Coding is a crucial skill across almost every technological discipline today, and cybersecurity is no exception. Cybersecurity professionals must understand coding concepts to interpret malicious activity on their networks and write code to perform their work more efficiently and effectively. While not every cybersecurity job explicitly requires coding skills, it’s hard to imagine any cybersecurity career that wouldn’t benefit from the ability to write at least a few lines of code occasionally.

Cybersecurity professionals looking to learn coding for the first time face a daunting question: which language should they learn? With dozens of popular programming languages in use today, choosing a starting point can be overwhelming. Here are five essential programming languages for the modern cybersecurity toolkit:

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  • Python
    • Why you need it: Python is the workhorse of modern programming languages. It’s a general-purpose language, so you can accomplish almost any software development task with it. It’s incredibly popular and widely used in cybersecurity tools, making it a great starting point. Python is also excellent for automating tasks.
    • How to learn it: Start with a basic Python tutorial from sites like or Codecademy. Then, look at Python code written by others, perhaps in your working environment, or try writing a Python script that works with a common cybersecurity tool like Nmap.
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  • Shell Scripting
    • Why you need it: Shell scripting uses commands you might already use in terminal sessions and allows you to automate many routine tasks. It’s essential for provisioning accounts, authorising access, and automating system configurations. If you use Linux or Mac OS, learn a Linux shell scripting language like Bash. For Windows, PowerShell scripting is your go-to.
    • How to learn it: Get comfortable with the basic command-line tools for your OS. Then, start stringing together basic scripts using tutorials on Linux shell scripts or PowerShell.
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  • HTML
    • Why you need it: Technically, HTML (HyperText Markup Language) is a markup language, not a programming language. However, it’s essential for creating webpages. Cybersecurity professionals need to understand HTML because many attacks revolve around it. Attackers often use HTML to write SQL injection attacks or embed malicious scripts in websites.
    • How to learn it: HTML is straightforward to learn. Start with a free tutorial from W3Schools to pick up the basics. Then, learn by examining HTML source code on various webpages to see how skilled developers build websites.
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  • JavaScript
    • Why you need it: While HTML forms the basis of webpages, JavaScript gives them functionality. It’s widely used for incorporating outside elements, tracking user activity, and performing many web tasks. Many web-based application attacks, such as cross-site scripting, use JavaScript. Aspiring intrusion analysts should have some JavaScript experience.
    • How to learn it: Begin with basic JavaScript tutorials from sites like W3Schools. Then, practice by examining the JavaScript code on webpages you visit, trying to understand its purpose and intent. This skill is crucial for reverse-engineering malicious JavaScript.
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  • SQL
    • Why you need it: SQL (Structured Query Language) is the language of relational databases. It’s used to retrieve, insert, update, and delete information in database tables. Attackers also use SQL to steal sensitive information and disrupt data stores. To understand and prevent SQL injection and other database-related attacks, you need at least a basic understanding of SQL.
    • How to learn it: If you have access to a relational database, start exploring it. If not, many web-based tutorials offer hands-on experience. Recommended courses are available from LinkedIn Learning and DataCamp.

If you’re still feeling overwhelmed, just pick one of the five languages above and start learning. Coding is an incredibly useful skill for any cybersecurity professional, and best of all, it can be a lot of fun!

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