People with a combination of tech and forensic smarts are growing in demand.

By Sonia R. Lelii | October 2008

Digital fraud offers emerging career opportunities for IT workers who are interested in combining their talents as a computer investigator with their general business smarts. 

Although it often involves financial theft, digital fraud isn't always about financial gain, notes Jean-Francois Legault, a senior manager at Deloitte & Touche in Montreal who specializes in the area. Oftentimes, he says, cyber criminals face some type of financial pressure, such as high personal debt, and are looking for opportunities to dig themselves out.

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It's a growing problem in this age where corporate finance, purchases of all kinds, accounting and money in general are interconnected. And, it doesn't necessarily decrease with an economic downturn. Recently, The Wall Street Journal reported the number of cyber attacks taking place often surge on days the stock market drops. Ryan Sherstobitoff, chief corporate evangelist at Spanish anti-malware firm Panda Security, told the Journal that while the goal of most attacks is to steal information, the attacks linked to such market drops are designed to trick people into making fraudulent purchases.

To counter these acts, Legault sees a need for people who are able to take on the role of cyber financial cop - professionals whose talent encompasses technical skill, business know-how, and a specialty in computer forensics. In particular, there's a growing need for computer fraud specialists.

Where information security tends to focus on preventing misdeeds, fraud specialists are often focused on piecing together evidence of a crime after it's happened, with an eye toward identifying perpetrators and gathering the information that could be used against them in court.

"Fraud often occurs as a result of a security breach, when there is a lack of internal controls," notes Legault. For example, if someone has forged wire transfers to a fictitious company, a tech specialist would work with forensic accountants, translating the accounting issues into events and behaviors that are found in computer-based behaviors. As Legault describes it: "I need to be able to have discussions with forensic accountants and translate that into how it renders on a computer. For instance, what could be the evidence? Where do I find this on the computer?"

Another emerging job click-fraud specialist, says Kathy Lavinder, executive director of the Bethesda, Maryland-based Security & Investigative Placement Consultants, LLC, a headhunting agency for security and investigative personnel. When one company uses a software program to drive up the number of clicks made on a competitors pay-per-click advertising program, "it's someone doing it for the wrong reasons, to cause a (negative) financial impact," she says.

Not many people have the background to become a click fraud specialist, despite the growing need for their services, Lavinder points out. A click-fraud specialist should have a computer security background, - often obtained through military training - and the ability to trace events, much as would be done in criminal forensics. "It's a complex forensics data trail that they need to be able to follow," Lavinder says.

"This still is an area where we are working on a technical solution to a 21st Century problem," she explains. "Financial institutions are on the cutting edge of this. More and more are building internal teams to deal with this rather than relying on consultants."

Sonia R. Lelii is a technology writer for She can be reached at