What skills do you need to land a software security internship?

This post was originally written and published by Nina Avery on the Synopsys website and blog

Cyber security is a hot topic in today’s market, and many students pursuing computer science degrees are trying to get an edge in the field by applying for internships.

First and foremost, job security is crucial in a competitive world, and this field is not looking to slow down anytime soon. As much as I cannot stand helicopter parents, this should set your mom and dad at ease!

According to the latest Cyber Incident and & Breach Trends Report from the Online Trust Alliance (OTA), the number of breaches in 2017 almost doubled from 2016. The most notable headline winners are

  • Equifax (personal, financial, and credit data on 145 million people),
  • Uber (data on 57 million riders and drivers), and
  • Yahoo, with the announcement last year that 3 billion Yahoo users were compromised in 2013.

And let’s not forget ransomware! Mobile ransomware rose over 250% during the first quarter of 2017 over the previous quarter. The FBI estimates there are 4,000 ransomware attacks a day.

What can you do about it?

So what do you need to know to start the internship process? For starters, experience with the following technologies and activities are beneficial:

  • Software security fundamentals
  • Source code analysis tools such as Synopsys Static Analysis (Coverity)
  • Penetration testing tools such as Burp Proxy, Fiddler, AppScan Standard Edition, Firebug, IDA Pro, Nessus, OllyDbg, GDB, Immunity Debugger, API Monitor, Sysinternals toolkit, Wireshark, Nmap, and Metasploit.

Once you have the basics, how do you win the role?

According to Parsia Hakimian, senior security consultant at Synopsys,

“A good intern should have a passion for learning and an interest in connecting with people in the industry. We look for students who have a work/life balance; otherwise you will burn out too quickly. I also look for someone who has basic knowledge in many aspects of security. Variety is good.”

You may be thinking, “You mean they need to like me?” And the answer to that is, well, yeah. The technical knowledge, obviously, will land you an interview, but from there you need to bring your EQ. You can put a lot on your resume, but you can’t put your personality on it. According to Laszlo Bock, who ran HR for Google, degrees are less important than interpersonal skills.

How can you prepare for your security internship?

  • Build and maintain character. For instance, participate in activities where you can practice active listening and cooperation. Team work and collaboration are key in this industry—and that takes more than technical expertise. After all, you can teach technical skills, but it’s much harder to teach someone who thinks they’re smarter than everyone to work well with others.
  • Have a positive and professional attitude. Really embrace your ability to work well with others, and develop your aptitude for dealing with adversity. Who wants to spend their days with a Grumpy Cat or a constant complainer? Not me.
  • Be yourself. We know that you are nervous in the interview, but try to let your personality shine, stay positive, and share your interests outside work/academics.

Interested in tackling the world of cyber security?

At Synopsys we embrace inclusion and diversity, enriching our staff with representatives of different genders, races, and nationalities. Diverse teams are more innovative and make better decisions by understanding the needs of a broader set of customers. Most importantly, we believe that a diverse population makes Synopsys a great place to work, and we strive to ensure we have an environment where everyone is welcome and can thrive in their career.

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