How is Math used in Cyber Security?

How is Math used in Cyber Security?

We get so caught up in our media streaming, online shopping, and social networking that we forget that nothing happens on a computer without numbers. Every time we post a kitten video, tweet our political views, and tell the world what we had for breakfast, it all boils down to binary code - the numbers '0' and '1'. Maybe one day they'll figure out how to encrypt email using icons and emojis, but for now, we have to surrender to mathematics.

Cybersecurity is no different. When they say the geeks will inherit the earth, does that mean you need a PhD in advanced calculus to save the world from a global financial catastrophe? Let's explore.

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How Math is Used in Cybersecurity

Boolean Values: Some computers use a branch of mathematics known as Boolean Algebra. There weren't any computers around during the day of George Boole, its inventor. In fact, several programming languages, including Python, rely on this to craft decisions and responses. Python is a favorite language among the hacking and cybersecurity communities.

Complex Numbers: The branch of algebra known as Complex Numbers, aka Imaginary Numbers, is actually a lot of fun. Here, you get to use the letter 'i', which stands for the square root of -1. It's worth delving deep enough into algebra to get to this topic and have the privilege of using this powerful little tool. Many an algebra or calculus student will tell you how many times 'i' got them out of jams on an exam.

Cryptography: This probably accounts for the most massive use of mathematics in cybersecurity. You know when your bank or email program gives you an option to have something encrypted? That. At its simplest, cryptography is no more difficult than those word puzzles where you are given a sentence that is written in numbers instead of words. Each number stands for a particular letter of the alphabet.

By ferreting out all the uses of 'and', 'the', '-ing', and so on, you can eventually decipher the entire sentence. Hackers and information systems analysts use sophisticated equations and mathematical structures to encrypt information.

Scared Yet?

You needn't be. On the popular television program, NCIS, cybersecurity expert Tim McGee has degrees from MIT and Johns Hopkins. Never do you hear him and Abby speak mathematics. This is a very strong sign that access to this profession is not restricted to supercharged math academics, although they certainly contribute to the field.

Another healthy sign for the mathematically challenged (or at least disinterested) is that the exam for CompTIA Cybersecurity CSA+ certification has no mathematical questions. No equations, no calculations, nothing. There is one question that refers to regression analysis, so it is, apparently, at least marginally important to know what that is. Take a moment to look it up. That's one-quarter of a question under your belt, should you decide to pursue that route to the information security field.

The actual test involves a maximum of 85 questions answered within a 165-minute time period. Questions are a mixture of multiple choice and performance. Here, you may need to demonstrate some mathematical savvy. 

Preparing Yourself for a Career in Cybersecurity

Perhaps the strongest signal that the cybersecurity field is open to non-mathematicians is the fact that there is no high-level mathematics on the curriculum of most cyber security degree programs. These courses generally teach you how to:

  • Protect data and teach your colleagues how to protect your company's information systems
  • Perform vulnerability analysis and penetration testing
  • Monitor and defend computer networks
  • Create basis security policies and procedures

The bottom line is, while clearly in an area with mathematics at its root, the more you know, the better. For the hard stuff, the academics do most of the heavy lifting. If you are seriously interested in joining the ranks of the cyber warriors, that path is open to you.

How is Math used in Cyber Security?

Interested in joining the ranks of cyber security experts? If you want to earn a Bachelor of Science in Computer and Information Science with a Major in Cyber and Network Security, ECPI University can help. With accelerated classes and a year-round schedule, you could learn quicker and start looking for work faster. For more information, connect with a friendly ECPI University admissions counselor today.

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