To keep your organization safe from cyber threats, your team will likely require experience with the top programming languages for cybersecurity. A holistic knowledge of which language applies best to specific threat scenarios will help optimize your security posture. Read our blog to learn more about these cybersecurity programming languages.
Guide to the Top Cybersecurity Programming Languages
Security teams experienced in working with top programming languages for cybersecurity are more likely to prevent or mitigate damage from attacks. To that effect, this blog will cover:
- An overview of programming languages
- The best programming languages for cybersecurity
- The importance of programming languages in cybersecurity
- Cybersecurity applications of programming languages
Choosing which programming languages work best within your organization’s cybersecurity infrastructure will help mitigate cyber threats, especially when guided by a threat and vulnerability management partner.
What Are Programming Languages?
Programming languages are sets of instructions that users provide computers to generate desired outputs. They function as tools by which users can translate the code they write into the binary (strings of ones and zeros) that computers can understand.
Programming languages are classified into two main subgroups:
- Low-level languages – These languages are more difficult for humans to read and understand. However, they enable users to quickly and precisely control computer functions.
- High-level languages – Using words (e.g., order, object, class), high-level languages are easier to decipher and program but much slower to translate into the language computers understand.
However, computing has advanced to the point where the difference in processing between low- and high-level languages is negligible, making high-level languages more popular.
The Best Programming Languages for Cyber Security
So, what is the best programming language for cyber security? It depends.
Identifying the best programming language for your organization’s security needs will depend on your unique security infrastructure and the security team’s programming experience. Some languages are easy to learn, whereas others are useful in various cybersecurity settings, regardless of industry. Let’s explore some of the most common programming languages:
First released in the mid-90s, Java is one of the most common programming languages for developing small-scale mobile or software applications or large-scale systems. Java is relatively easy to learn, making it a popular option for introductory programming. And, it one of the most useful programming languages to learn because many websites will not function if Java is not installed on a computer trying to access them.
Python is considered one of the most versatile programming languages and can be used for various applications (e.g., web development, network programming, or data analytics).
Its versatility makes it popular for users new to programming.
Many of the cybersecurity tools on the market run on Python because it’s easy to use and can be automated. Learning how to program using Python will help your team promptly detect threats and deploy appropriate counter defenses.
Structured Query Language (SQL) is the programming language that enables users to update, delete, or edit information in databases. Since it is the most common programming language used to build and maintain relational databases, cybercriminals often use SQL to gain unauthorized access to sensitive data environments.
SQL is also relatively easy to learn. A basic understanding of SQL will enable cybersecurity professionals to mitigate attacks like SQL injection, where strings of malicious code are added to database files.
C is one of the oldest programming languages, developed in 1972. In spite of its age, C is popular and versatile—and typically used to maintain UNIX systems. Users who learn to program in C will often find it easier to learn similar programming languages like Java, Python, C++, and C#. Compared to Java and Python, C is much faster.
Although C++ is an extension of C, both programming languages run on a similar syntax. Whereas C is unable to support classes and objects, C++ can do so.
Ruby is also a popular programming language described as “beautiful and artful” by its users. It blends aspects of functional and imperative programming, creating a language that is simple outwardly but inwardly complex.
As a flexible language, users can freely edit, add, or redefine Ruby’s syntax. Unlike other programming languages, it is highly portable and can work on UNIX, macOS, Windows, or DOS.
PHP is also a versatile programming language that works on most operating systems and web servers. Since it is fast and flexible, PHP is typically used for scripting applications for websites and databases. Learning how to program in PHP enables security teams to promptly identify web application threats, especially those embedded within malicious scripts.
According to Microsoft, PowerShell is a programming language comprising a “command-line shell, a scripting language, and a configuration management framework.” These three features make it a robust tool for automating tasks, deploying technologies, and managing frameworks.
Since PowerShell can be used for cybercrime on Windows, Linux, and macOS, cybersecurity teams must know how this programming language works so they can implement effective counter defenses.
Why Programming Languages Are Important for Cybersecurity
Understanding how programming languages for cybersecurity work can help security teams detect various threats to organizations. For instance, web application threats such as SQL injection or cross-site scripting attacks are deployed using languages like SQL and PHP.
Your security team can also use programming languages to conduct threat intelligence monitoring, promptly identifying critical threats before they spread to your entire IT infrastructure.
What Areas of Cybersecurity Require Coding?
Cybersecurity teams with deep, broad coding experience can more effectively mitigate threats that exploit vulnerabilities in web or email application security. Besides baseline coverage, specific programming experience with languages like SQL helps mitigate database security risks. Experience with C and C++ can help discover vulnerabilities in open-source code, which could impact an organization’s data security.
Which is the Most Secure Programming Language?
Defining which programming language is the most secure depends on many factors, the most common being the number of vulnerabilities listed in the Common Weakness Enumeration (CWE) list. A programming language may not be considered secure if the publicly available vulnerability data shows several exploitable vulnerabilities. And ultimately, every language has some vulnerabilities that may have little to no impact on your organization’s security controls.
Although it is difficult to pinpoint the most secure programming language, a threat and vulnerability management partner will help evaluate the specific risks your organization might encounter when using common programming languages.
How RSI Can Help
When choosing programming languages for cybersecurity controls, it helps to identify versatile, easy-to-use, and secure ones that will help mitigate data security threats. Working with our team at RSI Security will help you identify the most useful programming language to meet your unique security needs. Contact RSI Security today to learn more!
FAQs About Cyber Security Programming Languages
What programming language do hackers use?
Whether it’s Python, PHP, or SQL, hackers can use any programming language that offers the best odds for deploying a successful attack. Which they choose depends largely on the kinds of systems or assets they are targeting and the methods of attack they prefer.
Is Python or Java better for cyber security?
Python is easy to learn and can be applied to a range of software development needs, making it a useful cybersecurity tool for securing software applications. However, Java applies more to web development and can help secure websites.
Although both programming languages are great cybersecurity tools, your choice of either Python or Java will depend on the types of assets you’re looking to protect.
Is coding needed for cyber security?
Although coding is not a strict requirement for cybersecurity, security professionals with programming experience will be better equipped to handle threats developed with code.