Most entry-level cybersecurity jobs don’t require you to know how to code. But for some mid-level and upper-level cybersecurity jobs, you may need to be able to write and understand code. You will be ready for these jobs after a few years of experience.
In other words, I don’t think coding is a skill that everyone needs to worry about or focus on when they are just starting in the field. However, it is a skill that will affect how far you go in your career and what opportunities you have in the future. Even so, there are a lot of highly skilled and successful cybersecurity professionals who are not good at programming.
What is the best way for a beginner to learn how to code?
Since coding isn’t a necessary skill that will stop you from getting started in cybersecurity, I recommend a two-step process for learning how to code: 1) learn about programming, and then 2) get good at it while you’re building up your career. You’ll notice that neither of these steps requires you to be an expert programmer. Most jobs in cybersecurity don’t require mastery of programming or high-level coding. Instead, it’s best to leave that to the dedicated programmers who code every day to make apps or software solutions.
So, if you want to get better at programming, follow the two-step plan below.
Make people aware of programming.
Look at the entry-level job postings in your area if you want to start a career in cybersecurity. You’ll probably notice that almost none of the job titles for entry-level technical jobs have words like “cybersecurity” or “programming” in them. During this first phase, keep in mind that security is now a part of almost all technical jobs and that many employers still give security-related jobs general job titles. This is because computer security has been around for a long time, long before cybersecurity became a common term.
As I’ve said in other posts, I think the best way to start your cybersecurity career quickly is to start working in a more general technical support or information technology position. Your skills are more general when you’re starting, and getting hands-on experience in any related technical position is the best way to learn fast. Also, it’s unlikely that a college graduate with no experience would be able to start working right away as a “Senior Security Analyst.” Think about the fact that we are just starting and don’t yet have the skills or experience to handle a high level of technical responsibility. During this early part of your career, you should learn more about programming.
What does programming awareness mean?
Programming awareness means that you can recognize programming code, know how to use basic programming components like if/then statements and loops, and read code and understand what it is trying to do.
The best way to learn more about programming is to do some structured practice. This means that you learn programming by writing code and adding new programming ideas step by step. Taking an introductory programming course at a college or online is a great way to get structured practice. Most online classes will be cheaper or even free, and many of them are on-demand, so you can sign up and start whenever convenient for you. College classes are probably more structured and cost more, but if you get stuck or your code doesn’t work, the teacher will probably be there to help.
Look for programming courses that start at the beginning or focus on the basics of the Python programming language (you can read our article about Python and cybersecurity here). Python is used a lot in cybersecurity jobs that require coding, and it’s a language that’s not too hard to learn. I always recommend face-to-face classes for cybersecurity topics like penetration testing. However, most people can learn programming in an online class, whether through college or not. This is because programming coursework is easy to communicate over the Internet, and home computers can be used to code without a lot of software installation, configuration, or security worries. You can take an online class if you are responsible enough to do the work. No matter which way you choose to learn, make sure your programming class has hands-on exercises you can do so you can do the coding. The best way to learn code is to write it yourself.
Get better at programming.
Our second step in learning how to program is to get better at programming. But, as we’ve already talked about, being good at programming doesn’t mean we are fully qualified coders or experts in any given programming language.
Programming skill means that we can write our code with confidence, using resources like textbooks or online examples, and fix problems in code that other people or we have written.
In cybersecurity, a common example of programming skills is when a Cybersecurity Analyst writes a script in Python to automate tasks that are done repeatedly. When someone makes a script like this, it’s important to remember that it’s a one-time job and not something they do all day.
So, how do we go about getting better at programming? We want to do things the same way we did in the first phase when we learned the basics of programming, but at a higher level. Here, we want to learn about programming and get better at it. One great way to do this would be to take an intermediate-level programming course. Again, you could take a college course or an online program, but now we want to make sure that the course doesn’t just teach concepts but also focuses on how to use concepts to solve problems. To find out if a class qualifies, look at the list of labs or projects in the class to make sure you’ll be building something.
The good thing about this two-step process is that by the time you’re ready to move on to step two and learn how to program, you’ve already been working in the field for at least a year and have met other professionals and learned about the different areas of specialization in cybersecurity. You will also probably have a better idea of which areas interest you and if they require a lot of programming knowledge.
How to Learn Python
Python is a high-level scripting language becoming more and more popular among security experts and hackers. It can be used to make GUI applications for desktops, websites, and web applications. Unfortunately, fans of this language say that because so many people use it, it is the best choice for new criminals. The reasoning behind this is that easy access to online help from the community of users will lead to all kinds of manipulation methods that can be used for bad things.
Python is a high-level language, so it can’t be compared to C or C++ in power, detail, or access to hardware. But on the other hand, the language’s readability can give a good idea of what Python code is supposed to do. This makes it important for people who work in cybersecurity to understand this language.
With the help of many libraries, security teams can use Python to analyze malware, make intrusion detection systems, and send TCP packets to machines without using third-party tools. This means they can make programs and automate work in a good way.
PHP is a popular open-source server-side scripting language that can be used for many things. For example, many large websites use server-side code to show information in a way that changes all the time. When information is needed, it is pulled from a database on a server and sent to a client to be shown.
One of the most important benefits of server-side code lets website content be tailored to each user. Dynamic websites show more relevant content based on users’ likes and how they use the site. It can also make websites easier to use by saving your preferences and information. For example, if you save your credit card information, you can use it to make future payments faster.
PHP runs a very large number of websites, including more than 75 million WordPress sites. Some people say that PHP runs about 80% of the web, including social networks like Facebook, even though their versions differ. PHP has become more popular because it makes it easy to change things on a website. Unfortunately, because PHP is easy to use, it is also more likely to be attacked from the outside. Because of this, PHP is a very important programming language for people who want to work in cybersecurity.
How to Learn SQL
Structured Query Language (SQL) is used to run databases and get information. A SQL query is a command that tells a database to do something. For example, SQL injection (SQLi) is a common security flaw. An attacker adds SQL code to a web form input box to gain unauthorized access to resources or change sensitive data. When run correctly, an SQLi can reveal sensitive intellectual property, personal information about customers, administrative credentials, or private business details.
SQL injection attacks can be used against any SQL database program. Websites are the most common targets, though. MySQL, Oracle, and SQL Server are all popular SQL databases. As a result, cybercriminals can make queries and get access to almost any data they want with SQL injection. This can lead to the loss of passwords, bank account information, social security numbers, addresses, and more.
Perl is a general-purpose programming language that was first made for manipulating text. It is now used for various tasks, such as system administration, web development, network programming, GUI development, and more. It is an interpreted language, which means that code can be run as-is, without a compilation step that makes a program that can’t be moved from one computer to another.
Most people think that Perl is an easy language to learn. Even though it is not nearly as easy to read as Python, it uses syntax from other programming languages, such as C. Because of this, programmers who know these languages like to use it.
Perl is an older programming language that is often seen as a competitor to Python. However, it was used in so many older computer systems, that it is very useful for security professionals. Bad people often try to break into these same systems.