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The 6 best programming languages for cybersecurity

by Kayla Matthews | May 20, 2018May 20, 2018 10:00 am PST

Whether you’re already heading down a cybersecurity career path or working on getting into the field soon, having diverse skills is essential.

In addition to staying abreast of the latest cyber threats and attempted attacks, you need to have a grasp of various programming languages.

Here are some of the most useful ones for developers aiming to become cybersecurity professionals.

1. C

When advising people about which programming languages to learn, experts often bring up C as one of the possibilities. That’s because most operating systems have languages based on C.

Despite being one of the more basic options, it was used to code some of the most popular applications in the world, including Dropbox and Spotify.

2. Assembly

If you plan to specialize in exploit reversal or understanding more about malware, consider Assembly — another one of the must-know languages.

Like C, it’s another relatively simple language, but people who understand cybersecurity say it’s worth having under your belt when seeking a career in that line of work.

3. Python

Learning a programming language gives you an edge in cybersecurity because it allows for a deeper understanding of how applications function. Having this capability increases your chances of recognizing vulnerabilities and figuring out how to fix them.

Cybersecurity experts can use Python to create attack simulations, build intrusion detection systems and scan wireless networks without depending on third-party tools. Python is one of the programming languages of choice for people working in the cybersecurity field. It’s easy to learn, high-performance and versatile.

4. PHP

PHP is frequently used to make websites. So, if you anticipate working in cybersecurity roles that involve protecting sites, it’s especially beneficial to learn.

Moreover, PHP recently moved up the rankings on a list of the most important languages for developers to know. Learning it now makes you a stronger developer and equips you to eventually move into the cybersecurity realm while asserting you’re a strong contender for open positions.

5. JavaScript

When you work as a cybersecurity professional, one of your duties might be to carry out penetration tests. These simulated attacks evaluate the potential damage hackers could do if they exploit a system’s vulnerabilities.

Cross-site scripting — or XSS attacks — involve individuals or parties inserting malicious code into client-side website scripts. If you gain a solid understanding of JavaScript, you’ll be able to quickly identify XSS attacks and fix the issues that made them possible.

6. SQL

Many of the programming languages listed here enable building automated tools to monitor websites or determine how secure they are against attacks. One such language is SQL, which is also known as Structured Query Language. You may hear it pronounced as “sequel.” It allows retrieving information from relational databases and editing it when necessary.

Plus, hackers are increasingly orchestrating SQL injection attacks. They work by exploiting known SQL vulnerabilities and making databases provide information that’s not typically readily available to unauthorized parties.

Because SQL injection attacks are often used to get credit card numbers and other personal details, a successful infiltration can be quite lucrative for cybercriminals — not to mention damaging to the victims.

Base your learning goals on specializations

There isn’t one language that’s the top choice for all developers wanting to move into the world of cybersecurity.

However, some languages are better than others for people planning to work in cybersecurity. Keep future specialties in mind when you choose which ones to learn first.

Image by luis gomes


Kayla Matthews

Kayla Matthews is a writer and tech blogger, talking about connected devices and smart tech on websites like MakeUseOf, VentureBeat, Motherboard and...

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