Imagine a world where there was no way to protect computers from viruses, hackers, worms and other issues that can take entire systems down. Scary, right? That is exactly how the world would be without cyber security software developers. The cyber security software industry is responsible for anti-virus programs available for purchase to the average consumer as well as high-quality special-built systems defending large corporations and their cache of customer or patient information. In addition, the industry is involved during regular app development, designing built in protections to those apps. If you have ever been curious about how programs like Norton, Mcafee, and other anti-virus and anti-malware programs on your computer work, a degree and career in cyber security software development will not only explain how they work, but allow you to become an active participant in the creation of new cutting edge technologies that can be used all over the world to keep countless individuals safe from scammers and hackers.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics defines a software developer as someone who individually, or as part of a team, invents, designs, and tests software. As a cyber security software developer, your role will be to create software that will protect computers, apps, and computer software.
First, you will be expected to gather information so that you know what the app, software, computer, or network’s main function will be. You will then design a software package that will defend the possible weak areas of those functions.
For example, if you are asked to develop the security aspect of an online retail business, you need to find out whether they will accept credit and debit cards and design a program that requires checks that prevent hacking into the store and stealing customer financial information. This may be two-way encryption or the integration of checkout software that already exists. You might also be hired to invent an entirely new security software package that can be sold as a stand-alone application. In this case, you will need to have a global understanding of all possible ways that hacking programs access information and then design software that blocks those vulnerabilities.Read More
What are Their Responsibilities, Common Duties, and Tasks?
The responsibilities of a cyber security software developer can be divided into two categories:
- Development of stand-alone cyber security software. These are typically used to protect an operating system or a network system.
- Development of the security portion on a program or app. An example would be to develop a secure way for an online store to accept payments from customers. Another example would be to find a way to prevent hackers from accessing the computers of anyone who goes to a given site or innocently clicks on and interacts with a program, app, or website. You would work with the team developing the overall program and provide the security aspects of it.
General duties regardless of what type of programs you work with include:
- Understanding all aspects of a developing software so that you can spot potential weaknesses that could be breached. This is how you will know where to design safety/security aspects into the existing software.
- Keeping current on new viruses and hacking tricks so that you can design solutions on the front end. The solutions will come from potential threats but need to be tangibly demonstrated and results replicated to assure success.
- Reviewing all current cyber security software to be sure it can hold up under new threats. If not, you will develop or improve the security software so that it can do so.
- In some companies you will be expected to conduct training sessions for employees in which they will learn how to access and use the security software.
- In addition to developing the security software, you will also develop automatic updates, firewall protection as needed, and internal programs meant to spot malware/spyware threats and stop them.
How to Become a Security Software Developer
A cyber security software developer job is typically classified as a mid-level position. This means that, while some people secure such jobs fresh out of college, that is not the norm. It is typical, however, to gain access to cyber security through work in IT and software development.
To prepare for this career you should:
- Get a bachelor's degree in IT, computer science, or any area of study that deals with software, computers, or the Internet.
- Use your degree to get a job in the computer industry, preferably as a software developer. In the beginning, you might have to start in another department or as an intern for software development.
- After you have experience as a software developer you can apply to move into the cyber security side of things.
Becoming a security intern is another way to access security software developer position. As an intern you will be working alongside experts in the field. In addition, when there is an opening in that department, you will have an advantage over outside applicants because you are already doing the job and already know the people you would be working with.
Keep mind throughout this process that an actual job title of cyber security software developer or security software developer, rarely if ever exists. Instead, you will work toward becoming a security software engineer or a cyber developer or even a security development specialist. Many titles exist for what essentially equals a cyber security software developer. Apply for positions based on what the educational requirements are and which job duties are listed, rather than relying on the job title.
Typical Requirements for Hiring
People in this field are typically asked to have the following skills to be considered for the position.
- A bachelor’s degree or enrolled in college with an IT or a Computer Science major
- A working knowledge of Windows platforms
- A working knowledge of Unix
- Experience in coding
- Experience in scripting
- Experience in programming
It is also helpful if you understand cloud computing, the basics of networking, and operating systems.
Since you know you want to work in cyber security software development as a career, be sure to include some cyber security courses in your studies such as:
- Intrusion response
- Incident response
- Cyber forensics
- Any other cyber security-based coursework
It is also important to work toward obtaining certifications in the field. This should be an ongoing goal, even after you are hired, because the more certifications you have the more security the job provides. In addition, it is sometimes a way to get an increase in pay.
Certifications that can help you land and maintain a career in cyber security include but are not limited to:
- CCNP Routing and Switching
- Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE)
- Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)
- PMP: Project Management Professional
- CCDA: Cisco Certified Design Associate
- MCSE: Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer
- Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH)
- Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)
- CompTIA A+
- CISA: Certified Information Systems Auditor
- CompTIA Network+
- Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) Routing and Switching
- ITIL v3 Foundation
- Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA)
Skills needed to work in the cyber security software field include a bachelor's or master’s degree in a field related to computer sciences. You will also need at least some of the certifications listed above as well as experience working in related fields – such as regular software development, networking, forensics, etc.
In addition to these educational skill sets, if you are to succeed in a career of cyber security, it is important that you have a trustworthy personality as you will be working with highly sensitive information and data. You could have access to personal information about patients or clients and it’s important that you develop the ability to not discuss anything related to your job with anyone not on the team, and even then you’ll discuss this information only on a need-to-know basis.
As is true in many professions, what you will make in the field of cyber security will depend on your geographic location as well as your education and experience. Different areas of the country pay more because the cost of living in the area is higher. In general, the field pays well by national averages. According to Payscale.com the average pay for software development is $65,700 per year. However, entry-level pay can be anywhere from $45,000 to $86,000 and the average late-career salary is around $100,000. With that kind of salary growth, you’ll have plenty to look forward to in your career.
Outlook & Jobs
The future in cyber security software development, forensics, etc. looks promising. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the anticipated growth for this field is 21 to 26 percent between now and 2028, depending on the whether you work in applications or other areas. Continued advances in technology, computers, smartphones, tablets, and other devices means that there will be a continued need for cyber security specialists. And, even if you want to go into another sector later in your career, overall computer occupations are slated to grow by 12%. No matter which sector you are interested in joining, with the ongoing shortage in cyber security experts, there’s likely to be an open position for you.