Programming Security to Protect Our Digital Future

Today, we live in a digital world. Technological advancements, low production costs and the rise of the internet have paved the way for the world to remain connected by way of numerous devices, media and a number of digital marketing platforms. As the world continues progressing into an increasingly digital state, the demand for employees with technical skills intensifies, and companies and employees who are unprepared to deal with the digital shift will be left behind.

For any enterprise, regardless of industry, information technology (IT) is not only a crucial component of the business’ success — it is the core of the business. But with the digital shift pushing the world of business to rely more heavily on finding, hiring and retaining employees with the IT skills they need to ensure quality products and services, the need for an increasing number of people to support this mission is increasing.

Tech Skills Gap

As IT has become an increasingly significant piece of modern business, the skills needed in order to ensure quality products and services include general operations and systems knowledge and communication, programming in a seemingly endless number of languages and managing IT personnel in numerous IT philosophies.

Companies across all industries are struggling with a broadening tech skills gap, but computer programming skills are especially in demand. A 2017 Career Advisory Board tech skills survey found that 60 percent of employers said most job applicants lack the technology skills key for success in their career, and 76 percent of employers indicated key programming skill shortages in cloud computing and 72 percent in internet of things (IoT).

Computer Programming

From our phones to our refrigerators, vehicles and more, and from banks to grocery stores, hospitals and beyond, nearly every aspect of our everyday lives now relies on the ability of smart people to write computer code. Consequently, coding skills, also referred to as computer programming, are becoming core skill requirements for many well-paying jobs across a myriad of industries.

Coding is in demand across a broad range of careers, as the ability to not only use but also to program software is often required of business people working with data, of web and graphic designers and marketers creating websites, of engineers who build products and technologies and of scientists who conduct research. Regardless of the job, coding helps improve and enhance computational thinking, which is useful in both decision-making and problem-solving.

Demand for Coding Skills

According to Beyond Point and Click: the Expanding Demand for Coding Skills, in 2015, 7 million job openings were in occupations which value coding skills, and programming jobs are growing fastest at 50 percent faster than the market overall. Generally speaking, the report found that programming jobs are growing 12 percent faster than the market average.

Expect the world of business' reliance on technology to exponentially increase as software drives the "anything-as-a-service" generation continues its evolution around big data, analytics, the cloud, mobile computing technology, internet of things (IoT) devices, social media and cybersecurity establish themselves as the digital backbone of modern business.

Because programmers can be found across every industry, job prospects and job security are no longer as closely tied to the ups and downs of the tech sector as they once were. Sure, technology companies whose core product is a website or an app certainly have a need for cybersecurity, but seeing the rapid proliferation of technology across industries, there are few sectors of the economy that don’t need security professionals.

Programming Security

Despite the growth of programming jobs, the new reality in the digital age is the ever-increasing customer expectation that digital and mobile services will always be in place, wherever and whenever they are needed. As a result, it is vital that the cybersecurity industry has the programmers necessary to secure our digital future. In an industry as crucial as cybersecurity, there is a massive problem regarding the supply and demand of jobs. According to Cybersecurity Ventures, there are a current estimated 350,000 open cybersecurity positions in the U.S. and a predicted global shortfall of 3.5 million jobs by 2021.

As cyber threats advance, creating an unprecedented need for programmers with skills, talent and experience, we need to be sure that security experts are keeping us safe from cybercriminals while we’re online. Because one of the core missions of cybersecurity is to secure computers, and because computers run on code, the cybersecurity industry needs individuals with robust computer programming skills to effectively secure those devices.

Cybersecurity Programmers

While the majority of cybersecurity employees will never have to write a single line of code as part of their duties, the CEO, board of directors, business colleagues, customers and the competition all knows about the power of software and talented developers with the right skills to make companies increasingly competitive, agile, profitable and most importantly, secure.

But what skills do programmers need in order to secure our digital future?

Cybersecurity Programmer Skills

First, programmers write awesome code. While ensuring the code is clean and free of errors is important, programming is all about knowing the meaning of “good code” within their domain. They need to know of good (best) solutions to problems, but they don't need to prove it is the best solution.

Additionally, math skills are helpful, but not imperative like algorithmic knowledge is. Programmers tend to have a depth of skill in a broad array of expertise and have reasonably good knowledge of related areas. Software process and team dynamics skills are desirable traits, but not emphasized. Communication and people skills are desirable traits, but again, they are not given special prominence.

Every cybersecurity programmer should be eager to delve into technical questions and examine them from every angle while maintaining an awareness and knowledge of security standards, practices, procedures and methods. Obviously, programming concepts and software analytical skills are vital, as is proficiency in a number of languages.

Somewhat obviously, the most significant demand was for programming languages with broad applicability. While new languages pop up frequently, it’s most important for programmers to master core, legacy languages. The most common requirement today are: JavaScript, Java, Python, C++ and C. In fact, on average, developers know four languages, and they want to learn four more.

While programming languages aren’t adopted in the industry as quickly as they are created, JavaScript is changing the game with its frameworks. Incidentally, these frameworks also have the biggest gap between what programmers know and what employers are looking for. Part of this gap in knowledge could be attributed to the fragmented nature of the rapidly changing JavaScript ecosystem.

Since programming is centered on independent research aimed at solving new challenges, self-teaching is a major part of being a successful developer. In the past, programmers built software applications with one single language for use on a desktop computer, but with the rise of the cloud, the world of cybersecurity programming has changed and is constantly evolving.

The tools are always changing, so the ability to adapt to tech’s ever-evolving landscape is crucial. This means developers must have a diverse set of constantly transforming programming skills to support a wider range of platforms and mobile devices. To keep up with the pace of innovation and sophistication of expensive and dangerous cyberattacks, today’s programmers need to continue adding new tools to their tool belt.

Self-Taught Skills to Fill the Gaps

Almost every year, it seems as if there’s a new programming language, framework or library that makes the rounds across developer blogs. But how do developers keep pace with this unending innovation?

While most software developers have a bachelor's degree, many others in the job market have magnificent software development skills but no degree in the field. For developers of all ages, self-teaching has become the norm. Even though 67 percent of developers have computer science degrees, roughly 74 percent said they were at least partially self-taught when it comes to programming skills, and the proliferation of coding bootcamps is easing access to coding skills, making them more attainable for enterprising job seekers.

As a matter of fact, an overwhelming majority of hiring managers said they look for proven skill, such as previous work, years of experience and projects/GitHub when recruiting programmers to their cybersecurity firm or position. Regardless of company size, nine out of 10 hiring managers revealed that previous experience and years of experience — both indicators of skill level— are among the most popular qualifications for programming positions.

Problem-solving skills are almost unanimously the most important qualification that employers look for in cybersecurity programmers. More than programming languages proficiency, debugging and system design, the ability to demonstrate computational thinking or break down large, complex problems is just as valuable than the baseline technical skills required for a job.

Beyond creating new tools for virus/spyware/malware detection, intrusion detection, traffic analysis, etc., security programmers must ensure that security measures are “baked-in” to any software their organization uses or produces. Great software development is also supported by communication. Programmers should be comfortable leading a team, talking to clients and C-level executives, mentoring colleagues and documenting your processes. Programmers battle new security challenges every day, and employers are interested in seeing if they can meet tight deadlines and work well under pressure.

Although there are no programming languages that must be known to be successful in cybersecurity, an understanding of programming in general and skills in some languages will definitely help developers to accomplish their daily tasks. Programming languages are often used to develop tools that will automate tasks as such as testing how secure websites are against SQL injections, monitoring and parsing logs and more, so knowing when and how to adapt is crucial. Technology is constantly evolving, so programmers need have a diverse set of ever-evolving programming skills in order to secure our digital future.

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