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Meet Magnet Forensics’ Training Team: Christopher Vance

Magnet Forensics Trainer, Christopher VanceHere at Magnet Forensics, we’ve built up a team of world-class training professionals that have countless years of experience in the forensics field. Because training is much more valuable if the person providing it has the knowledge and experience to bring it to life.

We wanted to introduce you to our fantastic Training team so you can learn more about what they’ll bring to the classroom in terms of style and history. In this introductory installment, we’ll meet Christopher Vance, Forensic Instructor, who travels throughout North America to teach the whole spectrum of forensic investigation — including mastery of Magnet AXIOM.

Want to learn more about what courses are offered? Visit our Training & Certification page for more information.

Q: Tell us about your life before becoming a Trainer

Christopher Vance: Before becoming a trainer full time, I was a forensic specialist with Marshall University’s Forensic Science Center and the West Virginia State Police’s Digital Forensics Unit. In a joint position between the university and the police agency, I worked active forensic cases for approximately 8 years. During an investigation that involved a mobile device, a lightbulb went off and I decided that I really wanted to get more into mobile devices and research. After winning a grant at the University to look into mobile device research, I developed a class to instruct law enforcement officers how to handle mobile devices and the data that could be extracted from them. From the moment I stepped in front of the class, I realized that while I loved doing forensic examinations, my true passion was teaching. Since then, I’ve developed multiple classes for law enforcement, parents, students, and professionals all about mobile device forensics. I started working for several companies as a contractor before becoming a full time forensic instructor in 2014.

Q: What made you want to be a Trainer?

CV: For me, it was the “Eureka” moment. When I would teach a student intern or an investigator how something would work and then would see the moment where it clicked for them, that was my reward. I love it when I can convey a hard to understand point to someone and watch it suddenly make sense for them.

Q: What type of training have you taken part in personally? What is your favorite part of the role?

CV: Most of my training has been around digital forensics. More specifically, around macOS and mobile device forensics. My favorite trainings have been focused in more in the hardware realm. Specifically around chip-off, ISP, and JTAG extractions.

Q: What excites you the most about a new class?

CV: For me, I want to see what students can take away and how they can use the knowledge.

Q: Do you ever learn anything from the students?

CV: All the time! I don’t think I’ve ever had a single class where a student hasn’t taught me something. The best part of being in a classroom with students is the passing of knowledge. It goes both ways!

Q: Is there a particular moment that stands out the most to you in your career in the classroom?

CV: There have been a couple of moments that stand out. Most of the time it revolves around a student bringing real world data or devices and being able to take what I’ve taught them and solve their case in front of my eyes.

Q: What do students get out of training in person that they can’t get on their own?

CV: There’s always more interaction in a live class versus an online class. Students get a lot out of face to face communications with each other, and with the instructor. It’s also a great networking opportunity. People can see how other examiners are using the tool or techniques and can share with each other.

Q: How prepared do you feel students are to use Magnet Forensics products after taking the training course?

CV: In our courses we teach more than just how to use the tool. We teach what the tool is actually doing, behind the scenes. This lets students understand what we are doing and helps them more effectively use the tool to find data they didn’t understand before.

Q: What is most unique about Magnet Forensics’ approach to training?

CV: We like to do two big things. One, we teach more than just what the tool is doing, but how it’s doing it. Two, we like to use a situational-based approach. Rather than just look at some basic data, the information used in class makes examiners feel like they’re working a real case.

Q: Why do you think certification is important to examiners?

CV: Certification is something that’s highly requested during testimony. A lot of court cases that I have been in require that list of certifications as part of being qualified as an expert witness. For examiners, it’s important to show proficiency. Not just that I can use a tool, but I understand how it functions and what its limitations are. This is something we teach in our AXIOM certification process.

Q: How do you manage to keep up on the latest trends in digital forensics?

CV: I spend a lot of time online. I follow a lot of great industry folks on Twitter and I read their blogs. I love it when examiners share their experiences. Other than that, I do a lot of my own research. When I see an interesting point in a feature release or news article, I immediately start researching it myself to see how I can better understand it.

Q: What trends do you see coming down the pipeline in digital forensics?

CV: Limited collections are becoming more common. As more mobile devices utilize encryption and locked systems, we as a community have to learn how to maximize the data we’re able to extract.

Q: Any final words of wisdom you’d like to share?

CV: Never stop learning. No matter how many times you’ve used a tool or technique, someone has a different way of doing something than you do. Going to classes and meeting instructors and other students will show you new ways of looking at the data we see every day.