Is Python Useful for Cyber Security?

Without a doubt, programming is an important part of cyber security, especially as you progress into intermediate and advanced levels of the field.  While the Python programming language has been around for quite a while, it’s really become the focus of cyber security professionals in recent years. Many people interested in the cyber security field want to know if Python is a good programming language to know for cyber security, and if it’s a language that they take the time to should learn.

Is Python good for cyber security?  Python is an extremely useful programming language for cyber security professionals because it can perform a multitude of cyber security functions, including malware analysis, scanning and penetration testing tasks.  Python is often recommended as the first language people new to cyber security should learn because of its wide use and minimal learning curve.

Now that we’ve established that Python is a go-to language in cyber security, let’s talk about the specific benefits of Python, what makes it so useful for cyber security, and why you should take the time to learn the Python programming language.

The Benefits of Python

The design and functionality of the Python programming language gives it many benefits that have made it a go-to programming language for a lot of fields, such as data science, mathematical computation, web development and of course, cyber security.  Let’s take a look at the benefits of Python now.

Python is easy to learn and implement.  Python was intentionally designed to be a straightforward, easy, and generally lightweight programming language that would require minimal code to accomplish tasks compared to other languages.  The fact is that Python often take substantially less code than what would otherwise be required of other programming languages, such as C or Java. The nature of Python’s straightforward structure means a shorter learning curve for anyone working with the language, especially those new to programming.

Python makes debugging easier.  We’ve covered the fact that the structure of Python makes it easier to learn and implement, but that basic nature has other benefits as well.  The straightforward design of Python and ease of use also increases its readability, Increased readability also makes debugging code far more straightforward, which means that even lower level or beginner programmers can troubleshoot and debug their own code pretty effectively, and that debugging can take much less time overall to complete.

Python is open source.  Python was developed as an open source programming language, similarly to how Linux is an open source operating system.  The open source nature of Python lends itself to a strong community of developers that support the language and move it forward.  Since python is open source, there is a great deal of information available, and using the language is free.

Automatic memory management.  Another benefit of Python that some people don’t consider is that it has memory management built in automatically by design.  Python’s memory management is performed internally by the Python memory manager. This means that the programmer and the user need to have less concern about memory management, including factors as caching, memory allocation and segmentation.

Python’s Usefulness in Cyber Security

We’ve discussed above the benefits of the Python programming language, and that it’s used in many fields.  Let’s now take a deeper look at why Python is so useful for the field of cyber security.

Cyber security professionals can get up to speed quickly.  Because Python has a generally short learning curve, it has become the programming language of preference for those in the cyber security field, many of whom have a limited programming background.  Python ease of use means that any experienced cyber security professional that has built up a relatively strong technical background can learn the basics of the Python language and start programming and implementing their code quickly.

Cyber security teams can form quickly.  Another benefit of Python’s ease of use and short learning curve means that not only can cyber security professionals get up to speed quickly on the programming language, but that cyber security teams can also form quickly to work on a project, even if all of the members of the team do not have a coding background.  Consider how much more limited a cyber security team would be if they had to rely on the group understanding a more difficult language, like Java. The flexibility and ease of use of Python ends up being a great benefit for cyber security managers that need to lead teams and Implement projects quickly.

Python’s extensive library means cyber security tools are already available.  As we’ve described above, Python’s ease of use is certainly one of the most important factors that makes it a go to language for cyber security professionals.  But certainly Python’s extensive library of modules is a leading factor as well. Python has become well known, and heavily used, because of its extensive library, which means cyber security professionals don’t need to reinvent the wheel with common tasks and in most cases can quickly find cyber security analysis or penetration testing tool already available.

Python can be used for nearly anything in cyber security.  With a strong understanding of Python and programming concepts in general, cyber security professionals can accomplish just about any task that they need using Python code.  For example, Python is used heavily in malware analysis, host discovery, the sending and decoding of packets, accessing servers, port scanning and network scanning, just to name a few.  Considering also that Python is so effective at scripting, automating tasks, and data analysis, it is understandable that Python has risen in popularity as cyber security has become more important.

Why You Should Learn Python

Python is a great first language to learn.  Python serves well as a gateway language that can help you learn other object oriented languages later on, and can even help you learn languages that technically aren’t object oriented.  Since Python has such an easy learning curve and is so debugger friendly, it is a great first step before you move on to Java, C, PHP or any other language that is commonly used.

Plenty of free learning resources.  The Internet has a lot of free Python resources available, including videos and sample projects.  Given the massive amount of material available online for free, just about anyone can gain a working knowledge Python without taking a class.

Python is impressive to employers.  Employers value and respect just about any well known programming language that you can include on your resume, but Python seems to hold a special place in employers’ minds, perhaps because fewer people know the language, and because of the flood of Python use in recent years.  Several recent studies have even listed Python as the number one in-demand technical skill sought by employers.

Final Thoughts

If you’re interested in learning Python in order to get into cyber security, keep in mind that your Python knowledge is only as useful as your cyber security knowledge in general.  In other words, a Python expert that has no understanding of systems security and penetration testing tools will be unable to put that Python knowledge to use, as it relates to cyber security.  Being a solid cyber security professional that can use Python to your advantage means that you need to be well rounded in your knowledge and ability. Always strive to broaden your cyber security knowledge.

Related Questions

Can I get a cyber secuirty job without learning Python?  Most entry level jobs in cyber security do not require programming skills, including knowing Python, but Python programming is something you’ll probably need to learn if you want to grow in your career and have more opportunities for advancement.

Is PHP good to learn for cyber security?  There are several programming languages that are good to know for cyber security professionals.  PHP is one such language, as it forms much of the basis of server side programming for websites, and websites are a common cyber security target, especially with DDoS attacks.

Do I need to take a class to learn Python?  Classes in Python are available nearly everywhere and can range greatly in price.  While learning Python through a class is not absolutely necessary, taking a class in Python has many benefits, including an instructor to provide guidance and debugging support, projects that are well structured and learning materials that are well designed, accurate appropriately challenging.

Matt Day

Matt Day

Matt Day is a cybersecurity professional with over twenty years of experience in the IT, cybersecurity and technology training fields. He holds CompTIA A+, Network+, Security+ and Cisco CCNA certifications, and is the author of the book CCENT Troubleshooting Guide.