Digital forensics

Computer Forensics: The Computer Hacking Forensics Investigator (CHFI) Certification

Ravi Das
February 28, 2018 by
Ravi Das


In today’s Cyber security world, the ability to conduct a proper forensics investigation at the scene of a crime is of utmost importance. It takes a highly qualified individual to conduct such types of investigations. In order to get a true gauge of this person’s ability, a certification known as the “Computer Hacking Forensic Investigator”, also known as the “CHFI” is offered. Essentially, when one has this particular cert, you can be more or less guaranteed that that he or she is well qualified to conduct a proper and thorough investigation when it comes to computer forensics.

The Target Audience for the CHFI Cert

But, what exactly is a CHFI, and what kinds of evidence are they typically looking for? A CHFI can be described as follows:

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“A trained individual who carries out the process of detecting hacking attacks and properly extracting evidence to report the crime and conduct audits to prevent future attacks.”


The evidence that is collected by the CHFI can be quite sophisticated in nature, some of which includes the following:

  • Information Technology Infrastructure break ins;
  • Pornographic material;
  • Any material breach of non-disclosure agreements or other similar types of contracts;
  • Attacks to E-Mail servers (this mainly deals with such Phishing based attacks);
  • Attacks to Web Servers and their relevant applications which reside on them;
  • Any sort of theft or the hijacking of digital documents.

Therefore, the audience to which this cert is geared towards to is the mid-level Security professional, with probably at least 10-15 years of solid work experience.

The following matrix further quantifies the breakdown the years of experience of the total population that possesses the CHFI:

Years of Experience Total Percentage

less than 1 year 1%

1-4 years 32%

5-9 years 30%

10-19 years 26%

more than 20 years 11%


It definitely is not an entry level kind of exam. Some job titles to which this cert applies includes the following:

  • Law enforcement officials (primarily at the Federal and State levels;
  • Department of Defense officials;
  • High level E-Commerce Security professionals;
  • Network System Administrators;
  • Financial Audit professionals;
  • Seasoned IT Managers.

The Skill Levels That Are Tested by The CHFI Cert

Given the sophistication of the titles to which this cert is geared for, the skill levels that are tested by the CHFI are just as rigorous. These include the following:

  • A thorough understanding of the Cybercrime investigation process;
  • The ability to discern the rules of the evidence collection process, and the ability to apply the set of best practices when it comes the examination of the evidence when it is extracted from the computer in question;
  • Knowing how to apply the forensic tools needed to collect the digital evidence from computers;
  • The ability to recover deleted across a wide variety of operating systems which include Windows, Linux, Mac OS and even the Smartphones such as the iOS;
  • The ability to break passwords in order to unlock the computer as well as an understanding of the Cyber threat landscape surrounding password breaches;
  • A deep understanding of how to log the computer evidence that is collected (this can also include knowing how to correlate events with each other that have been discovered, and time clock synchronization);
  • Knowing how to track and analyze in great detail all of the known Cyber-attacks, which includes the following:
    • Network attacks;
    • E-Mail Phishing schemes;
    • Mobile/Smartphone/Wireless attacks;
    • Web Server attacks (including Internet Information Services and Apache
  • On a qualitative level, knowing how to give expert testimony at the time of a trial.

The Details on The CHFI Cert

The CHFI cert is administered and governed by the EC Council. Before anyone can actually appear for the exam, they first must be eligible to take. There are two ways in which this can be accomplished, which are described as follows:

  • The registrant can attend an official CHFI training course:

Anybody wishing to take the exam for this cert can attend instructor led training (ILT) via:

  • An actual university course;
  • An online course;
  • Or a self-paced computer course.

To find a university or a cert preparation organization that offers training for the CHFI, click on this link:

In fact, the EC Council offers a highly specialized 5-day preparatory course of the CHFI, known as the “CHFI v8”. A unique offering of this particular class is that students are given access to a virtual Windows 2008 Server, from which they can practice their lab exercises. At the end of the training course, the students have the option of taking the cert exam, or if they wish to take it at a later date. More details on this training course can be seen at this link:

  • If the registrant does not attend an actual training course as outlined above, then he or she must possess the following:
  • 2 years of credible work experience in the field of Cyber security (note that this jus the bare minimum, it is highly recommended that the candidate has substantially more experience as mentioned earlier in this article;
  • Possess a college degree with a major in Information Security;
  • Submit a $100 nonrefundable exam registration fee;
  • Properly complete the EC Council Exam Eligibility form (;
  • Receive an official test voucher from the EC Council.

NOTE: If you choose the self-study approach, it is highly recommended that you purchase this study manual, which can be seen at this link:

The following matrix examines the particulars on the CHFI:

Exam Format Multiple Choice Questions

Time Limit 240 Minutes (Total of 4 Hours)

Length of Exam 150 Questions

Cost of Exam $500.00

Score Needed to Pass Exam 70%

The Job Prospects

Here are the latest statistics on the job prospects for those that possess the CHFI cert:

  • 88% are male (with a salary range of $56,425.00 - $105,793.00); 11% are female (with a salary range of $49,371.00 - $88,920.00);
  • Here is a matrix of the breakdown of cities in the United States in which the CHFI is in most demand:

City Pay Range

Austin, TX $66,500 - $104,672

Atlanta, GA $40,593 - $81,876

Tampa, FL $87,921 - $112,000

San Antonio, TX $87,930 - $95,093

Washington, DC $65,000 - $125,000


The following is a list of companies that are constantly recruiting individuals that possess the CHFI:

  • Paylocity
  • Noblis
  • Fireye
  • Mantech International Corporation
  • U.S. Navy
  • General Dynamics Information Technology, Inc.


Overall, the CHFI cert is expected to be in high demand in the long term. The primary reason for this is that the Cyber threat landscape will only continue to proliferate in complexity and sophistication, thus requiring the need for highly skilled forensics investigators. Depending upon your total years of work experience, and the geographic location that you select to work in, the salaries can be quite high as well.

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Ravi Das
Ravi Das

Ravi is a Business Development Specialist for BiometricNews.Net, Inc., a technical communications and content marketing firm based out of Chicago, IL. The business was started in 2009, and has clients all over the world. Ravi’s primary area of expertise is Biometrics. In this regard, he has written and published two books through CRC Press. He is also a regular columnist for the Journal of Documents and Identity, a leading security publication based out of Amsterdam.

You can visit the company’s website at (or; and contact Ravi at