Job Description: What Does a Cryptographer Do?

Encryption is a method to encode information so that only authorized parties can read it. This extra layer of security is invaluable in national security, finance, healthcare security, corporate intellectual property, legal files and many others. Encryption duties will vary depending on the employer and the industry, or governmental department.

A Cryptographer is responsible for ensuring the safety of private, business and governmental data by using encryption tools and techniques to lock or hide (encrypt) and unlock (decrypt) access to the files. The information may be in the form of data, texts and communications protocols. They often must develop algorithms, ciphers, mathematical models and other security methods to protect data and identify security problems and the necessary ‘fixes’.

Some cryptographers working for the government or law enforcement may work to decode and analyze data which may be encrypted to conceal criminal or terrorist activity. Others may be charged in the private sector with protecting personal account and credit card information and their transmission and storage using encryption. Encrypted communications protect networks and their connected devices from hackers and malware. In today’s world, where governments, business and private individuals store and conduct their business digitally, the need for encryption /decryption services is growing constantly.

Cryptographer Job Duties and Responsibilities

The Cryptographer may be responsible for some or all of the following. As with any position, the responsibilities will vary depending on the company business model, products and size:

  • Identify and analyze vulnerabilities in security systems;
  • Design security and encryption systems to eliminate, or reduce, vulnerabilities;
  • Protect critical information from interception, deletion or malicious changes;
  • Develop and deploy mathematical models to analyze data;
  • Develop cryptographic security systems and algorithms;
  • Develop and test statistical and mathematical test models;
  • Probe for weaknesses in networks and communication infrastructure, including wireless and mobile;
  • Monitor transmission data across the network for unauthorized access;
  • Ensure financial data is securely encrypted and accessible only to the right parties. This might include credit card, ATM, Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) or online transactions;
  • Decode files, messages and systems for military and law enforcement;
  • Develop and recommend methods and procedures for encryption;
  • Consult on security issues;
  • Mentor peers and colleagues and research staff on cryptographic methods and applications;
  • Maintain a current understanding of technology trends and platforms, including social media and the IT threat landscape for a specific industry;
  • Provide recommendations and approval concerning vulnerability after evaluation of potential technology shifts or purchases;
  • Review investigations after security breaches or incidents, including impact analysis, and provide recommendations for avoiding similar vulnerabilities; and
  • Understand the changing laws and applicable regulations regulating security and data protection.