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Interview with Mobile Digital Forensic expert Heather Mahalik

“Never let anyone tell you that it's not a field for you.”

The field of forensics is home to various career paths, from toxicologists to accountants, emphasizing that people from diverse backgrounds and various specialties can have the potential to be able to become a part of a forensic discipline. 

To shed a little more light into this highly exciting and fast-paced field, the Australian Women in Security Network in Canberra was privy to a session with experts @HeatherMahalik and Alissa Torres (@sibertor)

Following this success, the AWSN has been invited to a joint community night with SANS Security, where Heather Mahalik, an established professional in the field of forensics will be speaking on the 14th of July at 6pm at the Jasper in Melbourne. She is the Principal Forensic Scientist ManTech CARD, bringing with her an arsenal of skills molded by her 14-year extensive experience in digital forensics.

Apart from Heather’s expertise which includes smartphone forensics and forensic instruction on mobile, she also co-authored Practical Mobile Forensics (with the latest edition released just a few weeks ago) and served as the technical editor for Learning Android Forensics, both from Pack’t Publishing. Currently, she is also a senior instructor for the SANS Institute.

Here are a few insights to help us get to know more about Heather’s experience and the work that she has done:

What do you like about your job?

Heather: Almost everything! I love the daily challenge and the fast speed of change. The only thing I don't like is not being able to find all of the evidence even if you think it should be there.

How did you get into this role?

Heather: Luck! Honestly. I sometimes think it's not what you know, but who you know. I was in the U.S.Air Force and met someone on the back of a C-130 who got me an interview for my first job. My first boss was fantastic and spent a lot of time teaching me the artifacts, and how the tools work behind the scenes. I credit him for me not being a "button pusher."

An example of what you do each day.

Heather: My full time job involves me supporting the Government to fight terrorism. My role is application tear down on mobile devices. Essentially, I try to replicate applications that are used by bad people in the world and hack into them.

What would you say to others who are considering following the same career path? (Your Words of Wisdom!) 

Heather: Go for it! It is worth the effort and hard work.  Never let anyone tell you that it's not a field for you. Find a mentor who will guide you and learn from your mistakes. You will make them. Be ready for the challenge and you must always be ready to learn. 

To learn more about Heather and SANS Institute, visit https://www.sans.org/instructors/heather-mahalik

Author: Micah Augustin

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