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Tech meets criminal justice through digital forensics

The Managing Director and CEO of East African Data Handlers, George Njoroge tells of the highs and lows of a career in digital forensics.

By Derrick Vikiru

George Njoroge, Managing Director East African Data Handlers

Cyber warfare. Cyber espionage. Cyber terrorism. Digital forensics. It is all virtual, but real – and we are all in it! Think beyond the awful CBS television show CSI Cyber. Fraud, hacking, bullying, theft and increasingly sophisticated exploits by cybercriminals mirrors the rising cost and incidences of cybercrime the world over. Kenya is chanting digital slogan and has made big strides in adopting the integration of Information and Communication technology across sectors; with Nairobi being dubbed the Silicon Savannah. Similarly, the technology and tactics used by criminals are increasing in sophistication, outstripping the capabilities of existing IT and security standards. It is now widely accepted, so to speak, that different economic sectors will be subjected to and may even succumb to cyberattacks and yet we continue to rely upon traditional defensive security strategy. But not to worry. There is a guardian angel around the block; East African Data Handlers (EADH)!

Spotting the gap

Management Magazine is privy to the fact that tech and criminal justice complement each other. And, that digital forensics is a crucial aspect of law and business in the internet age. I had a sit-down with the Managing Director and CEO of the Chiromo Road-based tech firm, George Njoroge to give us a pick into a digital forensics expert’s job.

“I am told that you don’t choose the cause, the cause chooses you. I found myself in this career out of sheer coincidence,” says Njoroge. His interest in data recovery sparked when he lost his project while in campus and simply couldn’t find anyone to retrieve it for him. “In the quest to recover the lost data, I discovered a gap and need for data recovery. This was the maiden step leading to the establishment of the first and the largest data handling company in Africa,” he avers. The company started primarily as a data recovery company, but with the increasing cyberattack incidences, cybersecurity and digital forensics became Njoroge’s new frontier.

Having established the best forensics lab in Africa, George doesn’t shy from affirming that EADH is the largest data handling company in Africa, dealing with around 10 terabytes of data every day and having served nearly a million customers since inception. It has served individuals, corporate and government with most of its clients being financial institutions. “At the moment, we are the only company offering computer forensic services and handling all computer-related crimes in Africa,” he says. Rightfully so, today, George is one of Kenya’s leading digital forensics experts, with experience spanning more than a decade. He defines digital forensics as “the identification, preservation, examination, and analysis of digital evidence, using scientific investigatory techniques and ultimately presenting that evidence in a court of law to answer some legal questions.”

Sophisticated yet fulfilling

“Digital forensics professionals are called into action once a breach occurs, and work to identify the hack, understand the source, and recover any compromised data,” he says. “We are happy to serve the interests of our country in the interest of pursuing justice. We feel obliged when we’re called in to help solve a crime,” he adds. The intricacies of George’s job make it look so cool and you might be wondering if it’s a venture worth pursuing. “It is a fascinating one!” says George amid light laughter. But maybe you might just want to linger a little bit on the decision, because like any career path in law enforcement, digital forensics investigations can put you in touch with some of the worst of human nature. Njoroge is aware of this dark side of the job but would rather not speak about it considering the sensitive nature of cases he has previously dealt with. However, he notes, the job is as fulfilling as it is complex, and a plethora of opportunities awaits those who would love to venture. According to the Bureau of Labour Statistics (BLS), the employment outlook for digital forensics specialists, examiners and investigators is favourable owing to the rapid growth of cybercrime with data indicating the expected growth to rise by 28 per cent between 2016 and 2026.

You are as good as your last attempt

George explains that to venture into this career you need to have an inner drive and your interest should be innate. He says that the need to upskill is paramount if you are to grow at par with the ever-changing technology. He warns of the danger of thinking you’re the best in the industry. “My mother used to tell me that you will always find a better man than you, a taller man than you, a stronger man than you…”. He says that if you think you’re the best, you will always find your match hence self-improvement is key. This mantra, he avers, shapes his thinking towards cybersecurity. “You are as good as your last attempt,” he posits, “Therefore, the need to constantly improve your skill set cannot be underscored.”

Speaking to his qualification, George is a senior member of the International Society of Forensic Computer Examiners (ISFCE) and the International Association of Computer Investigative Specialists (IACIS). He holds an MBA in Global Business and Sustainability from Catholic University of Rome, a Bachelor of Information and Communications Technology from International University of Professional Studies and a Bachelor of Information Technology from Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT). He also holds various certifications in cybersecurity having undertaken studies in Russia and China.

Derrick Vikiru is the sub-editor Management Magazine. Email: dvikiru@kim.ac.ke

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