A cryptographer is a professional who specializes in cryptography, the science and art of secure communication in the presence of adversaries.

Cryptographers design and analyze cryptographic algorithms and protocols to ensure that information remains confidential, authentic, and integral. They work on developing encryption and decryption techniques, digital signatures, hash functions, and various other cryptographic tools to protect sensitive data and communications.

Cryptographers are employed during wars to encrypt and decrypt communications originating from and going to opposing forces.

Read More about a Cryptographer

Cryptographers often work in fields, such as cybersecurity, IT, government intelligence, finance, and academia.

What Tasks Does a Cryptographer Perform?

Cryptographers perform various tasks related to designing, implementing, and analyzing cryptographic systems. Some of them are:

  • Algorithm development: Cryptographers design and develop cryptographic algorithms for encryption, decryption, digital signatures, and hash functions. They may create new algorithms or improve existing ones to enhance security.
  • Protocol design: Cryptographers design cryptographic protocols for secure communication over networks. That involves specifying key exchange, authentication, and data transmission steps to ensure confidentiality, integrity, and authenticity.
  • Security analysis: Cryptographers analyze the security of cryptographic algorithms and protocols to identify vulnerabilities and potential attacks. They conduct cryptanalysis to assess the strength of encryption schemes and propose countermeasures to mitigate risks.
  • Implementation: Cryptographers implement cryptographic algorithms and protocols in software or hardware systems. They ensure that implementations are efficient, reliable, and resistant to side-channel attacks.
  • Key management: Cryptographers develop key management schemes for generating, distributing, and securely storing cryptographic keys. They also design key exchange protocols and key revocation mechanisms to manage access to encrypted data.
  • Cryptographic engineering: Cryptographers collaborate with engineers and developers to integrate cryptographic solutions into software, databases, communication systems, and hardware.
  • Research: Cryptographers conduct research to explore new cryptographic techniques, analyze emerging threats, and advance the state of the art in cryptography. They publish their findings in academic journals and present their work at conferences.
  • Standardization: Cryptographers contribute to developing cryptographic standards by participating in standardization bodies, such as the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) or the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). They help define standardized algorithms, protocols, and security requirements.
  • Consultation and advising: Cryptographers provide consulting services and expert advice to organizations on cryptographic best practices, security architectures, and risk management strategies. They assist in assessing the security posture of systems and recommending appropriate cryptographic solutions.
  • Education and training: Cryptographers teach courses and workshops on cryptography at universities, training programs, and industry events. They educate students and professionals about cryptographic principles, techniques, and applications.

What Skills Should a Cryptographer Have?

A cryptographer needs a bachelor’s degree in cybersecurity, computer science, or IT. To excel, cryptographers also need technical expertise, analytical skills, and creativity. Here are some of the essential cryptography skills and know-how.

  • Strong mathematics background: Cryptography relies heavily on mathematical concepts, such as number theory, algebra, probability theory, and discrete mathematics. A solid understanding of these areas is crucial for designing and analyzing cryptographic algorithms.
  • Understanding of cryptographic principles: Cryptographers should be familiar with fundamental cryptographic principles, such as encryption, decryption, digital signatures, hash functions, key exchange, and authentication.
  • Programming skills: Proficiency in programming languages, such as Python, C, C++, or Java, is essential for implementing cryptographic algorithms and protocols. It’s also a must for conducting cryptographic research and analysis.
  • Knowledge of cryptographic algorithms and protocols: Cryptographers should be knowledgeable in various cryptographic algorithms (e.g., Advanced Encryption Standard [AES], RSA, and elliptic curve cryptography [ECC]) and protocols (e.g., Transport Layer Security [TLS], Secure Shell [SSH], and Pretty Good Privacy [PGP]). They should understand their strengths, weaknesses, and suitable use cases.
  • Cryptanalysis skills: Cryptographers need skills in cryptanalysis to analyze the security of cryptographic systems, identify vulnerabilities, and devise attacks against cryptographic algorithms and protocols.
  • Security awareness: Cryptographers must understand cybersecurity principles and best practices to design secure cryptographic systems and mitigate security risks effectively.
  • Problem-solving skills: Cryptographers should possess strong problem-solving skills to tackle complex cryptographic challenges, address security vulnerabilities, and develop innovative solutions.
  • Attention to detail: Cryptography requires meticulous attention to detail to ensure that cryptographic implementations are correct, secure, and resistant to attacks.
  • Communication skills: Cryptographers should be able to communicate complex cryptographic concepts and findings clearly and effectively, both verbally and in writing. That includes writing research papers, presenting technical information, and collaborating with interdisciplinary teams.
  • Desire to continually learn: Cryptography is a rapidly evolving field with new cryptographic techniques, algorithms, and attacks emerging regularly. Cryptographers should have a passion for learning and staying updated with the latest developments in the field.
Skills a Cryptographer Should Have

How Much Does a Cryptographer Get Paid?

As of 25 February 2024, the average hourly pay for a cryptographer in the U.S. is US$23.90.

By honing their skills, cryptographers can contribute to developing secure cryptographic systems and play a vital role in safeguarding sensitive information and communication channels.

Key Takeaways