Top 10 Programming Languages for Cyber Security in 2024

Top 10 Programming Languages for Cyber Security

So, you want to know what are the top 10 programming languages for cyber security in 2024? You are in the right place. This article will explore the top 10 programming languages you might need to consider for your cyber security journey.  

Throughout this article, you will discover if you need to learn any programming languages or improve your coding skills to enter or master the cyber security field. In addition, we'll also explore the top programming languages for cyber security that employers ask for in a potential candidate and for different roles. 

We’ll deep dive into each of the best programming languages to understand the purpose, application, and intricacies and determine which language suits your skill level, career aspirations, and professional interests in cyber security. This article will help you define how to select the correct programming language from the context of cyber security career opportunities.

So, without further ado, let’s explore the top 10 programming languages for cyber security in 2024.

Do I Need to Know Programming for Cyber Security?

Programming languages play a crucial role in various domains of cyber security, enhancing the capabilities of professionals and enabling them to address multiple domain-specific challenges in day-to-day jobs.

Coding is beneficial across a variety of cyber security domains, enabling automation, customization, and efficiency in addressing specific challenges within each area. In addition, applying coding skills enhances cyber security professionals' capabilities in safeguarding digital assets and responding effectively to security incidents. 

Note: However, it's crucial to highlight that programming experience is not a prerequisite for every career in cyber security. Some roles don’t require any coding skills. See our recent article “Does Cyber Security Require Coding? Unveiling the Truth” for more details. 

Here are some of the cyber security domains that might require you to have some coding or programming skills:

Penetration Testing:

  • Custom Exploits: Programming skills are essential for creating custom exploits tailored to specific vulnerabilities, providing penetration testers with a deeper understanding of the target's security posture.
  • Innovative Techniques: Coding allows penetration testers to develop innovative techniques for bypassing security controls and identifying novel attack vectors, ensuring a comprehensive assessment.
  • Adaptable Strategies: Programmatic skills enable the adaptation of strategies during penetration tests, allowing testers to quickly adjust their approach based on the evolving nature of the target environment.

Security Operations:

  • Advanced Threat Analysis: Programming is crucial for conducting advanced threat analysis beyond automated tools, allowing security operations teams to uncover sophisticated threats and understand their implications.
  • Enhanced Log Parsing: Coding skills aid in developing sophisticated log parsing techniques, helping security analysts extract meaningful insights from complex logs and uncover subtle indicators of compromise.
  • Tailored Response Strategies: With programming, security operations teams can create tailored response strategies for unique threats, enhancing their ability to counteract diverse and targeted attacks.

Incident Response:

  • Effective Triage: Coding facilitates the development of scripts and tools for effective incident triage, allowing incident responders to quickly assess the severity and impact of security incidents.
  • Custom Forensic Analysis: Programming skills enable the creation of custom forensic analysis tools, allowing responders to conduct in-depth investigations and extract relevant information from digital evidence.
  • Rapid Incident Containment: Coding is crucial for developing scripts that automate the containment of incidents, reducing the time between detection and response to minimize potential damage.

Malware Analysis:

  • Behavioral Understanding: Programming is indispensable for developing custom tools to analyze and understand the behavioral patterns of malware, providing insights into its functionality and potential impact.
  • Signature Generation: With coding skills, analysts can develop custom signatures for malware detection, enhancing the ability to identify variations and new strains of malicious code.
  • Dynamic Analysis Enhancement: Coding allows analysts to enhance dynamic analysis capabilities by creating tools that simulate specific environments and conditions for malware execution.

Digital Forensics and Incident Response (DFIR):

  • Automated Evidence Processing: Programming aids in automating evidence processing, reducing the time and effort required for digital forensics tasks and enabling quicker response to incidents.
  • Adaptive Analysis: Coding skills enable digital forensics professionals to adapt their analysis techniques based on evolving threats, ensuring effective investigation and response to diverse incidents.
  • Custom Visualization Tools: Programming allows the creation of custom visualization tools for digital evidence, aiding in presenting complex forensic data in an understandable manner.

Network Security:

  • Advanced Threat Detection: Programming facilitates the development of advanced algorithms for detecting complex threats within network traffic, providing greater accuracy in threat identification.
  • Behavioral Analysis: With coding skills, security professionals can implement behavioral analysis techniques to identify abnormal patterns in network behavior, signaling potential security incidents.
  • Dynamic Response Strategies: Programming enables the development of dynamic response strategies that adapt to changing network conditions and emerging threats.

Secure Software Development:

  • Security Architecture Design: Programming is crucial for designing secure software architectures, ensuring that security is integral to the overall software development process.
  • Custom Security Controls: Coding skills allow developers to implement custom security controls tailored to the application's specific requirements, enhancing resilience against various threats.
  • Threat Modeling: With programming, developers can engage in threat modeling exercises, identifying potential vulnerabilities and weaknesses in the software design before deployment.

Web Application Security:

  • Customized Testing Tools: Programming skills are essential for creating customized testing tools beyond automated scanners, allowing security professionals to identify nuanced vulnerabilities specific to web applications.
  • Secure Code Reviews: Coding expertise enables security professionals to conduct thorough code reviews, identifying potential vulnerabilities and enforcing secure coding practices.
  • Prototyping Security Features: With programming, security professionals can prototype and implement security features directly within web applications, ensuring a proactive security stance..
Top 10 Programming Languages for Cyber Security

1. Python

Python has emerged as one of the most versatile and widely used programming languages in cyber security. Its simplicity, readability, and extensive libraries make it a favorite among security professionals. Python is employed for tasks ranging from network scanning, penetration testing, and malware analysis to scripting and automation in cyber security workflows.

Applications

  • Network Scanning: Python's Scapy library allows to create custom network tools for scanning and mapping network architectures.
  • Penetration Testing: Many public exploits are written in Python due to its simple syntax and no need to compile before executing.
  • Malware Analysis: Python is used for scripting and automating the analysis of malware samples.

Example Code

# Simple Python script for network scanning using Scapy

from scapy.all import *

def scan_network(target_ip):

    # Define an IP range for scanning

    ip_range = target_ip + "/24"

    # Create an ARP request packet

    arp_request = Ether(dst="ff:ff:ff:ff:ff:ff") / ARP(pdst=ip_range)

    # Send the packet and capture responses

    response = srp(arp_request, timeout=2, verbose=0)[0]

    # Display the list of devices on the network

    for element in response:

        print("IP: ", element[1].psrc, "\tMAC: ", element[1].hwsrc)

# Example usage

scan_network("192.168.1.1")

Careers

Python is essential for roles such as penetration testers, security analysts, and security engineers.

2. JavaScript 

JavaScript is the most common programming language for front-end web development, but it found its way into cyber security. With the advent of Node.js, JavaScript is now utilized for server-side scripting, making it valuable for offensive and defensive cyber security tasks. Security professionals leverage JavaScript for web application security assessments and analyzing browser-based vulnerabilities.

Applications

  • Web Application Security: JavaScript is used for assessing and securing web applications and identifying vulnerabilities like cross-site scripting (XSS) and cross-site request forgery (CSRF).
  • Browser-based Attacks: Security professionals use JavaScript to craft and analyze attacks that target web browsers.

Example Code

// Example JavaScript code for a simple XSS attack

var maliciousCode = '<script>alert("You have been hacked!");</script>';

document.getElementById('comment').innerHTML = maliciousCode;

Careers 

JavaScript proficiency is beneficial for web application security analysts and consultants.

3. C and C++

C and C++ are powerful, low-level programming languages widely used in cyber security for developing secure systems, firmware, and applications. These languages are instrumental in writing exploits, reverse engineering, and crafting secure code in critical systems where performance is paramount.

Applications

  • Exploit Development: C and C++ are used to craft exploits to take advantage of vulnerabilities in software.
  • Reverse Engineering: Security professionals use C and C++ to analyze and understand compiled code.

Example Code

// Simple C code for a buffer overflow exploit

#include <stdio.h>

#include <string.h>

void vulnerable_function(char *input) {

    char buffer[64];

    strcpy(buffer, input);

}

int main(int argc, char *argv[]) {

    if (argc != 2) {

        printf("Usage: %s <input>\n", argv[0]);

        return 1;

    }

    vulnerable_function(argv[1]);

    return 0;

}

Careers 

C and C++ expertise is crucial for roles involving secure systems development, reverse engineering, and exploit development.

4. Java

Java's portability and platform independence make it a preferred choice for developing secure and scalable enterprise applications. In cyber security, Java is commonly used to build secure server-side applications and conduct security assessments on Java-based systems.

Applications

  • Enterprise Application Security: Java is employed for developing and securing large-scale enterprise applications.
  • Security Assessments: Security must understand Java to assess and secure Java-based systems including web and mobile.

Example Code

// Simple Java code for a secure login authentication

import java.util.Scanner;

public class SecureLogin {

    public static void main(String[] args) {

        Scanner scanner = new Scanner(System.in);

        System.out.print("Enter username: ");

        String username = scanner.nextLine();

        System.out.print("Enter password: ");

        String password = scanner.nextLine();

        if (authenticateUser(username, password)) {

            System.out.println("Login successful!");

        } else {

            System.out.println("Invalid credentials. Login failed.");

        }

    }

    private static boolean authenticateUser(String username, String password) {

        // Perform secure authentication logic here

        // Example: Check against a secure database

        return true;

    }

}

Careers

Java is relevant for security professionals working on secure enterprise systems and applications.

5. Bash/Shell

While not a traditional programming language, Bash and Shell scripting are essential skills for cyber security professionals. These scripts are employed for automating tasks, managing configurations, and performing routine security operations.

Applications

  • Linux Tools: Bash/Shell is the most efficient way to use a Linux OS and related tools for penetration testing and management operations.
  • Automation: Bash/Shell scripts automate routine tasks, making them essential for operational efficiency in cyber security.
  • Configuration Management: Scripts are used for managing and securing system configurations.

Example Code

#!/bin/bash

# Simple Bash script for automating a security task

echo "Running security check..."

# Perform security checks and display results

echo "Checking system vulnerabilities..."

# Add relevant security checks here

echo "Checking firewall configurations..."

# Add firewall configuration checks here

echo "Security check complete."

Careers

Bash/Shell scripting is beneficial for security analysts, system administrators, incident responders, and penetration testers.

6. SQL

Structured Query Language (SQL) is crucial for cyber security professionals involved in database security. Understanding SQL is vital for identifying and exploiting database vulnerabilities and protecting databases from unauthorized access and SQL injection attacks.

Applications

  • Database Security: The predominance of SQL databases necessitates understanding the SQL language to prevent unauthorized access and ensure data integrity.
  • SQL Injection Analysis: Security professionals use structured query language to analyze and defend against SQL injection attacks.

Example Code

-- Example SQL code for creating a secure user login table

CREATE TABLE Users (

    UserID INT PRIMARY KEY,

    Username VARCHAR(50) NOT NULL,

    Password VARCHAR(255) NOT NULL

);

-- Example SQL code for a secure login authentication

SELECT * FROM Users

WHERE Username = 'input_username' AND Password = 'input_password';

Careers

Structured Query Language proficiency is essential for roles focusing on database security, such as database administrators and security analysts.

7. PHP

PHP, a server-side scripting language, is commonly used in web development. In cyber security, knowledge of PHP is beneficial for identifying and securing vulnerabilities in web applications built with PHP.

Applications

  • Web Application Security: PHP’s popularity in web-based applications creates the need for security professionals to understand the language in order to identify and secure vulnerabilities.
  • Server-Side Security: Security professionals leverage PHP to secure server-side components of web applications.

Example Code

// Simple PHP code for secure user authentication

<?php

$servername = "localhost";

$username = "username";

$password = "password";

$dbname = "database";

// Create a connection to the database

$conn = new mysqli($servername, $username, $password, $dbname);

// Check the connection

if ($conn->connect_error) {

    die("Connection failed: " . $conn->connect_error);

}

// Example SQL query for secure login authentication

$sql = "SELECT * FROM Users WHERE Username = 'input_username' AND Password = 'input_password'";

$result = $conn->query($sql);

if ($result->num_rows > 0) {

    echo "Login successful!";

} else {

    echo "Invalid credentials. Login failed.";

}

// Close the connection

$conn->close();

?>

Careers

PHP expertise is valuable for web application security professionals and penetration testers.

8. PowerShell

PowerShell, a Windows administration tool from Microsoft, is widely employed in cyber security for scripting and automation on Windows-based systems. Security professionals use PowerShell for incident response, threat hunting, and managing security configurations.

Applications

  • Incident Response: PowerShell is used for automating incident response tasks, including malware detection and containment.
  • Threat Hunting: Security professionals leverage PowerShell for proactive threat hunting on Windows environments.

Example Code

# Example PowerShell script for checking Windows firewall status

$firewallStatus = Get-NetFirewallProfile | Select-Object Name, Enabled

foreach ($profile in $firewallStatus) {

    Write-Host "Firewall Profile: $($profile.Name)"

    Write-Host "Enabled: $($profile.Enabled)"

    Write-Host "------------------------"

}

Careers

PowerShell proficiency is essential for cyber security roles in Windows-centric environments.

9. Ruby

Ruby is a general purpose programming language known for its simplicity and readability, making it a suitable language for scripting and automation in cyber security. Security professionals and frameworks like Metasploit leverage Ruby for tasks such as developing tools, automating security workflows, and conducting penetration tests. 

Applications 

  • Scripting and Automation: Ruby is used for scripting and automating various cyber security tasks.
  • Tool Development: Security professionals leverage Ruby to develop custom tools for penetration testing and security operations.

Example Code

# Simple Ruby script for automated security checks

require 'net/http'

# Check if a website uses HTTPS

def check_https(url)

  uri = URI.parse(url)

  response = Net::HTTP.get_response(uri)

  if response.code.to_i == 200 && uri.scheme == 'https'

    puts "The website uses HTTPS. It's secure."

  else

    puts "The website may not be using HTTPS. Security check failed."

  end

end

# Example usage

check_https('https://example.com')

Careers

Ruby skills are beneficial for security engineers and penetration testers.

10. Assembly

Assembly language is low-level and closely tied to a computer's central processing unit (CPU) architecture. In cyber security, knowledge of assembly language is crucial for reverse engineering, analyzing malware, and understanding low-level vulnerabilities.

Applications

  • Reverse Engineering: Assembly language is used for disassembling and understanding compiled code.
  • Malware Analysis: Security professionals leverage assembly language to analyze malware behavior at a low level.

Example Code

; Example Assembly code for a simple "Hello, World!" program on x86 architecture

section .data

    hello db 'Hello, World!',0

section .text

    global _start

_start:

    ; write the string to stdout

    mov eax, 4

    mov ebx, 1

    mov ecx, hello

    mov edx, 13

    int 0x80

    ; exit the program

    mov eax, 1

    xor ebx, ebx

    int 0x80

Careers

Assembly language proficiency is vital for roles involving reverse engineering, malware analysis, and vulnerability research.

Conclusion

In the rapidly evolving field of cyber security, proficiency in programming languages is a valuable asset. The choice of language depends on the specific requirements of the task at hand. Whether you are a penetration tester, security analyst, or systems developer, having a diverse skill set that includes relevant programming languages enhances your effectiveness in safeguarding digital assets.

To develop coding skills and prepare for a career in cyber security, check out our Accelerator Program. We will connect you with mentors to help you create a custom certification roadmap to gain the necessary programming skills to match your career goals and guide you to achieve your career aspirations. 

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  • Sai

    Sai is a Security Researcher and cyber security expert. Passionate about sharing his knowledge, Sai channels his insights through his blogs, where he covers a wide range of topics within the realm of cyber security, including ethical hacking, incident response, cyber threat intelligence, and more. Sai seeks to empower readers with valuable information and guidance, helping them navigate the ever-evolving cyber security landscape.

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