One of the most audacious and ubiquitous hacking events in computer history made headlines last year, among a slew of other important news items (the U.S. election drama, the COVID-19 epidemic, and many more). Texas-based SolarWinds (a network management system used by major organizations and the U.S. government to monitor the security of its numerous systems) released an update containing malicious code that allowed hackers located in Russia to launch a huge cyberattack, possibly the largest in history. It could take a long time, perhaps years, to assess the entire extent of the damage.
Adding to the growing number of major cybersecurity events over the previous decade, this attack highlights the need for skilled cybersecurity professionals to safeguard sensitive information, keep businesses and governments operating freely online, and maintain global peace and order. Thousands of domestic and international job advertisements can be found with a simple search for “cybersecurity jobs.” As more and more business is conducted online, cybersecurity professionals are in high demand and stand to benefit from the growing field.
However, getting into the cybersecurity field isn’t as easy as taking a program at your local university or some online coding courses. To succeed in such a competitive field, you’ll need to hone your professional acumen as well as your technical expertise. When the stakes are as high as they are in cybersecurity, the necessary preparation for a career in the industry must be broad. So, if you want to work in cybersecurity, what skills do you need to acquire? Let’s go through the fundamentals and offer some tips for how to get your foot in the door.
To be successful, you’ll need a deep technical foundation in both theory and practice.
The stakes in cybersecurity are too high for businesses to take chances on inexperienced workers. Companies wanting to fill cybersecurity positions typically seek data security analysts with bachelor’s degrees in computer science, software engineering, information assurance, or a closely related profession. However, this only applies to a small subset of entry-level jobs. The truth is that a master’s degree in business administration in information systems is increasingly preferred by employers because it guarantees a more in-depth academic focus on cybersecurity.
Although this may be true, it doesn’t mean that a beginner programmer has no chance of mastering the fundamentals of cybersecurity. For instance, a cyber policy analyst or technical writer is a non-technical cybersecurity role that does not typically require much (if any) coding experience. You might start in one of these positions if you have excellent writing and language abilities and then move on to learning the coding side by watching your coworkers and mentors.
An alternative is to get a job in an entry-level technical role as a way to break in. Some certificates in the field of cybersecurity, for instance, do not necessitate the completion of a four-year degree program (like Certified Ethical Hacker, in which you play the role of the “enemy”), while others do. Those who lack the time or resources to enroll in a university’s technical program can benefit greatly from these alternatives.
If you’re interested in getting started in the exciting field of cybersecurity, you might find it helpful to first familiarize yourself with the following simpler positions:
Analyst at a SOC (security operation center):
Reporting on cyber occurrences that threaten various government agencies will be part of your duties as a SOC analyst. If you want to help your company or department deal with cyber threats, you may perform a vulnerability analysis to find any holes in your network or software and then suggest solutions.
Network Security Administrator:
Those in charge of a company’s or organization’s network are tasked with keeping sensitive data safe by restricting access to those who need it or those with appropriate permissions. The knowledge you get in a role as a network administrator can also be applied to understanding the organizational structure of networks, which is useful in the pursuit of more advanced cybersecurity careers.
Cyber policy analyst:
In this role, you’ll create policies, protocols, and standards for the state or private sector. In addition to helping develop these guidelines, you’d be instrumental in seeing them through for your company’s clientele.
For your job as a vulnerability analyst, you’ll need to make use of several security tools, such as Nessus, to detect and fix security holes in computer networks, software, and hardware. It is the job of vulnerability analysts to keep up with the development of new malware and security flaws. The next step is to proactively safeguard your business or organization with the help of your SOC analysts and the rest of the tech staff.
Can You Tell Me Which Programming Languages I Should Study If I Want to Work in Cybersecurity?
While there is no shortage of languages that would be useful for a career in cybersecurity, here are a few to consider learning as a starting point:
Java is used by many programmers throughout the world and is considered by some to be the most popular programming language. Java also has plenty to offer those who work in the field of cybersecurity. Learning and keeping up with Java is a surefire way to increase your employability if you plan to devote your time and energy to developing software for computers or mobile devices rather than online applications. Java, which has a similar structure to C/C++, is one of the most useful programming languages in use today for building websites.
As a result of its pervasiveness, Java is crucial for information security professionals. Over ninety-five percent of business computers, according to a number of studies, use Java, for instance. The fact that C/C++ and Java have so many similarities also makes knowledge of any language a valuable asset. Referring back to C/C++….
C/C++, which have been in use since the early 1970s, are considered the “bedrock” of many contemporary technical systems and are essential to the operation of the modern Internet. C and C++ are lower-level programming languages than Python and Java, making them more difficult to learn but yet significantly more powerful in some contexts. Using low-level languages, for instance, enables unmediated interaction with system components like RAM and background processes. Due to the ease with which vulnerabilities at this level can be exploited, hackers and cybercriminals frequently target it when searching for entry points. Further, C/C++ is essential for reading and understanding open source code, which frequently underpins low-level system applications that are crucial to the operation of operating systems.
Python, a high-level programming language, is becoming increasingly popular, not only among security experts and hackers but among developers everywhere. Because of its wide variety of applications, it now powers numerous popular web services, desktop applications, and even cutting-edge technologies like machine learning and artificial intelligence. Python has a large and active development community around the world, but this also makes it easier for hackers to “crowdsource” exploits and weaknesses to use against other programs.
The good news is that Python also offers many chances and resources for professionals working in the field of cybersecurity. Security teams may use Python to do things like analyze malware, build intrusion detection systems, and transmit TCP packets to machines with the help of a growing number of libraries that eliminate the need for additional software. This paves the way for effective program development and the automation of routine tasks.
When it comes to server-side code for dynamically displaying content, many large-scale websites use PHP, an open-source general-purpose scripting server-side language. The data is fetched from a server-side database and then transmitted to the client for display.
The characteristics that make it simple to keep a website updated have contributed to PHP’s meteoric increase in popularity. According to some estimates, PHP is used by more than 80% of all websites (like Facebook, which uses a custom version of it). Although PHP has many useful features, it is also more susceptible to external attacks because of these features. PHP-based websites are a frequent target of DDoS (Denial of Service) attacks, which include sending thousands of bots to access the site at once in an attempt to bring it down through server overload. Equally, hackers can use PHP to wipe away an entire website, demanding a ransom in exchange for restoring the data, if the site is badly built.
Knowing how to find and fix these vulnerabilities in PHP code is crucial for any cybersecurity professional since they can be exploited by hackers to gain access to a whole database.