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Investigating a forensic associate

forensic accounting

by Purvi Patki

A question I’m often asked is “What do digital forensic investigators do?” As Google defines it, we “use forensic tools and investigative methods to hunt for files and information that have been hidden, deleted, or lost in a specific electronic media.” If I were to explain this in my own words, an investigator’s end goal is to find “dirt” on a piece of evidence provided.

When I was first hired as a forensic analyst, my imagination of forensics involved a top-secret laboratory, scenes from Forensic Files, and a room full of nerds trying to decode a time machine. But after becoming a part of the four-year-old Forensic Services Practice at CRA, there was nothing true about this imagination apart from a room full of nerds. We are a team of over 50 people spread across five offices: Boston, Chicago, New York, Toronto, and Washington, DC.

My typical day starts with fruit, tea, and emails. The case work and types of projects we do are subjective to one’s field of interest and expertise. Our practice provides a wide variety of services that can be divided broadly into three segments: Cyber Forensics, Forensic Accounting, and eDiscovery. I work for the Cyber Forensics team, and most of my cases relate to Incident Response (IR), Digital Forensic Investigations, and Strategic Cyber Security Investigations. Our clients include attorneys, cyber insurance carriers, manufacturing companies, and healthcare, government and educational institutions. Hackers do not discriminate! Our cases can last anywhere from a week to six months, but working on multiple cases at once is normal in cyber consulting.

My first week at CRA involved shadowing team members and learning the types of services we offer within the practice. I am lucky to have some of the finest project managers and colleagues who are extremely supportive in providing me the mentorship that guided me throughout this year of great learning. Being a computer science major, transitioning into consulting and then to forensics was challenging. However, having an incredibly encouraging career coach who allowed me to set my professional goals and aided me in developing interpersonal skills was very helpful. During my first month at CRA, I was able to speak directly to the client to explain my analysis on a case. I was nervous at the time, but I am glad that I had the opportunity. I thank my manager for letting me speak because that call – and several other calls since then – have made me a better consultant.

Initially, I worked on Business Email Compromise (BEC) cases. More recently, I have transitioned to ransomware/malware cases. My favorite type of cases are fraud investigation cases. These projects can be long and demanding because they need constant and thorough attention as well as intense use of our forensic tools. During such long projects, I enjoy bonding with my colleagues not only through the work, but also through team dinners and happy hours we occasionally host.

Apart from project work, we also have plenty of opportunities to develop our leadership and people skills. This year, I was involved in on-campus recruiting for the summer and fall cycles. This experience helped me improve my communication skills while simultaneously giving me an opportunity to speak about the job I absolutely love. Working as a forensic associate at CRA has been extremely rewarding for me, and I look forward to my continued growth in the coming years.

If you have a big appetite for knowledge and are looking for a workplace that welcomes inquisitiveness and innovative minds, CRA is your firm!