How is math used in cybersecurity?
Cybersecurity can be a dream career for an analytical, tech-inclined person. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), between 2022 and 2032, employment of information security analysts is projected to grow 32% , adding jobs by the thousands every year. Although learning computer security can be intimidating, those who are interested in the field should dive a bit deeper into the actual requirements for entry into this profession before making a decision.
Does cybersecurity involve math?
Computing careers, including those in cybersecurity, generally require a foundational knowledge of mathematics. For example, any time you run penetration tests to get ahead of hackers or compile data reports to identify threats, your system is crunching numbers.
As a real-world cybersecurity professional, you need to know how to use those systems. But, you don't necessarily need to know every intricacy of how they operate.
Compared to other information systems careers, cybersecurity professionals may only need a basic grasp of a few relatively simple mathematical concepts, depending on the role, of course.
Fortunately, those concepts are covered in most basic computer science courses and cybersecurity boot camps, which can be helpful for those hoping to enter the field of cybersecurity without prior tech experience. You can also learn the necessary applied math through online bachelor’s degree programs or stand-alone math courses and cybersecurity courses.
What kind of math is used in cybersecurity?
Many entry-level and mid-level cybersecurity positions do not require especially advanced math. But becoming a cybersecurity analyst or a similarly leveled position may require you to conduct data analysis and read graphs, as well as handle basic programming and problem solving. Read on to review some of the mathematical concepts you may need to review.
INTERESTED IN BECOMING A CYBERSECURITY ANALYST?
A cybersecurity analyst scours a company’s programs, applications, security systems, networks, and more to identify any defects or flaws that could leave this information vulnerable. Learn more about why this role is an excellent launchpad for loftier career goals with job titles like cybersecurity architect, solutions implementation engineer, and cybersecurity engineer.
Binary math powers everything a computer does, from creating and routing IP addresses to running a security client’s operating system. It’s a mathematical language that uses only the values “0” and “1” in combination.
Computer networks “speak” in binary, so cybersecurity professionals need to understand how it works. Fortunately, many computer science courses introduce students to binary as part of the curriculum.
Boolean algebra is used extensively in computer programming. It’s a kind of algebra that describes logical operations using two values, “true” (represented by the digit 0) and “false” (represented by the digit 1). Boolean algebra manipulates those values using the logical function AND and OR.
Unlike other forms of algebra, Boolean doesn’t involve any numerical calculations. The answer is either “yes” or “no,” which is why it’s been so useful in computer coding.
Many cybersecurity training programs require you to have some knowledge of programming languages like Python or Java. When you study computer science, you’ll learn the kinds of Boolean logic used in cybersecurity. While you can build that knowledge by earning a degree in computer science, remember that individual courses can catch you up to speed on foundational topics.
If you studied linear algebra in high school or college, you may have encountered complex numbers. A complex number is a term that includes a numeral and the letter i, which stands for “imaginary.” An imaginary number is the square root of -1, because the principles of math don’t allow that number to exist.
Complex numbers pop up in various cybersecurity processes, so knowing them can give you an edge. You’ll learn about them if you study college algebra. Enroll in the DoaneX College Algebra course and start learning today.
Cryptography is the scientific discipline that underlies all of cybersecurity, information security, and network security. It uses math to encode communications and protect computer systems from unwanted intruders, while making sure that authorized users have the access they need.
The math used in cryptography can be very simple or highly advanced. More advanced cryptography is usually the domain of high-level engineers, who design and refine the complex algorithms that keep systems safe.
Cryptography is the kind of skill that you’ll use and develop throughout your cybersecurity career. To start out, it’s enough to grasp the basics.
Math and cybersecurity: What do you need to know and when?
An understanding of binary numbers, Boolean and linear algebra, and cryptography can help you in your pursuit of a cybersecurity career. These are also the math skills you’ll need if you want to work toward different cybersecurity certifications, which employers may look for from entry-level candidates.
You might eventually use more advanced skills if you become a cybersecurity scholar or higher-level cybersecurity engineer. By that point, you’ll have had plenty of time to develop your math knowledge.
You may also study advanced topics like calculus if you pursue an online master’s or bachelor’s degree, but doing so isn’t a requirement. Plenty of bootcamps and intensive online programs, including edX’s Professional Certificate in Essentials of Cybersecurity from UWashingtonX, will teach you the skills you need to succeed.
Getting started: Learning math in context with edX
Cybersecurity is a highly technical career field, but that doesn’t mean you need to be a math whiz to succeed. You can succeed with the math basics taught in computer science.
If you don’t have a computer science background, or if you need a refresher, edX’s computer science courses can teach you the math you need in the context you’ll use it. edX also offers a variety of math courses with skills applicable across disciplines, from algebra to data analysis. Learn more about edX math courses today, and get started on your way to a cybersecurity career.
Last updated: January 2024