelligence investigations and operations
  • Identifying elements proving a crime occurred
  • Preparing reports
  • Testifying in court
  • Training law enforcement officials
  • Drafting affidavits and testimony
  • Consulting with clients
  • Meeting with managers and supervisors
  • Research and training
  • Penetration testing
  • Recovering files and examining them for information
  • Examining software for design flaws
  • Presenting computer/digital evidence

Desirable skills for a cybercrime investigator include:

  • Working well as part of a team
  • Methodical and analytical
  • Curious and inquisitive
  • Persistence
  • Good critical thinking skills
  • Rational and logical
  • Excellent communication skills, both orally and in writing

Interview with a Cybercrime Investigator

Dhayna Menon was one of India’s first cybercrime investigators, starting her work in 2008, at which time she handled about eight cybercrime cases per month. As of 2017, she handles 200 cases per day. Menon stumbled into the cybercrime investigation field after graduating with a degree in computer science. Her first case involved a fake profile on Orkut, a pre-Facebook platform. In this case, a little boy had created a fake profile to get revenge on his teacher and mother. She was drawn to work in cybercrime when she realized the importance of the digital world and prevalence of digital crimes in India and globally. She took training classes in cyber law and intellectual property rights, and began training those in law enforcement in cybercrimes in 2005.

Menon recommends that aspiring cybercrime investigators be as technically up-to-date as possible and always remain vigilant. She launched her own cybercrime investigation company, Avanzo Cyber Security Solutions, in 2008. In addition to investigating cybercrimes, Menon now instructs schools across India in preventing cybercrimes.

Cybercrime Investigator Salary & Job Outlook

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not list salaries for cybercrime investigators, grouping them within the larger category of information security analysts instead.  However, Infosec Institute has determined that the average salary for a cybercrime investigator varies depending upon the employer. Those who work in law enforcement average an annual salary of $63,380. Cybercrime investigators working for themselves make about $50,090. Cybercrime investigators working for a company or consulting firm earn higher salaries, averaging $99,958. In cities across the U.S., cybercrime investigators working for a consultancy or company average the following salaries:

  • San Francisco, CA: $117,006
  • New York, NY: $109,400
  • Seattle, WA: $108,490
  • Washington, DC: $105,738
  • Chicago, IL: $102,318

Cybercrime continues to rise, despite the best efforts of cybersecurity professionals to prevent it. Because of that sobering fact, it is projected that jobs for cybercrime investigators will continue to rise as well, with an average projected increase of 31 percent between 2019 and 2029. If you are interested in investigation and cybersecurity, becoming a cybercrime investigator can be a lucrative, challenging and exciting career option!