What is it like to study Digital Forensics at BCU?

Second-year Digital Forensics student, Alex Hardy, came to the University with very little knowledge on computing. He has since learned how to code, completed a Digital Forensics placement with West Midlands Police and developed his own data processing software.

We caught up with Alex to see what exactly Digital Forensics is, where it can take you in the future, and why it’s so important.

What is Digital Forensics and where can it lead?

When I first heard about Digital Forensics I had absolutely no idea what it was (along with most people that I mention my course to!). After doing my research, I soon discovered how exciting and important this area of computing really is. A career in Digital Forensics can look like anything from investigating the most serious crimes to being a crucial part of an organisation’s cyber security. The range of specialist skills that you learn along the way open up all kinds of career paths and can help take you into roles such as IT, teaching, engineering and anything in between.

What new skills do you have from studying Digital Forensics?

I didn’t have much experience with computing when I first started my course, so I had a lot to catch up on. The learning curve was intense, but with all the support from academics, I managed to get up to speed soon enough.

Over my two years at university so far, I’ve learned how to code in Python, and written my own program that can process forensic images, analyse file systems and produce a report identifying file hashes, deleted files, and metadata, among many other features.

I have had the opportunity to develop my skills in industry-used forensic tools such as Cellebrite UFED, FTK Imager, and Autopsy to acquire and process data from phones and computers. I have also learned new ways to analyse data through cryptography and steganography techniques.

These are just some of the areas of my course that I have found the most interesting, but to other students that might prefer maths, law, or building circuits, then there are also areas of the course with amazing opportunities to develop yourself.

What do you enjoy most about your course?

I love all the opportunities that I have had available to me while studying Digital Forensics which I would never have expected. I have been able to work towards CISCO certifications such as CCNA and CyberOps, that the university has funded, as well as a boot camp in computer programming during the holidays to further my skills. Guest speakers such as a former Special Agent in the FBI and representatives from GCHQ/MI5/MI6 have spoken to us about the field and career opportunities.

How does your course prepare you for a career in industry?

Having access to forensic tools that are used in industry has given me vital experience that I can put on my CV and will make the transition into the industry so much easier.  Some of my modules have also included activities and assessments to support our employability skills, such as mock interviews, giving presentations, and CV and cover letter writing workshops.

Why did you choose to study at BCU?

When I was applying to University, I made sure to visit loads of open days and look at courses across the country, but BCU really stood out to me for several reasons. The Course Lead and teaching staff are really engaging and always show an extensive wealth of knowledge in their subject areas. Many academics have years of experience in the field, including one of my lecturers last semester, a current serving Detective Sergeant, who taught us about cybercrime, legislation, and the English Legal System. The advertised student support services also appealed to me, and since starting my course, I have had constant support, with regular check-ins, career advice, and guidance for my Graduate+ awards.

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