Before all of the different cyber events this past year, cybersecurity was already a bit of a hot career field. The needs continue to grow. In fact, according to CyberCrime Magazine, “the number of unfilled cybersecurity jobs is expected to grow by 350 percent, from one million positions in 2013 to 3.5 million in 2021.” If that isn’t a sobering statistic, here’s one that is even more shocking from the same report, “… of the candidates who are applying for these positions, fewer than one in four are even qualified, according to an MIT Technology Review cited.” So the career field is going to have 3.5 million unfilled jobs, and the applicants that are applying aren’t even qualified for the job. That is terrifying. Having the right programming languages at your disposal is the key to getting into the cybersecurity field.
Cybersecurity Talent Gap
Cybercrime is a scary thing, especially with the rise of the Internet of Things (IoT) where everything has to be connected to the Internet. With a talent gap this big, it would seem easy to decide to get a career in cybersecurity, but how do you know what qualifies you? The qualifications can be difficult to define and the certification options are vast. CEH, CISSP, GIAC, CISM, Security+ are just a few of the well known cybersecurity certifications. At CybersecurityGuide.org, they estimate that of all the unfilled cybersecurity positions available, up to 59% require at least one certification. Additionally, there are a handful of prestigious universities that are offering cybersecurity boot camps, which can really enhance your resume and boost your marketability. While there are so many cybersecurity jobs unfilled and so many options to get qualified, it can be difficult to know where to start.
Where to Start with Programming?
Most would tell you to get a degree in a cybersecurity discipline, or go out and get the latest technical cybersecurity certification. I’m here to tell you, while those are both great ideas, they are also expensive and require a ton of time. I’m not here to rain on the certification or degree parade, but there is a much easier and quicker way to get your foot in the metaphorical cybersecurity door… learn programming! Programming is used heavily on both sides of the battlefield. White hat hackers and black hats both need to be proficient in certain programming languages. My suggestion is to find a book, or a training program online/in person that will help you learn a programming language. Which language to start with? Let’s explore several of the common languages used in cybersecurity defense.
1. C and C++
C is a great language to start with, even if you don’t have much programming experience. This is something you can start learning on your own while you already have a day job. When you get free time at night, you can work through labs and read books on it to practice. C++ is regarded as the older brother of C and is equally as useful when it comes to a career in cybersecurity. Bjarne Stroustrup, the creator of C++ once said, “C makes it easy to shoot yourself in the foot; C++ makes it harder, but when you do, it blows your whole leg off.” That should give you an idea of how powerful a language it is. The C language is widely used among operating systems to leverage access to system processes and RAM, both things you don’t want black hats having access to. Two free options to start learning C and C++ are CodeAcademy.com and LearnCPP.com.
Python is one of most sought after languages when it comes to cybersecurity. It is among one of the easier languages to learn, and becoming proficient at Python will increase your marketability. Python is really considered more of a scripting language. A programming language relies on a compiler to translate the program into code, whereas Python uses an interpreter which allows the code to be translated one line at a time. I wouldn’t spend too much time focusing on this difference, instead learn them both! Where C and C++ help you write code that accesses low level computer functions, Python lets you build cybersecurity applications and tools that you can use to thwart network attacks among others. Learn Python from CodeAcademy.com, I’ve been at it for awhile there! You can also pick up Mark Myers book, A Smarter Way to Learn Python.
Go Forward and Learn Programming
Sometimes, the best way is to learn at your own pace in programming/scripting to prepare for the cybersecurity career field. But, certifications are a game changer once you have the base knowledge, and degree programs are key, as well. In fact, most of those programs will include modules on programming that will help you along as well. However, know that programming is one of the key skills you will need to develop to grab one of those cybersecurity jobs, be qualified for it, and excel at it.