Individuals and organizations alike store software valuable and sensitive information on computers, tablets and other connected devices. For example, someone may use a smartphone to access online banking information or to store passwords for a favorite online retailer. Medical practices use computer databases to file patient medical records. Businesses of all kind maintain electronic records containing customer payment information, financial statements and more.
Because storing information on a computer (or accessing cloud data on a connected device) is so universal, no person or organization is immune to cyber crime. Hackers and other cyber criminals employ a wide range of tactics and tricks to access private devices and harvest sensitive information.
As such, the security software developer’s role has never been more important. Professionals in the field develop the programs that keep devices safe and information secure. An advanced education in cyber security can lead to a rewarding career in this burgeoning field.
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The Security Software Developer Role at a Glance
As more and more businesses and consumers recognize the need for robust cyber security provisions, the security software developer’s role has only increased in importance.
The security software developer has two primary functions. The first is to develop software that keeps a computer or computer network safe from cyber attacks, malware, viruses and data breaches. A second, related function is to work on non-security software, including anything from online accounting tools to cloud storage solutions, to fortify them with built-in security features.
To achieve these goals, developers typically need to integrate security practices, like cyber threat analysis, with software engineering skills, such as design, as well as development and testing.
Security software developers may work at organizations that design their own computer programs. For example, a security software developer may be hired by an automotive company and tasked with keeping in-car computers safe and unhackable. These developers may be hired by video game companies to minimize any vulnerabilities within the games. Or, they may be hired by devoted IT security firms to build new programs to keep computers and connected networks safe.
Security software developers’ responsibilities include the following:
- Collaborating with other software developers to design secure programs and systems
- Researching and analyzing security threats
- Testing existing software or software prototypes for vulnerabilities
- Designing, implementing and monitoring strategies to secure existing software
- Troubleshooting and debugging
Staying Current on Trends
Another critical concern for those who work in security software development is staying informed about new threats and issues. Hackers continually innovate ways to breach secure systems, so developers must anticipate and respond to vulnerabilities as they arise. For example, it’s pivotal for security developers to remain alert to threats related to the proliferation of personal “smart” devices, such as smart watches. And, security software developers must be vigilant in identifying new targets for hackers, such as the computer and electrical systems in cars.
How to Become a Security Software Developer
To find success in this profession, it’s critical to seek the right educational background, gain relevant work experience and hone a set of core skills.
The best way to develop the necessary job skills is to enroll in a formal degree program. Most security software professionals have an undergraduate degree in computer science, software engineering or a related field.
A program like the provides an opportunity to gain the right background knowledge and to hone essential skills. In the program, students study a robust, career-focused curriculum, including classes such as Foundations of Cyber Security, Internet of Things and Security, and Cloud Computing.
Those who aspire to be security software developers typically enter the field as general developers; to advance into more security-focused roles requires a few years of professional experience and additional education in the cyber security field. Developers can gain experience at any company that focuses on software or technology, particularly if cyber security is also a chief priority.
Several skills prove crucial in security software development, including the following:
- Communication. Collaborating with other developers is important, as is clearly communicating about goals and potential challenges to overcome.
- Critical thinking. A big part of a security software developer’s job is troubleshooting problems, which requires strong analytical competency.
- Technical. Developers need a wide range of technical competencies, which may include penetration testing and ethical hacking as well as basic programming languages, such as C or Java.
The Salary of a Security Software Developer
According to September 2020 data from PayScale, the median annual salary for a security software developer is around $74,000. Opportunities for bonuses and commissions may also be possible.
A number of factors can influence salaries, including the following:
- Years of experience. Typically, those who have more experience in software development command higher salaries.
- Education level. Professionals who attain a master’s-level degree in cyber security or a related field generally get more competitive offers.
- Location. Those who work in an area with a high density of software companies usually earn higher salaries.