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Cryptanalyst


Description

For many centuries, elaborate mechanisms have been created to deal with information security issues and the exchange of information and documents. Letters, for example, remain private because they are sealed in envelopes and delivered by a government mail service. Therefore, it is a criminal offense to open someone else's mail. Then what about the signature? One's signature is another fundamental security information tool used as a form of identification, data origin authentication, and witnessing. Yet, with the advent of technology and the prevalence of the Internet and other wireless communication methods, new advanced encryption methods have been developed to protect people's interests.

Cryptanalysts analyze and decipher secret coding systems and decode messages for military, political, or law enforcement agencies or organizations. They help provide privacy for people and corporations, and keep hackers out of important data systems, as much as they possibly can. Cryptanalysts seek to secure many of the following information systems including the Internet, electronic mail and home banking. In the financial services industry, they deal with electronic cash or Interac, credit card transactions and instant teller banking (ATMs). Within the wireless and wired communications sector, they work with cellular phones, pagers, fax encryptors, modems and secure telephones.

Cryptography is the art of writing or solving ciphers, or secret, disguised writing codes. Ciphers are constantly used on the Internet these days, especially when it comes to purchasing items with a credit card or entering a secret password or code. In a business sense, cryptography refers to mathematical methods that keep data away from the prying eyes of hackers or other governments.

Cryptanalysts are mathematical geniuses as most of their encryption work deals with the security of cryptographic number schemes and computational number theories. They design, implement and analyze algorithms for solving problems in number theory. They also encode messages to hide contents from outsiders. They constantly work on new ways to encrypt information. Once hackers figure out their codes, they must redo new encryption methods to keep hackers out.

Today's businesses and governments, cyrptanalysts are hired by companies to design security and encryption systems for online stores and companies. This helps protect both the business, but also the customer.
 
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  Average Earnings  
Lowest 10% of Earners:
$38,930
 
Median Salary:
$76,470
 
Highest 10% of Earners:
$112,780

  Interests and Skills  
Cryptanalysts are naturally curious and like to help create and break cryptograms and difficult codes. This takes a special kind of person with a talent for mathematics and computer science. They can understand things in mathematical and scientific terms. They are logical problem-solvers with a great deal of patience and mental stamina.

They have effective communication skills, and can explain difficult cryptic and mathematical problems simply to people. They like working both alone and with a wide variety of people. In general, cryptanalysts enjoy synthesizing information, solving logical mathematical problems and taking a methodical approach to their work.
 

  Typical Tasks  
  • Study and test ideas and alternative theories
  • Encode and encrypt systems and databases
  • Conduct research in basic cryptology and in application of cryptanalyst techniques to computer science, management, and other fields, such as telecommunications
  • Follow mathematical theorems and formulas
  • Perform cryptic computations and apply methods of numerical analysis
  • Develop new and more efficient methods of dealing with cryptic processes
  • Devise systems for companies to help keep hackers out and to protect the company and consumer
  • Use computers to make graphs, tables and charts of data
  • Act as consultant to research staff concerning cryptical and mathematical methods and applications
  • May help businesses and industry to solve security-related problems
  • Although cryptanalysts usually work in an office environment, on the computer, during standard office hours, working longer hours is not uncommon, especially when deadlines are looming. They may work alone or as part of a team.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Cryptanalysts are employed by all levels of government, including special services and intelligence agencies, educational institutions, including universities, bank and trust companies, financial institutions, insurance companies, scientific institutions and research agencies. They also work for telecommunications companies, computer design firms, consulting firms, or science and engineering firms. Many jobs in computer science require professionals with cryptanalogy training.

  Long Term Career Potential  
In large institutions, cryptanalysts who have strong communication and people skills may advance to management positions. With the proper education, they would also make great math, statistics or bio-statistics professors. They could change career focus and become mathematicians, computer designers, statisticians, actuaries or demographers. They could also become financial advisors, especially in the area of personal financial consulting.
 

  Educational Paths  
Although there is no required educational path for a cryptanalyst, most have at least a bachelor's degree in mathematics or computer science (both of which can be earned via traditional or online schooling). In fact, many cryptanalysts have graduate degrees in mathematics. Post-graduate work in at the PhD level is usually required for cryptanalysts employed in a research environment or those who teach at the university level. Furthermore, this field is extremely complex and academically infused, therefore, all cryptanalysts and government workers are well educated with a good background in mathematics, computer science, economics and even English.
 




Sources:
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002, http://www.bls.gov/oes/2002/oes_nat.htm

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