"Cyber security expert using a laptop"
"Cyber security expert using a laptop"

Five Programming Languages for Cyber Security

Cyber security

The number of jobs and opportunities in the cyber security industry is rising, and for good reason: Every day, more than 2,200 cyber attacks occur. Cyber criminals and the bots that support them are getting more and more complex. For this reason, cyber security professionals need to keep abreast of the latest types of attacks and understand how to fight these attacks in the trenches.

Understanding programming languages helps cyber security professionals understand not only the type of attacks they may be facing but also how these attacks work and how best to fight them. Knowledge of cyber security programming languages are essential, so we will explore five options for cyber security experts below.

1. Python

An important cyber security programming language is Python. Python is a high-level programming language that’s increasingly popular in the cyber security community due to its clear syntax and optimal code readability.

In terms of cyber security programming, Python allows you to complete numerous functions. For example, you can perform malware analysis, send TCP packers and create detect cyber threats.

An advantage of Python is that it is highly extensible and has an extensive number of code libraries to choose from. However, it’s not a low-level programming language, meaning that it may not provide enough visibility into hardware or deliver the functional speed required. Python is essential for cyber security experts as it helps them identify vulnerabilities and understand how to fix them.

2. PHP

Another important cyber security programming language is PHP. PHP is used to develop websites and web applications, but it is also used in numerous web-based cyber attacks.

A particularly well-known web-based attack coded in PHP is a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack. A DDoS attack is a malicious attempt to disrupt normal traffic to a server by overwhelming it with Internet traffic.

Understanding PHP can help you understand server-side attacks and build more secure web applications.

3. JavaScript

JavaScript, like Python, is a high-level programming language. It’s best known as the core technology that powers the web and is primarily used to add interactivity and functionality to webpages.

Initially used only in web browsers, now JavaScript can be used for many other functions, including hosting infrastructure, and can be embedded in other applications.

Due to its prolific use, JavaScript is an essential cyber security programming language. It enables you to understand how the web works, and thus how to design systems and processes to prevent attacks. For example, malicious code is often implanted in web-based systems using JavaScript.

4. SQL

Another cyber security programming language that’s important for cyber security experts is SQL. SQL is used to manage database data, including creation, maintenance and retrieval.

Because this language forms the basis of many databases, hackers often use it to infiltrate or damage stored data. For example, many database attacks begin with SQL injections that exploit vulnerabilities to steal sensitive information.

For this reason, understanding SQL and its vulnerabilities is important for cyber security experts.

5. Shell Scripting

While not usually considered a cyber security programming language, shell scripting is a valuable tool for the cyber security professional and allows complex automation as well as quick problem-solving solutions. Shell scripting usually runs computer programs in a Unix/Linux terminal. Typical operations that this type of scripting performs include file manipulation and program execution.

Shell scripting is useful as it allows users to program commands in chains and have systems execute them as a scripted event. As a result, backups and other important functions can be automated, and they can also be given rules (for example, they can run on if-then-else statements).

Shell scripting is particularly important in cyber security as it allows experts to automate security checks and solutions. It also enables checks on multiple systems to happen simultaneously, meaning that threats are detected more easily.

Other skills required by cyber security experts

Programming languages are fundamental for cyber security experts and their understanding of the systems they work with, as well as the possible threats to those systems. To successfully work with these programming languages, however, requires that cyber security experts have numerous soft skills. These include the following:

1. Communication

In the process of controlling, understanding and detecting system threats, cyber security experts often need to communicate with other stakeholders, including warning senior executives should there be a critical issue or threat. For this reason, cyber security experts need exceptional communication skills, including the ability to translate technical jargon into easy-to-understand language for the rest of the business.

2. Problem-solving

Programming languages may seem clear-cut, but they most certainly aren’t. Often, cyber security experts are called upon to interpret complex code and understand why a system may perform in a particular way. The same is true of cyber threats.

For this reason, cyber security experts need to be expert problem-solvers, with the ability to understand the interactions between systems being key.

3. Attention to detail

Many jobs require attention to detail, but one that requires it more than most is cyber security. In understanding cyber attacks and especially in responding under time pressure, which cyber experts are frequently called upon to do, a critical skill is attention to detail.

Often, the key to understanding the attack may be a single piece of code that’s changed, or a single element of a system that isn’t functioning the way it should. Cyber security experts need to be forensic and pedantic with their attention to detail.

4. Desire to learn

In the cyber security industry, change is a constant. As soon as new system protections are added, hackers are able to create new threats: The cycle is constant. For this reason, a desire to constantly learn and upskill is critical for cyber security experts.

Cyber security experts must maintain a desire to learn more by keeping on top of trends in the industry to ensure that their knowledge is up to date.

Every cyber security expert needs to understand how to code

Programming languages aren’t simply the art and science of coders. For cyber security experts, a knowledge of cyber security programming languages opens up a whole world of understanding — not only about the risks and threats but also about how attacks work and how best to prevent them.

Learn cyber security programming fundamentals, plus much more, with ECU Online’s Master of Cyber Security.