Contracting

Posted on March 10, 2011. Filed under: forensic, life | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |

Just recently I’ve been having discussions about possibly becoming a contractor for a little while and it’s thrown up a question that’s haunted me ever since I started examining other people’s computers.

I’m a fan of open-source software and I really do believe that one of the benefits I offer as a consultant is the fact that I don’t use the same examination kit as everyone else. It means that when I check their results or they check mine we are using significantly different tools, and mine are open for anyone to scrutinise at the source-code level. So, if we find a discrepancy we can dig deep into at least one the tools, if necessary, to find the reason why. It’s proper dual-tooling, or as close as we can get for now.

Now, in the past I’ve had to explain this (because there are two or three tools that everyone expects to see and eyebrows are raised when I don’t mention them ) but it has never stopped me getting an expert witness job. The critical word there is “expert” – in that role I am supposed to exercise my judgment to select the best tools and methods for the job.

However, a contractor is different creature – if I do get offered this job, I have to fit into someone else’s working environment and do things their way with their tools. I can do it. In my academic life I had to learn new skills, tools etc. very quickly and be able to teach them to other people. It’s a knack that a good lecturer picks up soon, or they don’t survive in labs. for long. The question is, will the client believe I can do it or will they wait until they find someone with the right piece of paper instead ?

My argument, for what it’s worth, is that I can learn the tool quickly and, because I have a background in computer science and am used to creating little ad-hoc tools whenever I need them, I can check the tool’s results in a way that someone who just know the program might not be able to.

We shall see.

Meanwhile, in the world of standards and regulation things have gone quiet in the Regulator’s office. His contract has been extended for another 3 years, but I rather think he’s suffering from budget cuts elsewhere. No matter, plans are well underway for the next ISO meeting in Singapore where we will be trying to get some new work approved to go beyond the current ISO/IEC 27037 and ensure we have guidance for a complete process from planning through acquisition to analysis, with proper validation all the way through.

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4 Responses to “Contracting”

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I rather suspect that some will just go for the right piece of paper. They might see it in terms of, “why should I pay x to learn this tool on my job, when I can just as easy go to y who knows it already, and may get the job done quicker”

The fact that y may only have done some fairly basic level training, so could end up being neither as good or as fast, may not register before the fact; especially not when endlessly justifying every pound spent is going to be the norm for some time to come

I must say I think that with your expertise you should be okay. You academic life would prepared you for adaptation. RE “Meanwhile, in the world of standards and regulation things have gone quiet in the Regulator’s office”.This issue forms the core of my research project as do think that there needs to be some standards to guide practitioners in the field.

Thanks for the vote of confidence Moni – but I rather think Darren might be right. A consultant is employed to solve other people’s problems his way, a contractor is employed to fill a gap in an existing system. There’s quite a difference there.

As for the standards – lack of news doesn’t mean lack of activity. Watch for a big update after the ISO meeting in early April. All being well we’ll be kicking off 3 new projects. Don’t forget that the ACPO GPG version 5 is due out later this year too.

Quick update – I didn’t get the contract. As expected, the client is still searching for someone who has the right certification for his needs. I wish them well – but wonder how long they are prepared to keep on searching ?

It might end up having been quicker and cheaper to take on someone without the piece of paper (but who, like me, was willing to undergo the training and certification at their own expense) just to get the job done, rather than waiting until the perfect candidate comes along.


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    This is the weblog of Angus M. Marshall, forensic scientist, author of Digital Forensics : digital evidence in criminal investigations and MD at n-gate ltd.

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