First Steps In Digital Forensics – What Would You Like To See?

Last year I wrote a book. It’s called Windows Forensics Cookbook and I didn’t really want to write it, but I’m glad I did because now I know I can. It was a little too technical for my liking, really: I would have liked to have written something meatier in terms of text, and less screenshotty.

So this year I’m writing another book. With a working title of First Steps In Digital Forensics, it will be aimed at people who want to get into the industry. Whether you’re a student of a related discipline, a professional looking to switch industries, or just someone who’s intrigued by the field and wants to know what it’s really like, this book will have something for you.

The plan has been created and finalised, at least as much as a book plan is ever finalised. I discovered when I was writing Windows Forensics Cookbook that chapters change and grow like they have lives of their own. I imagine it’ll be much the same with this one. So if you have any suggestions along the way, please send them through to me and I will try to incorporate them wherever possible.

One of the main things I want to do is bust some of the myths surrounding digital forensics. Sure, a lot of us are techies, and we can act stereotypically at times.

But it’s not all like that. For one thing, some of us aren’t even that technically minded. I am a psychologist and writer, for example. I got into digital forensics after I became a private investigator, because it just seemed like a sensible path to take: it’s an expanding area and there’s always something to work on. When I meet people who don’t work in the industry, they say things like “You must be so good at computers!” But nah, not really. I’m pretty good at googling things I need to know, but I’m no hacker. I’m also pretty good at learning and following instructions, which is how I’ve gotten to know my way around various forensic software options. And there are bits and pieces which you pick up as you go along. But you don’t have to be the most techie of people straight off the bat.

The two people I’ve been compared to the most often since working in this industry are Lisbeth Salander, aka The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, and Penelope Garcia from Criminal Minds. Which I get, but it’s not exactly an accurate portrayal of my day to day life.

So the Mythbusting section is going to be a pretty big one, and rather than just saying “These shows are unrealistic” I’m going to talk in detail about why. Partly this is just an excuse to binge watch some crime shows. But I also think it’ll be genuinely useful.

My other favourite section is Interviews, which is what it says on the tin. I’m going to be talking to some of my colleagues and friends in the industry, in all different departments and with all different specialisms. Some interviewees work in law enforcement or for government agencies, some develop forensic software, some work in non-technical departments but still within digital forensics as a whole. The goal of this section is to give you an idea of what the job is really like, once we’ve busted the myths spun in the media.

There will be a bunch of other sections too, including some practical steps to follow if you want to make yourself stand out at interviews, and some tips on starting out with no background in forensics at all. I’ll also talk about how to switch from a related industry, like if you’re currently a police constable who’d like to specialise in the digital side of things but you’re not sure how to slide across departments.

If you have any suggestions for things you’d like to see, or for people you’d especially like to see interviewed (or maybe a book or TV show you’d particularly like me to mythbust), let me know in the comments below or send me an email. I’ll keep you updated on the blog about how the book is coming along – I’m aiming for publication later this year. Watch this space!


  1. Sounds like a great one! Don’t forget my colleague Jessica Hyde has a lot of thoughts about this, if you weren’t already planning to interview her. Also, for suggestions: some agencies have a mandatory rotation policy where you might only be working in digital forensics for a few years before moving on to something else. Perhaps a chapter on the most crucial skills for short periods like that?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh that’s a really good point, thank you! I hadn’t thought of that so I’ll definitely try to add it in.

      Jessica’s already on my list – I was so happy to finally meet her at DFRWS!


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