A Solution to Every Problem
Please, introduce yourself.
My name is Abbey Mirelli, and I’m a digital forensics analyst here at BreachQuest. My responsibilities entail conducting forensic investigations for clients, including analyzing data, creating timelines of events, documenting and reporting evidence to figure out the who, where, what, how, and why of an incident.
What first attracted you to the cyber forensics field?
Since I was young, math was always my favorite subject, which seemed like the least popular answer amongst everyone. It always intrigued me knowing that there was a correct answer in the end. The problem-solving in between would lead you to get the answer. I love the idea of learning, practicing, and then becoming an expert at a new concept.
When I first started visiting colleges in high school, I went to a career fair at the University of Albany. When I was walking around, I discovered the digital forensics table. Before encountering that table, I didn’t know what it was or what it entailed, but I knew I enjoyed math, forensics, and business. Once I spoke to the representative and did some research on my own, I knew it would be the right move for me. I decided that was my major, and I was going to that school.
For my school, it was a relatively new program. The first time they had a graduate with a B.S. in digital forensics was May 2016. I graduated in 2020, so it was only a four-year-old program. Many changes were happening within the program, like new classes being added and curriculums changing. It was interesting to see that as the outside world of cyber was changing, the program itself was changing as I progressed.
When you see how broad the field is, it can get overwhelming at times. Personally, it excites me knowing I am in a field that provides ample opportunities to learn, grow and succeed.
What would you tell a younger woman about entering the data forensics field?
This goes for both genders but especially females. I would say never give up at the beginning stages of your career. It can get overwhelming. It might be hard to get your foot in the door initially. I didn’t get a job right out of college in cybersecurity, and I felt like it was never going to happen. But I kept pushing, learning, experiencing, and I was given a chance to succeed.
Secondly, being on a predominantly male team, it is sometimes easy to get lost in the mix and stay in the background. I’m always sure to prioritize my training and constantly absorb information by asking questions and asking for help when I need it. Everyone always has something to teach and knowledge to spread to others. And all you have to do is ask.
Finally, try to get involved. If you are in school for forensics or working in the field, for women especially, get involved with organizations like Women in Cyber Security and groups that promote women in the workplace. These organizations were founded to discuss women’s issues in cybersecurity and the industry as a whole.
Who inspired or encouraged you in your career?
From the second I started college and entered this field, every person I encountered was so passionate about this field and had a story to tell. Everyone had a story to tell, and I was so intrigued to listen. I knew this was a field I felt so passionately for, so the key for me was listening and learning from my peers around me.
Here at BreachQuest, the team comes from different paths and has knowledge from past experiences. Other jobs led them to where they are today, and it’s important to take that into perspective when thinking about your future in the industry. When you can see that you can start with different paths and end up in a completely different realm, it’s exciting. It’s so encouraging to listen to others’ stories and experiences, thinking about how that can be you someday.
You got your degree in Digital Forensics. What was your most helpful course and why?
I thought hard about this. The course that I relate to from my current role the most was the main “computer forensics” course. That was the course that set the tone for my future. I learned the steps and the operations for this role I am currently in. Using digital forensics tools and techniques to analyze digital evidence, and learning how to develop and implement incident response plans, policies, and procedures. It also touched on the oral and written reporting, outlining digital findings and conclusions. On top of all that, it focused on professional and acceptable execution to be compliant with industry standards guiding forensic work environments. This course very much contributed to my success in my role today.