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Cyberthreats continue to grow exponentially worldwide as companies consistently experience breaches. Anyone with a connection to the internet may be vulnerable.
The 2021 (ISC)² Cybersecurity Workforce Study projects that the volume of cybersecurity professionals needs to grow by 65% to combat projected threat levels. These new infosec experts must hold a wide range of skills, including coding.
Although coding may seem like an isolated skill sharing little in common with cybersecurity, the two are closely intertwined. Coding reveals how computer systems work and how to identify flaws in those systems.
Read on to discover more about the connection between cybersecurity and coding — and what you can learn from each field.
How Coding Is Used in Cybersecurity
Coding is an important part of cybersecurity. Infosec security experts can identify hackers by analyzing their language patterns. They can also use code to create patches for security vulnerabilities and detect security breaches. Cybersecurity activities that rely on coding include:
- Reverse Engineering: Coders analyze malware programs to determine how they work and find ways to stop them from functioning. Malware changes constantly to evade detection. Coders, therefore, must try different combinations until they identify the malware's specific command sequences.
- Fuzzing: Fuzzing involves examining a program's input and output with random data sets, sometimes called "fuzz." The process continues until the examiner finds something wrong or an indication of a potential vulnerability.
- Malware Analysis: Malware analysis reveals the purpose or behavior of a suspicious file or URL. One analytic tool is the sandbox, which is a closed system environment. Hackers often attempt to deceive the sandbox with hidden code. Cybersecurity experts who know coding can help find these elements.
Cybersecurity Careers That Benefit From Coding
Entry-level cybersecurity professions rarely demand coding skills. In mid-level jobs, however, security experts often need programming awareness and proficiency to perform critical job functions.
Coding is not just for programmers, and many cybersecurity jobs reward this skill. For example, Payscale's salary profiles reveal that security analysts who know Python can earn 6% more than their peers. Consider how the following careers may benefit from coding skills.
A black-hat hacker takes advantage of vulnerabilities in computer systems or networks. White hat hackers, also known as penetration testers, use the same hacking skills for good by testing organizations' computer security defenses.
- Required Education: Bachelor's degree
- Coding Language Required: Perl, Java, Python (recommended)
- Average Annual Salary: $88,550
Security engineers write secure code. They may not be expert coders, but they must know how to code at a basic level to understand the implications of other programmers' code. Security engineers also need knowledge of common programming languages to read code in those languages.
- Required Education: Bachelor's degree
- Average Annual Salary: $99,250
Cryptographers design, analyze, and implement cryptographic systems. They also create the algorithms that make up these systems. While the job does not require much coding, cryptographers need to understand programming languages when working with algorithms.
- Required Education: Bachelor's Degree
- Coding Language Required: Python, Go, Ruby, C++ (recommended)
- Job Outlook (2021-31): +31%
- Median Annual Salary: $96,280
Cybersecurity Careers That Do Not Require Coding
The field of cybersecurity is on the rise, which may attract graduates with computer science degrees. For aspiring cybersecurity professionals who don't have skills in coding or programming, though, plenty of other opportunities are available.
Most entry-level cybersecurity jobs do not require coding skills. In addition, the following careers rarely require coding abilities, even in mid-level or advanced positions.
A security analyst ensures that their company remains safe from any online threats and tracks down hackers to prevent them from accessing the network again. The best security analysts are often skilled coders, but the profession does not demand programming language proficiency.
Required Education: Bachelor's degree
Job Outlook (2020-30): +35%
Median Annual Salary: $102,600
A security auditor ensures that a company's cybersecurity plan is up to par. Security audits usually occur after intrusions but may also take place before companies launch. The auditor reviews the company's system architecture, software, and policies to determine the most effective security improvements.
Required Education: Bachelor's degree
Average Annual Salary: $72,030
Incident responders identify and respond to active cybersecurity threats. These professionals may also analyze trends and recommend improvements for corporate cybersecurity measures.
Required Education: Bachelor's or master's degree
Average Annual Salary: $90,200
Should You Learn How to Code to Work in Cybersecurity?
Most cybersecurity jobs do not require you to know how to write computer code.
However, coding is a valuable skill in the cybersecurity field. As an IT security professional with coding skills, you'll be able to design, implement, and maintain security systems for your company's networks. You'll also be better able to diagnose problems when they arise.
Additional benefits include:
- Coding makes it easier to break malware construction.
- Writing scripts in Python can help you better analyze cyberthreat data.
- Coding can help you work more effectively with software development teams.
Start by learning Python and other fundamental programming languages, and then scale up to more complex languages. Basic languages can help you understand how programming works. They let you learn to read code and deduce the coder's intentions. More complex languages may help you create tighter solutions to security problems.
Python works with common security tools like Wireshark to break down packet data. Cybersecurity experts with Python knowledge can debug the code of malware samples without having to rely on others. The versatility of Python makes it the perfect choice for any cybersecurity expert looking to broaden their skillset.
Ruby is a powerful programming language used to build web applications and other projects. Cybersecurity experts can put Ruby to work doing reverse engineering, fuzzing, and dynamic binary analysis.
Learning one of these computer programming languages may seem daunting at first, but many resources are available to help you learn how to code. A free online course, for example, can give you all of the basics that you need to succeed as a security professional. From there, you can advance to a paid course, a coding bootcamp, or a college-level course.
To learn any computer language, you must first master the basics of college-level math, including computation and logical structures. Try teaching yourself the basics of Python before moving on to an online course in Ruby or other languages at bootcamps or colleges.
Questions About Cybersecurity and Coding
How are cybersecurity and coding related?
Cybersecurity and coding are often interdependent. To comprehend the workings of a cyberattack, security experts need a strong understanding of programming languages used by hackers. Cybersecurity professionals should be able to read and write at least the fundamental languages such as Python and Java.
Is cybersecurity harder than coding?
Cybersecurity can sometimes be more difficult than coding because it incorporates many different elements — including programming. A cybersecurity expert often needs to know how to code, avoid infiltrations and intrusions, and program. New cybersecurity professionals may find that maintaining these skills is one of the most difficult challenges in their profession.
Do cybersecurity jobs require coding skills?
Many entry-level cybersecurity positions do not require any coding skills. However, coding may be a requirement for mid-level and higher-level positions. These jobs may also call for several years of experience.
What skills do I need to work in cybersecurity?
Cybersecurity experts need technical skills and soft skills. Top technical skills include security intrusion detection, risk management, and intelligence analysis. Employers also look for soft skills like problem-solving, passion, adaptability, and business acumen.
Monali Mirel Chuatico
In 2019, Monali Mirel Chuatico graduated with a bachelor's in computer science, which gave her the foundation that she needed to excel in roles such as data engineer, front-end developer, UX designer, and computer science instructor.
Monali is currently a data engineer at Mission Lane. As a data analytics captain at a nonprofit called COOP Careers, Monali helps new grads and young professionals overcome underemployment by teaching them data analytics tools and mentoring them on their professional development journey.
Monali is passionate about implementing creative solutions, building community, advocating for mental health, empowering women, and educating youth. Monali aims to gain more experience in her field, expand her skill set, and do meaningful work that will positively affect the world.
Monali Mirel Chuatico is a paid member of the Red Ventures Education Integrity Network.
Page last reviewed Oct 18, 2022
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