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This paper is an outline of the Information Technology Specialist job title within the Department of Homeland Security. It covers the description of the job and the duties to be fulfilled, the educational and experience requirements that are needed, as well as the selection process for the job. It also covers why I would be interested in this job position, and how it relates to the criminal justice system.
A career in the criminal justice system that seemed interesting to me is that of an Information Technology Specialist working for the Department of Homeland Security. Currently, I have an Associate’s degree in Information Security, and I am working on my Bachelor’s degree in Computer & Network Security. A career dealing with cybercrimes would be an ideal fit once I graduate. However, before making a decision, it is important to research the job itself, the scope of the duties, the requirements, and the selection process before applying.
It is important to know the place of the Information Technology Specialist before going into the details of the job title itself. According to the USAJOBS (2015) posting, the position is with the United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team, or US-CERT. The job posting continues to list each department that US-CERT is a part of, starting with the National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center (NCCIC), then the Office of Cybersecurity & Communications, the National Protection & Programs Directorate, finally leading up to the Department of Homeland Security. According to the National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center (2015), “US-CERT develops timely and actionable information for distribution to federal departments and agencies, state and local governments, private sector organizations, and international partners.” (para. 8). Citing the same source, the National Cybersecurity Protection System (NCPS) is also operated by US-CERT, and provides the capabilities of intrusion prevention and detection to certain federal agencies (para. 8).
From this information in the previous section alone, it could be inferred that the role of an Information Technology Specialist has a large impact on the criminal justice system in regards to cybercrime. This is mainly because the US-CERT team is supplying multiple levels of governments with information regarding the matter. There is additional evidence that the US-CERT team has an even larger role than jest serving information. According to Bartley (2015), Andy Ozment was the assistant secretary of the Office of Cybersecurity and Communications, and testified that US-CERT was involved with the investigation of the Office of Personnel Management hack. Being a part of a legal investigation relating cybercrime, an Information Technology Specialist with US-CERT is no doubt a career heavily related to the criminal justice system.
As described earlier in this paper, the Information Technology Specialist is a member of the US-CERT team, which deals with cyberattacks and cybercrime. Going further into the details of the job itself, USAJOBS (2015) describes the specific positions’ primary purpose as “… [applying] digital forensic and malware analysis to assess, contain, and eradicate malicious software.” (para. 2). In addition, assistance with matters regarding digital evidence will be provided to other staff (“USAJOBS”, 2015). Therefore, the role of the specific job posting I am looking at is focused on malware and forensics. According to Shanks (2014), “Incident response practices can be enhanced through forensics, memory image analysis and malware sandboxing techniques.” (p. 25). Recalling that the US-CERT team provides government agencies with information regarding cyberattacks, the role of this position enhances the practice of incident response provided by the team. Lastly, the USAJOBS posting also states that occasional travel up to 6-10 nights per month is required. Given that this position is heavily centered in malware assessment and forensics, it is safe to say that the purpose of the travel is more than likely to acquire forensic images after a cyberattack for later analysis.
For the purpose of this paper, I will only cover the requirements for the lowest level for this job. USAJOBS (2015) lists three different levels of employment available, from GS-11 to GS-13. The Office of Personnel Management states that “The General Schedule has 15 grades–GS-1 (lowest) to GS-15 (highest)”, and that “Agencies establish (classify) the grade of each job based on the level of difficulty, responsibility, and qualifications required.” Given that I do not have much experience currently, I am only defining the qualifications for a GS-11 Information Technology Specialist.
The first qualification that will be discussed is the previous experience needed. The job posting states that to qualify for the position, a candidate must have at least one year IT-related experience in a GS-09 level position, or comparable experience in the public or private sector (“USAJOBS”, 2015). USAJOBS also requires that previous experience must demonstrate 4 basic competencies: Attention to Detail, Customer Service, Oral Communication and Problem Solving. In addition to these competencies USAJOBS (2015) states:
…experience must include activities such as: 1) assisting in gathering and assessing information related to IT system security; 2) performing forensic analysis of media acquisitions for the purpose of identifying malicious activities and documenting analytical findings derived from those activities; 3) implementing and supporting applicable forensic applications and tools; and 4) documenting information security incidents and escalating events, as necessary. (para. 8)
Although the requirements for previous experience seem very advanced, I believe they are doable with hard work and commitment.
The second potential qualification is education. According to USAJOBS (2015), a completed Ph.D. or Doctoral degree can be used in place of the 1 year of GS-09 work experience. This lines up with another article that also states a GS-11 position education level is that of a Ph.D. or Doctorate (Crosby, n.d). The USAJOBS (2015) posting also states multiple other equivalent education substitutions as well, all which nearly equal the degree required anyways. This requirement may be harder to qualify for than the experience, and may not be worth the money invested in education. First, a doctorate program can take 5 years or more to complete, and can cost on average from $123,500-$181,500 total (“How Much Does a Doctorate Degree Cost?”, n.d.). Second, the GS-11 pay scale only ranges from $51,298 to $66,688 for an annual salary in 2015 (GS-11 Pay – 2015 Federal GS Payscale”, n.d.). This shows that this option to qualify probably does not make the most financial sense.
One last qualification that should be mentioned is the one regarding security clearance. According to USAJOBS (2015), a candidate must be able to obtain a Top Secret/SCI clearance to hold this position.
The selection process for this job seems to be like any other job a person would apply for. According to USAJOBS (2015), you must submit your resume, any transcripts, and complete a questionnaire. At that point, if qualified, the application may be passed to hiring officials. After that, the candidate may be offered an opportunity to interview. Overall, the selection process seems very basic.
I believe that working as an Information Technology Specialist with the US-CERT team under the Department of Homeland Security would be a very good fit for me, taking into account my program of study and current career path. Performing incident response to cyberattacks and cybercrime is a very important piece of the criminal justice system. Malware analysis and forensics relating to this specific position would enhance the incident response process when dealing with cyberattacks. While I may not currently meet the qualifications, I believe that I could eventually apply for this position after graduating and gaining more work experience.
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