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Cryptanalyst/ Cryptographer

Cryptography as a Specialized Field of Studies

What Are The Responsibilities Of A Cryptographer?

 

Summary

Cryptographer: A cryptographer is responsible for developing ciphers, security systems and algorithms in order to encrypt sensitive/valuable information.

 

Cryptanalyst: A Cryptanalyst is responsible for analyzing and decrypting hidden information. For example, he/she may decrypt cipher texts, encrypted data or telecom protocols in various cryptographic security systems.

 

In simple words, you take on the role of someone who makes and breaks the code. You ensure that private data regarding national security, finance and other important and sensitive data is hidden from cyber attacks.

 

Full Responsibilities of a Cryptanalyst/Cryptographer

 

As Cryptanalyst/Cryptographer, you will be required to:

 

  • Analyze, Evaluate and target any weaknesses in cryptographic algorithms and security systems
  • Develop mathematical and statistical models to analyze and solve security data problems
  • Research, investigate and test latest cryptology applications and theory
  • Ensure all financial data including inter-bank data, ATM, credit card and online transactions are securely encrypted and is only available to authorised users
  • Decode coding systems and cryptic messages for government agencies like the military or law enforcement
  • Give technical expertise to government, financial institutes, businesses and industry to help solve security issues
  • Help co-workers and research team on different mathematical and cryptical applications and methods
  • Defend critical data from being copied, intercepted, deleted or modified
  • Prevent vulnerabilities by designing robust security systems
  • Test various computational methods and applications for accuracy and reliability
  • Explore weaknesses in communication lines like telephone, wireless network, email, cell phones etc
  • Make sure no message transmission data is being illegally accessed or altered during communication
  • Efficiently handle cryptic processes by developing and updating methods

 

The above responsibilities are not fixed. You may have to do more/less depending on your employer. For example, working for a sensitive government agency like FBI is quite different from working for a financial corporation. But rest assured, being a cryptanalyst or cryptographer, you will be able to build a good career whether you are in the private or public sector.

 

Career Paths

Unlike other cyber security careers, a cryptanalyst/cryptographer career doesn’t have to begin after spending some times in a general IT position. You can begin your career right after you finish your university. Once you have gained enough experience in this position, you can opt for a doctoral degree which will help you upgrade to:

 

Security Consultant

University Professor

Financial Consultant

 

Related Jobs

A cryptographer/cryptanalyst is often also called by these job positions:

 

Message Decoder

Encryption Expert

Data Decoder

Signals Analyst

Expected Salary

 

A cryptographer can earn anywhere from $36,360 – $132,620 per anum. This depends on your experience, skill set and employer. The average salary for this position in 2016 is $67,170.

 

Requirements

 

Education

Employers are mostly interested in seeing a degree in Computer Engineering, Mathematics, Computer Science or any other related subject. A technical degree isn’t required to land a cryptography job if you have plenty of experience and training in the field. For example, the NSA doesn’t mind if you have majors in either technical or non-technical degree as long as you possess the necessary experience.

 

To boost your chances of acquiring the job, a double majors in Computer Science or Mathematics is a must have. If you don’t like the idea of double majors, then you must have a MS degree. You can upgrade and bring your career to the next level by pursuing a doctoral degree in Computer Science or Mathematics.

 

Relevant Experience

The required relevant experience is very different from employer to employer. For example, one company may require a MS with 5+ years of experience, and the other may demand a technical PHD. On the other hand, some companies are even happy if you have 3+ years of experience in security administration or engineering. If salary doesn’t bother you, try going for a Junior Cryptanalyst position which can be started straight out of university without any prior experience.

 

Soft And Hard Skills

 

Soft Skills

 

You have to be quite creative, intelligent and analytical. You are a code breaker, hence you are expected to take on very hard mathematical challenges. You have to have a passion for solving complex puzzles and must posses a strong ethical code.

 

You must also be incredibly trustworthy because you will be dealing with extremely sensitive data depending on your employer. Most employers will want to see evidence of your good judgement and trustworthiness.

 

Hard Skills

 

As a cryptanalyst/cryptographer, you need to have a good grasp on engineering, mathematics and computer science. You should work on the following skills if you have just started your career or plan to start one:

 

  • Matrix/linear algebra
  • Discrete mathematics
  • C, Python, C++, Java or similar languages
  • Computer Data structures
  • Computer Algorithms
  • Computer architecture
  • Principles of symmetric cryptography
  • Probability theory
  • Information theory
  • Number theory
  • Complexity theory
  • Principles of asymmetric cryptography

 

You can look at the basics by taking part in a Cryptography/Cryptanalyst MOOCs

 

Recommended Certifications

Unlike other IT security jobs, cryptanalyst and cryptographers are considered newcomers to the field of cyber security. You can find a relative certification from EC-Council that is specifically designed to help you learn to deal with encryption.

 

Checkout CES: Certified Encryption Specialist