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Learn security testing with online courses and programs

Digital solutions can enhance organizational efficiency. However, the increasing use of web- and cloud-based applications comes with potential security risks. Learn security testing to expand your technical skill set and help protect your business.

What is security testing?

Security testing is the process of identifying risks and vulnerabilities in an information system in order to prevent malicious attacks. This critical step in the software development process helps to ensure that data is accessible only by authorized users and the system can withstand external attack attempts. 

There are many types of security testing that can address specific concerns or correspond with a particular step in the software development life cycle. These include:Footnote 1

  • Network security testing: Assesses the security of firewalls, routers, and other network devices.

  • Application security testing: Tests mobile, web, and desktop apps using Static Application Security Testing (SAST) and Dynamic Application Security Testing (DAST).

  • Cloud security testing: Tests the infrastructure of cloud-based systems for any security risks and loopholes.

  • Compliance testing: Ensures that the system meets security standards and regulations like Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) for payment functionality in a system.

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Security testing course curriculum

The topics covered in a security testing course curriculum can vary based on the specialization you wish to pursue. However, there are some fundamental topics that you will likely encounter in a beginner security testing tutorial, such as:

  • Underlying security principles of the web.

  • Overview of concrete threats against web applications.

  • Insights into common attacks and countermeasures.

  • Current best practices for secure web applications.

  • Security testing principles and mitigation strategies. 

  • Types of testing, common vulnerabilities, and security issues.

Intermediate and advanced courses may explore these topics in a more in-depth way before moving on to higher-level concepts, which can include instruction on:

  • Establishing a comprehensive security program for an organization.

  • Applying common testing techniques like SQL injections and cross-site scripting. 

  • Using security testing tools like Metasploit, Nmap, and others.

Your educational path will vary depending on how you choose to learn security testing. Taking courses as part of a bachelor’s degree program can provide a broad knowledge foundation for pursuing a career in computer science or another technical field. For learners interested in an accelerated option, a boot camp can help you learn important industry skills on an accelerated timeline. If you already have a bachelor’s degree, edX also offers master’s degree programs that can help you specialize and progress in your career. Additionally, working professionals can take advantage of executive education courses that are designed to fit into busy schedules. No matter your experience and professional goals, edX provides a variety of courses that can help you build career-critical skills.

Explore jobs that use security testing 

Understanding how to perform security testing  can be beneficial when applying for jobs in the IT services and cybersecurity industries. Depending on your credentials, experience, and specialization, you may qualify for different security testing jobs, such as:

  • Network security engineer: Protects network security systems against cyber threats. They’re mainly responsible for the design, optimization, and troubleshooting of network security systems.Footnote 2

  • Information security analyst: Carries out tasks including static, dynamic, and mobile application security testing to identify and mitigate security vulnerabilities.Footnote 3

  • Penetration tester: Applies cybersecurity testing techniques that involve simulating attacks on networks, applications, and computer systems to identify vulnerabilities.Footnote 4

  • QA engineer: Conducts different security tests and collaborates with other stakeholders to test software and systems for quality issues.Footnote 5

  • Cloud security engineer: Is responsible for securing cloud-based infrastructure and services to protect against cyber threats and ensure compliance with regulatory requirements.Footnote 6

  • Cybersecurity analyst: Is responsible for monitoring and analyzing network and system activity to detect and respond to security incidents.Footnote 7

  • Compliance analyst/manager: Ensures that the security system of an organization meets the regulatory requirements and industry standards.Footnote 8

  • Chief Information Security Officer (CISO): Is responsible for the development and maintenance of the overall security strategy and for ensuring its alignment with business goals.Footnote 9

Regardless of the role you’re interested in, it’s important to gain an understanding of the fundamentals in security. Determine any areas where you may need additional practice or experience, then plan your learning path accordingly. A cybersecurity boot camp can help you upskill quickly for many roles in this field, while a coding boot camp can help fill knowledge or skills gaps around programming.

How to use security testing skills in your career

As you progress through your security testing career, you may home in on a specialization that requires additional skill development. For example, if you want to specialize in a particular area of security testing, such as network security, it’s important to develop a deep knowledge of network architecture and protocols.

Similarly, familiarity with the software development life cycle (SDLC) and programming languages can be helpful for learners who want to become an expert in application security testing. In the same domain, if you plan to specialize further in mobile app security testing, gain experience using mobile application frameworks and languages.

After gaining rich and relevant experience, some cybersecurity professionals may choose to work as consultants, offering their own security testing services to clients on a freelance basis.

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