How Do I Become a Cryptographer?
When building secure digital systems one of the most important tools used is cryptography and cryptographers play a big role in building these systems. This has resulted in them being some of the most highly valued and well paid employees within the booming cybersecurity industry. A cryptographer’s career can be rewarding and challenging both monetarily and intellectually. If you’re considering making a career as a cryptographer, there’s much you should learn and a lot you should know. This article will help you discover more about what cryptographers are, what they do, and discuss the qualifications you can pursue to get ready for this rewarding career.
What Is a Cryptographer?
Cryptographers write or crack the encryption codes that are commonly used for data security. Computer-encrypted data makes use of advanced, long encryption algorithms that are incredibly time-consuming and difficult for bad actors to break. That is why online encryption nowadays governs the data exchange between web browsers and web servers and is crucial to safe data exchanges, secure communications, and stable online transactions.
Cryptography is a crucial element within the wider cybersecurity and computer engineering field. As the requirements for better online security grow, the demand for cryptographers will increase proportionally.
What Do Cryptographers Do?
Cryptographers help develop complex security systems by using algorithms and ciphers to encrypt sensitive information and protect it from cybercrime, misuse, and hackers, thereby enhancing data security. This protected data can include personal, financial, military, and business data. Cryptographers use numerous secret or private key ciphers as part of the encryption. They typically use digital signatures, RSA public keys, and other encryption techniques to ensure the information is secure.
A cryptographer’s typical duties are many and will vary depending on the type of organization they work for. Most duties will focus on preventing data from being decrypted, intercepted, altered, copied, or deleted by unauthorized parties. You’ll therefore also need a solid understanding of cryptographic security systems and the algorithms relating to them. You’ll also apply and develop various mathematical and statistical models to help identify and prevent potential threats to the organization’s systems.
The daily responsibilities of a cryptographer typically include:
● Test cryptology theories per the organization’s requirements.
● Identify and secure weaknesses in current cryptography systems.
● Use public key cryptography with various cipher types including RSA.
● Enhance data security by implementing more encrypted and secure solutions.
● Develop and manage the organization’s encryption technology, including third-party product adoption, software, and code.
● Aid in encryption goals by utilizing public key, private key, and secret key cryptography.
● Train staff that handles encryption data and help them develop secure and safe systems.
● Prototype new security solutions with advanced programming encryption practices and techniques.
● Work to decrypt information if required to identify vulnerabilities that hackers may use.
How to Become a Cryptographer
If you want to become a cryptographer the first step is to earn a bachelor’s degree in information technology, computer science, mathematics, or cybersecurity. These disciplines all teach the logic, quantitative, and technical skills you will need to make and break complex computerized codes.
If you’re thinking about working for the Department of Defense, military, or the National Security Agency, you may also consider studying a foreign language or linguistics as your role may mean interacting with foreign communication signals. Advanced degrees like a Master of Science in Cybersecurity and Information Assurance will also give you an edge in securing a more competitive, higher-paying job. Many of these advanced roles need at least 5 years of experience.
Whichever role you select, cryptologists must maintain subject matter relevance and expertise via continuous learning. As technologies and strategies are changing constantly, you can keep up by joining a professional organization such as the International Association for Cryptologic Research or obtaining a job-specific certification such as the ECES.
What Skills Do Cryptographers Require?
Some of the technical skills you require to build a successful cryptographer career include:
● Be fluent in programming languages like C++, C#, Java, .NET, PHP, Perl, Ruby on Rails, or Python.
● Knowledge of IT security solutions, software, and hardware.
● Be able to create source code.
● Using computer operating systems such as MS Windows, Linux, and UNIX, as well as experience within IT support.
● A basic understanding of number, information, and complexity theories.
● Symmetric cryptography skills — symmetric encryption, hash functions, and message authentication codes.
● The ability to use decryption methods to add even more security to your organization.
● Knowledge of private key and public key encryption, digital signatures, and key exchange.
● Proficiency in cryptographic algorithms and data structures.
● Strong math skills in matrix or linear algebra, and discrete mathematics.
As you’ll have to help senior IT management—including project managers and security staff —implement and better understand more secure platforms, you should also have excellent verbal and written communication skills.
Soft skills of good cryptographers include:
● Be a good team player.
● Be self-motivated, efficient, and organized.
● Be capable of handling multiple projects at the same time.
● Be able to explain technical concepts to non-technical staff members.
● Be interested in solving puzzles and problems.
● Have good judgment and be trustworthy.
● Be inclined towards critical and analytical thinking.