Cybersecurity is a hot-button career topic these days. With more and more bad actors pulling off major cyber attacks and virtual crime sprees, the need for good guys who can step in and protect companies, critical infrastructure, and even national governments from hackers continues to grow.
Whether you’re just starting your learn-to-code journey or you’re looking to level up your coding career, cybersecurity is an excellent choice. In this article, we’ll explore several cybersecurity career options that require some coding experience. You’ll find out who’s hiring for these jobs and how you can shift your coding knowledge into career-building cybersecurity skills.
Coders In Security Operations
When you think of cybersecurity careers, you may first think of ethical hacking -- being paid to test the defenses of networks and software against potential cyberattacks. While that is a popular career path for cybersecurity professionals -- and one that we’ve covered in depth -- it’s not the only option for coders looking to be on the front lines of virtual battles.
Ethical hacking is just one part of a broader career path called cybersecurity operations, or SecOps for short. SecOps aims to build cybersecurity into the broader IT management process through monitoring, threat detection, and mitigation.
Companies that utilize SecOps usually operate a Security Operations Center (SOC). The SOC is focused on both preventing and responding to cybersecurity threats. They may monitor logs and IDSes for suspicious activity, or they may receive reports directly from the help desk or other IT teams. They also proactively monitor for potential threats through threat intelligence, or information-gathering, on active hacker groups.
SOCs value employees who have coding and scripting expertise. A busy corporate network may generate gigabytes of logs that need to be analyzed for threats. Familiarity with data science principles can be critical to finding potential threats and stopping them.
In addition, the SOC may be charged with analyzing internal applications or code for vulnerabilities. A coding background can be critical to understanding and finding vulnerabilities before they can be exploited.
Who Hires Security Operations Experts?
If a career in SecOps sounds exciting to you, there are many companies that are staffing SOCs within their IT departments. Larger companies that have a mature IT department may hire roles such as “Security Analyst” or “Threat Operations Specialist” that would work directly in SecOps.
In addition, nearly any startup that offers a software-as-a-service (SaaS) product will hire SecOps professionals to ensure that their service -- and the data that their clients trust to them -- remain secure.
Other companies that hire SecOps roles include companies that provide IT or cybersecurity services to smaller businesses. Managed service providers (MSPs) and managed security service providers (MSSPs), which function like miniature IT departments, are more focused than ever on cybersecurity, and are beginning to hire cybersecurity experts to protect their clients. Other companies that provide incident response, forensics, and other specialized cybersecurity services to clients are also interested in hiring cybersecurity professionals with coding experience.
Coders As Security Researchers
Besides direct involvement in cybersecurity operations, many coders have found careers as cybersecurity researchers -- people who try to figure out what the bad guys are doing, how they do it, and how to prevent it.
While SecOps may focus on defending and securing a specific company, security researchers typically focus on protecting entire sectors, certain types of technologies, or another specialty.
Coding experience is often required to examine new threats on a deep level.
For example, malware researchers capture and isolate viruses, Trojans, and ransomware so that they can be analyzed. The researchers are trying to find out a number of things, including:
- Who may have created the malware, and why.
- What the malware does when it executes on a system, for example, deleting files, creating backdoors, or communicating with a command-and-control network.
- What techniques the malware uses to infect other systems, to evade detection by antivirus software, or to steal files and data.
Security researchers also examine the digital fingerprints left behind by hackers to determine their identity, their techniques, and their affiliations. For example, researchers have discovered a number of government-affiliated hacking groups associated with military and spy agencies based on the tools and techniques used by these groups. This allows companies to better protect their systems against these advanced hackers.
Who Hires Security Researchers?
Many private companies specializing in cybersecurity tools now have openings for security researchers. Companies that make antivirus software, intrusion detection systems, and network firewalls employ security researchers to protect their customers against advanced hackers. Companies like Mandiant, FireEye, SANS, and other private cybersecurity companies have released reports that exposed powerful hacking groups and cybercriminal organizations, thanks to their security research staff.
In addition to the private sector, military and other government agencies hire security researchers who protect government networks against hackers and investigate other state-sponsored security threats. These organizations often provide training as well as practical experience, but may have additional education or security clearance requirements beyond what a private company would expect.
Choosing A Cybersecurity Career
If you are interested in making the leap from coding to cybersecurity, there are many options available to you. Before making a decision on a new career, do some research on the types of careers that are available and the skills required for them.
As we mentioned, data science, machine learning, and AI are more important than ever in the cybersecurity field. Advanced tools to both detect and respond to security threats use AI, and the large amount of data produced by most network monitoring systems requires the right skills to analyze it for real threats.
If you’re interested in learning more about machine learning or data science, download the Sololearn app to get started with a free course. No matter where you are or how much time you have to learn, you can start building your skills with our flexible learning platform. By learning and practicing just a few minutes each day, you can be ready to launch your cybersecurity career.