August was a busy month for CDFS, with the official launch, introduction of the website, and open membership enrollment. Membership is growing fast and, if the mailing list is any indication, the organization is already working to support the digital forensics field. Why should you care? Here is what a student of mine from Texas had to go through just to have the privilege of continuing to practice forensics.
As most of you are aware, multiple states have enacted legislation to require private investigator licenses for those conducting digital forensics. My colleague had a successful, long standing forensics practice in Texas performing data recovery and forensic investigations. When the law was enacted, he lost 6 months of work rearranging his operations to comply with the law. Examiners had to be certified as private investigators (PI). His insurance was unwilling to continue his policy now that he employed several PIs. He had to split his company in order to isolate the PIs (aka forensic examiners) and source and purchase much more expensive insurance to cover forensic examinations. Finally, he now has another set of costs (licensing and training fees), loses valuable man-hours to continuing education with no applicability to forensics, and incurs increased organizational overhead that provides zero value-add to his company. Don’t live in Texas? Well, what if your company has operations in Texas, or you suddenly get a new client from the Lone Star State? Also, don’t forget that at least 40 states have laws on the books that are frighteningly ambiguous about this requirement.
Like all of you, I am constantly wrestling with an ever growing list of certification bodies and organization memberships that require time and money. With both resources in limited supply, I want to make sure I support the organizations that provide the most value. While the computer security industry now has large organizations to safeguard its interests, digital forensics is still very much nascent. And the field is under attack from a host of entities interested in controlling its future. I joined the Consortium of Digital Forensic Specialists because I want to have a say in the direction of a field I am very passionate about and to which I have dedicated over twelve years. I believe CDFS is currently best situated to represent the field. Let me describe the factors that compelled me to become an inaugural member of the organization.
The digital forensics field is exploding, and we are now at a point where we either start to regulate ourselves, or someone else will do it for us. PI licensing schemes have been successful because they have stepped in and filled this vacuum. Having a strong member driven organization not encumbered by commercial interests is our best bet to achieve self-regulation.
Success of Other Professional Organizations
The majority of established fields have associated professional organizations. One I am familiar with is the American Pharmacists Association. They have only 62,000 members (less than the number of active CISSPs) but wield considerable influence for their membership. They stay abreast of current events affecting the field, conduct extensive federal and state lobbying, educate legislators and policy makers, and provide valuable services for their membership like bulk discounts and continuing professional education (CPE). As digital investigations become more commonplace, we need a strong organization as our advocate.
Board of Directors
The CDFS board is a diverse collection of well established, influential, and talented forensic practitioners. The board has already invested years of work, and, after interacting with many of them over the last year or two, I am convinced of their long-term dedication to the profession.
For CDFS to be successful, it needs a critical mass of active members in our field and a budget to commit to activities serving our best interests. We simply cannot sit on the sidelines and hope things work out for the best, because all of us need to be involved. If digital forensics is in your job description, consider joining CDFS.