A day on M15’s digital forensic specialist team

AFTER graduating from university with a degree in IT, I spent eighteen months working in the finance sector. I enjoyed the work, which had good prospects, but I realised that I wanted to do something that offered me the chance to put my IT skills to use while making a real, tangible difference. When I saw that MI5 was recruiting for forensic specialists, I decided to apply.

I am currently working in the Digital Intelligence unit, carrying out forensic analysis of digital media acquired legally from a range of sources. I assess the information gleaned from my forensic examinations, writing the relevant material in intelligence reports.

On a typical day, after making my way to work on the tube and having a cup of coffee, I check the results of searches I’ve run overnight against computer media for one of our investigations. I’m currently leading on analysing the media from a fast-moving, high priority international counter-terrorism (ICT) investigation, as well as juggling casework for several other smaller investigations in the background.

I pop down to the restaurant to pick up some breakfast and then head to a meeting to catch up with the intelligence officer working on the high-priority ICT investigation to discuss the implications of the results of last night’s searches. We agree to slightly adapt the analytical approach and I then spend the rest of my morning conducting forensic analysis.

One of my smaller cases is a counter-espionage investigation. I have to think laterally on this one as the subject of investigation I am interested in uses computers very differently to our ICT subjects.

After a quick lunch I have a liaison meeting with some of our UK partners to discuss ongoing casework and collaborative working, followed by an internal team meeting to talk about our capability development projects. Keeping up with the latest technology is a must.

The rest of my afternoon is spent trying to solve a tricky technical problem on one of my cases. I come up with a small script to automate the extraction of data from a new log file format so that it can be analysed further.

Just before I leave I hear that some particularly challenging analysis I did last week has led to preventing a group of suspected terrorists entering the UK. I set off to face the tube again, after what has turned out to be a satisfying day at the office.