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Malware is malicious software created to harm or infiltrate a computer or computer network. To become a malware analyst, knowledge of various coding languages, networking, and other aspects of computer science is vital. Some people in this field are self-taught while others pursue college and university degrees in computer science to develop their skills. Security threats to computer systems are constantly evolving and a key part of this career involves continuous education and participation in the malware analysis community to keep up with the latest information. There are a number of continuing education resources available for malware analysts to take advantage of.
A college or university degree can be helpful to become a malware analyst. Some employers may require a degree or certification from a computer technology program. Experience in school can also give people an opportunity to work on ongoing research and generate some professional connections. Malware analysts may want to learn several programming languages so they can research and identify exploits in a variety of settings. It can also help to study networking, to understand how and where people deploy malware, and how it can behave within a network or computer system.
Some companies may be willing to hire people with experience in the industry who lack degrees. People who want to teach themselves can take advantage of resources like programming manuals and networking guides. They may start in entry-level positions and can work their way up in a company to get real world experience as they train for careers in this field.
As they acquire skills and build their resumes, they can also apply for positions at other firms that might offer more opportunities. This path to become a malware analyst can take time, and may depend on the industry climate; when companies are saturated with applications from college graduates, for example, they may be reluctant to hire people without degrees.
Certification programs in malware analysis are available. These may be offered as part of a college or university program, or by a separate entity. Before pursuing a formal certification, people may want to research the certifying organization. If job listings mention certifications and people in the malware community speak favorably of them, they can be a good investment. Certifications that appear largely unknown may not be as helpful for someone working to become a malware analyst.
After training to become a malware analyst and securing a position with a consulting firm, software company, or similar entity, continuing education is critical. Malware changes quickly, and people who work with it must be prepared. This can include attending conferences, reading trade publications, and taking workshops and classes. Active participation in the community through publishing papers and giving lectures can also be an important way to keep up with events, as information exchange among programmers facilitates the development of new tools to fight malware.