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Cybersecurity Coding and Programming Languages

Written by: University of Tulsa   •  Jun 12, 2024
A programmer wearing headphones works on a monitor.

Cybersecurity Coding and Programming Languages

A computer programming language provides detailed instructions directing a digital computer to perform a specific task. Over the past few decades, a variety of languages have been developed for specific use cases, including cybersecurity.

To learn more, check out the infographic created by The University of Tulsa’s Online Master of Science in Cyber Security.

Infographic explaining cybersecurity coding languages.

Types of Computer Programming Languages

Computer programming languages are divided into two categories: low level and high level.

Low Level vs. High Level Programming Languages

A programming language is categorized as low level or high level based on numerous factors, such as a program’s level of understanding. Low level languages are difficult to understand and interpret by people, but are more machine-friendly than high level programming languages.

Ease of debugging is another factor. Detecting errors and their sources in low level languages is difficult because of their complexity. Programming languages also vary according to memory efficiency. Low level languages are memory efficient and can execute programs faster than high level languages.

Compatibility is another factor to consider when looking at programming languages. High level languages can be used on any platform, making them highly compatible, while low level languages are machine-dependent and platform-specific.

Programming languages can also be classified according to translation. High level languages require an interpreter (a program that executes instructions without converting them into machine code) to translate code. Low level languages rely on an assembler (a program that converts instructions into a pattern of bits used by the processor to execute basic operations).

The final factor is programming language usage. High level languages are simple, making them more appealing to use in software development.

Computer Programming Language Types

Six common types of computer programming languages include machine language, assembly language, algorithmic language, business-oriented languages, object-oriented languages, and world wide web display languages.

Machine language is made up of numeric codes, which are strings of zeroes (0) and ones (1) that represent operations a computer executes directly. This type of language is difficult to read and write because it doesn’t resemble conventional mathematical notation or human language.

Assembly language employs concise mnemonic codes and enables the programmer to assign labels to segments of memory holding data. It can be easily translated into machine language.

Algorithmic language expresses mathematical or symbolic computations, such as algebraic operations. For example, FORTRAN (formula translation) was created for scientific computations with real numbers, and ALGOL (algorithmic language) was another language designed for computations. C programming language, on the other hand, is able to structure data and programs, and uses compact notation.

Business-oriented languages include COBOL, which uses an English-like notation to organize and manipulate large quantities of data, and SQL (structured query language), which is used for specifying the organization of databases.

Four different kinds of object-oriented languages used by computer programmers include C++, C#, Java, and Python. World Wide Web display languages include HTML, which is used to encode web pages, and XML, which is designed for documents published on the web.

Common Cybersecurity Coding Languages

Cybersecurity professionals may use one or more of the following programming languages.

Top 5 Cybersecurity Coding Languages

The top cybersecurity programming languages used today include Python, PowerShell, SQL, Bash, and Java.

Python is used to automate security operations, analyze large datasets to identify threats and develop network monitoring and response tools. It is simple, flexible, and user-friendly and has extensive libraries. However, it is slower than compiled languages like Java or C++.

PowerShell aids in analyzing logs, gathering system information, identifying and investigating security incidents, and responding to threats. The language is deeply integrated with Windows, offers access to system application programming interfaces (APIs), and is characterized by efficient management, incident response, and simulated cyber attacks.

SQL is used to manage and analyze large quantities of data, detect anomalies, and respond to potential threats. It is highly versatile and boasts widespread adoption. However it is expensive, complex, and offers limited scalability.

Bash is used for monitoring, anomaly detection, incident response, and data parsing. Like SQL, it is versatile and has widespread adoption. However, it is slower than other programs, has limited usability, and is known to be resource intensive for complex scripts.

Java is used to develop security tools, analyze logs, and monitor network traffic. The program functions across many operating systems and has versatile applications. However, it requires a paid commercial license, has a complex code, offers limited support, and requires significant memory capacity.

Selecting the Right Language

Cybersecurity professionals must consider a variety of factors when choosing a programming language for their organization.

Factors to Consider in Selecting a Cybersecurity Coding Language

When choosing a cybersecurity coding language, programmers should consider their experience level, the type of application, the operating system they’ll be using, the budget, and the time and effort they’re willing to invest.

Experienced programmers can choose more complex languages with more features and power, such as Java and SQL. Depending on the type of application a programmer is working on, different languages have different specialties; for example, PowerShell or Python can be better suited for applications that solely focus on cybersecurity, whereas C++ and Java’s graphical user interfaces (GUI) are preferable for graphics applications.

Some cybersecurity programming languages are built for specific operating systems. And some languages, like Java, require a commercial license. Note that complex languages like Java and SQL require more time and effort to learn.

Finding the Right Programming Language

There’s no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to cybersecurity coding. Organizations must consider a variety of factors, including their project requirements and budget when selecting which cybersecurity programming language to use.

BairesDev, “What Are Bash Scripts and Why Should You be Using Them?”

Britannica, Control Structures

Code Institute, “What Is A Programming Language?”

Hack The Box, “7 of the best programming languages for cybersecurity (offensive & defensive)

Java T Point, “PowerShell Tutorial”

Medium, “The Ultimate Guide To Choosing The Right Programming Language For Cyber Security”

Serokell, “Pros and Cons of Python Programming Language”

Softjourn, “Pros and Cons of Java Development”

TechTarget, Assembler

Toppr, Interpreter

Unstop, “Advantages And Disadvantages Of SQL Simplified (With Examples)”

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