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How To Become a Cryptanalyst? A Complete Guide (2024)

how to become a cryptanalyst complete guide

A cryptanalyst is an individual who can decode coded data and convert it to plain text that can be understood with ease by a common man.

Cryptanalysts can secure an organization’s data by deciphering secret messages. After all, learning how to do this gives you insight into how hackers could access this data and exploit it.

You want to put frameworks in place as a cryptanalyst to keep cybercriminals from decoding private data.

You may work in a number of commercial, political, and non-governmental organizations to achieve this role.

A cryptanalyst is an expert who specializes in data encryption and decryption. You’ll almost certainly need a Bachelor’s degree in a specific field to learn these advanced skills.

This is often the bare minimum for entry-level cryptanalyst employment. Some employers, on the other hand, can require you to have a Master’s degree.

If you are keen on knowing in-depth about the role of a cryptanalyst, we have put together a detailed blueprint on how to get started in this field.

Continue reading to learn more about the day-to-day duties of this role, as well as the qualifications, field of knowledge, and certifications required to be employed. We also show average cryptanalyst salaries and the top companies recruiting for this job.

What is Cryptanalysis?

The science and art of deciphering coded messages without understanding the “key” is known as cryptanalysis.

A ‘key’ is a different piece of code that can be used to ‘unlock’ a hidden message by converting it to plain text that you can understand.

It is accomplished by breaking into cryptographic security schemes (systems that encrypt and decrypt private information), allowing them to interpret encrypted messages.

Cryptanalysis is a popular practice among hackers. On the other hand, organizations include cybersecurity personnel with the same abilities (also known as ethical hacking).

Crypto analysts will find flaws in security systems’ algorithms if they are hired (instructions that a computer follows to encode plain text).

Cryptanalysis often entails figuring out how to develop these algorithms such that hackers can’t steal the encoded data.

In the same way that penetration testers think like hackers, crypto analysts must think like them. As a result, former hackers also make excellent cryptanalysts.

Cryptanalysis and cryptography are related –, and the two practices often overlap – but there are significant variations between them.

The former entails generating the codes that decode and encrypt these messages, whereas the latter entails exposing the contents of a message that was not intended for you to see.

Cryptology, which is the mathematical study of passwords, ciphers (algorithms for performing encryption or decryption), and other similar algorithms, includes both cryptanalysis and cryptography.

Cryptanalyst: Job Roles/Responsibilities

A cryptanalyst is an expert at deciphering secret codes and creating code strings that are almost impossible to crack by hackers.

These individuals ensure that an organization’s privacy is protected by overseeing the online protection of data systems. Government departments, police agencies and the military, often assess and decipher classified messages and coding systems.

Government agencies and businesses employ cryptanalysts to ensure that their computer networks are safe and that confidential data sent over them is encrypted.

Hackers would be unable to access confidential data held by companies and their customers as a result of this.

In today’s world, shopping, online banking, and mobile phone use are all commonplace.

Credit cards, email, online banking, automated teller machines (ATM), and other online systems can all be protected by cryptanalysts.

Cryptanalysts are also working on ways to secure communication lines, such as mobile phones and wireless networks, from hackers.

Ciphers are used to encrypt confidential data such as bank account numbers, credit card numbers, and other financial information.

Computational number theories and number schemes are being used in the majority of encryption codes.

Cryptanalysts are typically mathematicians who can design, set up, and test algorithms to solve number theory problems.

If a hacker cracks a code, it’s up to the cryptanalyst to develop new strategies for encrypting data and encoding messages to hide confidential information.

Traits of a Cryptanalyst

Cryptanalysts are individuals with distinct personalities. They are investigative people, which means they are intelligent, reflective, and curious.

They are curious, methodical, sensible, analytical, and logical in their approach. Some of them are also traditional, which means they are responsible and conservative.

  • Scientific institutions,
  • Banks and trust companies,
  • Banking institutions,
  • Educational institutions,
  • Insurance companies,
  • Computer design firms,
  • Science and engineering firms,
  • Special services and intelligence agencies,
  • Federal, state, and local government agencies all employ crypto analysts.

Technology firms, consultancy firms, and telecommunications firms all use many cryptanalysts.

Differences in Cryptanalyst, Cryptographer or Cryptologist?

A cryptographer is a person who creates ciphers, security systems, and algorithms to encrypt sensitive or valuable data. The analysis of codes, both making and breaking them, is known as cryptology.

The art of constructing codes is known as cryptography. Cryptanalysis is the art of inadvertently deciphering the contents of coded messages that were not intended for you as a recipient.

As a result, a cryptanalyst is in charge of analyzing and decrypting confidential data. He or she can decrypt ciphertexts, encrypted data, or telecom protocols in various cryptographic security systems, for example.

Any encrypted message has two parts: the externals and the internals. Cryptanalysis would use the external characteristics of the message to discover the internals or the mechanism through which the encrypted message was produced.

After a successful cryptanalyst applies external analysis tools, recovers the key, and decrypts the coded message, he or she may recreate the message’s encryption method.

Cryptanalysis is the study of ciphertext, ciphers, and cryptosystems to understand how they operate so that techniques for beating or undermining them can be created.

Crypto analysts, for example, try to decode ciphertexts without knowing the plaintext source, encryption key, or encryption algorithm. Stable hashing, digital signatures, and other cryptographic algorithms are also targeted.

A cryptanalyst is a person who creates mathematical methods and codes to protect data from hackers.

Government agencies and businesses employ cryptanalysts to ensure that their computer networks are safe and that confidential data transmitted over them is encrypted.

Computational number theories and number schemes are used in the majority of encryption codes. Cryptanalysts are usually mathematicians who can design, set up, and test algorithms for solving number theory problems.

If a hacker cracks a code, it’s up to the cryptanalyst to come up with new strategies for encrypting data and encoding messages to hide confidential information.

Degrees/Skills Required

If you’re interested in this exciting career, here’s a roadmap to get you started:

Academic Foundation

Education: Most cryptanalysts hold at least a bachelor’s degree in mathematics, computer science, or a related field like cybersecurity or engineering. Some employers prefer advanced degrees, like master’s degree in mathematics especially for research-oriented positions.

Focus Areas: Develop a strong understanding of cryptography, number theory, probability, statistics, algorithms, and data structures. Courses in discrete mathematics and information security are also valuable.

The list of math skills needed are given below:

  • College Algebra
  • Trigonometry
  • Calculus I, II, and III
  • Linear Algebraic Equations
  • Differential Equations
  • Partial Differential Equations
  • Elementary Number Theory
  • Introduction to Real Analysis, Analysis I and II
  • Methods of Complex Analysis, and Mathematical Cryptography are among the subjects covered.

Build Your Skills

Coding Proficiency: Hone your coding skills in languages like Python, C++, and Java. Familiarity with assembly language can be an advantage.

Logical Reasoning: Cryptanalysis requires strong analytical and problem-solving abilities. Practice with logic puzzles and competitive coding challenges.

Reverse Engineering: Learn how to deconstruct software and analyze its inner workings. This skill is crucial for understanding and exploiting cryptographic systems.

Cryptanalysts use mathematics to perform the following tasks:

  • Investigate and put concepts and alternative hypotheses to the test.
  • Follow the theorems and formulas of mathematics.
  • Encode and encrypt databases and applications.
  • Carry out cryptic calculations and use numerical analysis techniques.

For the following activities, they use computer science/engineering:

  • Create hacker-proof systems for businesses.
  • Put in place security measures to keep the company and its customers secure. 
  • Make data graphs, tables, and maps.

An MS with 5+ years of experience, for example, may be required by one organization, while another may require a technical Ph.D.

Cybersecurity certifications open up more opportunities for cryptographers to progress in their careers and gain more money. Certifications improve field knowledge while still demonstrating competence to employers.

The EC-Council provides an ECES program to teach students and practitioners about algorithms, cryptography, and steganography. They engage in real-world cipher and algorithm applications when learning about symmetric, key, and asymmetric cryptography.

Gain Experience

Entry-level Cybersecurity Jobs: Start your career in an entry-level cybersecurity role to gain practical experience in network security, penetration testing, and incident response.

Internships and Research: Seek internships or research opportunities at cybersecurity firms, government agencies, or academic institutions. This will allow you to work on real-world projects and learn from experienced professionals.

Open-source Cryptography Projects: Contribute to open-source cryptography projects to gain hands-on experience with different cryptosystems and hone your cryptanalysis skills.

Many have progressed through the ranks of data protection to become cryptanalysts and cryptographers. Data decoder, encryption specialist, signals analyst, and message decoder are all possible job titles.

Crypto analysts are employed by educational institutions, banks and trust firms, banking institutions, insurance companies, scientific institutions, and research agencies.

Salary of a Cryptanalyst in the US

According to the BLS, computer, and information technology-related fields are expected to rise by 12.3% between 2019 and 2028 (Bureau of Labor Statistics). Cryptographers make an annual salary of just over $82,299- according to PayScale.

Cryptographic professionals are employed by the Department of Defence and the National Security Agency to protect military, national security, and cybersecurity systems and data.

Cryptographers are needed by information technology companies such as Microsoft, Amazon, and Apple to secure their data and that of their users and customers.

Wrapping it up:

Staffing shortages in the cybersecurity industry are well-known, and cryptanalysis is no exception.

Being a cryptanalyst has a certain spy world appeal that attracts new mathematicians and computer scientists regularly.

However, the rapid proliferation of digital methods used in law enforcement and espionage and the relentless evolution and development of computer sciences generate new demand for cryptanalysts. And this is unlikely to change shortly.

There are no job openings for cryptanalysts if you do a basic job search- which is due to the fact that cryptanalysts in the private sector are often working under different work titles.

Cryptographers often perform cryptanalyst roles as part of their responsibilities. Job vacancies for cryptanalysts in the public sector, that is, those hired by different government agencies, are seldom advertised on traditional job boards.

Since almost all government cryptanalyst positions need high-level security clearances, this is the case. Applying directly to government agencies such as the FBI, CIA, DHS, NSA, and others is probably your best bet for breaking into cryptanalysis.


What is Cryptanalyst?

cryptanalyst is a specialist who deciphers encrypted information by analyzing and breaking codes. They are essentially the “codebreakers” who use their knowledge of mathematics, computer science, and cryptography to unlock hidden messages and uncover secrets.

What is the annual salary of a cryptanalyst?

The average salary is $82,299 per year, with a range of $57,774 to $99,993.
Salaries can be significantly higher for experienced professionals or those working in government positions. For example, the average salary for cryptanalysts employed by the US federal government is $134,997.

Kevin James

Kevin James

I'm Kevin James, and I'm passionate about writing on Security and cybersecurity topics. Here, I'd like to share a bit more about myself. I hold a Bachelor of Science in Cybersecurity from Utica College, New York, which has been the foundation of my career in cybersecurity. As a writer, I have the privilege of sharing my insights and knowledge on a wide range of cybersecurity topics. You'll find my articles here at, covering the latest trends, threats, and solutions in the field.