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When I was a kid, I want to become a Malware Analyst and work in a Antivirus company. At that time, I love to try out different antivirus solutions and did a research project on Computer virus/antivirus back in High school. I'm interested in knowing how malwares got into my system and malware removal.

Today, I'm unemployed again and looking for a new career and this thought came to my mind. I suddenly have the urge to pursue my childhood dream as a malware analyst. I don't have much computer programming job experience before (only couple of months in a game company) and my previous job was an accountant. (Not related to computer programming).

I got my computer science degree 5 years ago and currently taking some part-time courses in Software QA/Testing in College. (Because I'm also considering to change career into Software QA field)
I also know that in order to work in a security field, you must be an expert in that field first. Do you think working as a Software QA/Tester would be a good starting point for the career path as a Malware Analyst? Or it's totally unrelated?

Would appreciate if anyone can provide some guidance as to pursuing a career in malware analysis.


I heard about Security+, CISSP, CISA, CEH, SSCP etc. But don't know which one is related to malware analysis.


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I am happy that this question was not closed. We need to have more career related questions on all SO websites. –  FirstName LastName Feb 5 '13 at 10:27
I want to add to your question - 1 - Which of these certs require prior job experience and/or other certifications/CS degrees? 2 - Arrange the certs in order of difficulty/value in the industry. –  FirstName LastName Feb 5 '13 at 10:30
tuts4you.com/index.php is good website for learning ASM and reversing. –  talfiq Feb 28 '13 at 7:15
@FirstNameLastName, on career tag questions, see meta.serverfault.com/questions/5270/why-does-career-tag-exist –  T. Webster Mar 2 '13 at 9:18
You might like to look at zeltser.com/reverse-malware –  Abu Ubaidah May 24 '14 at 11:56

6 Answers 6

up vote 6 down vote accepted

There's surely a lot of relationship between Software Quality and Testing and Malware analyst. The basic principals of looking into how something works, testing out it's boundaries of operation, and delving into the extent of its functions are common to both. That being said, it would also depend on the type of software you are looking for.

I know of several people who left college and went out into the 'malware' (perhaps not that specific.. but general computer protection/analysis) field straight out of college, so that is a possibility too.

If you want a leg up, look into colleges that offer Information Assurance, or Computer Forensics degrees. (Perhaps a master's program).

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Thx for your reply. Is there any related certification to start off? –  Shawn Jun 24 '11 at 19:05
Forensics is closer to malware analysis than QA/testing is, +1 for mentioning it. –  AviD Jun 26 '11 at 8:52

You might want to look into the excellent article How to Get Started With Malware Analysis by Lenny Zeltser on SANS. It was written in 2010 but is still relevant today.It covers the Articles, Books, Forums, Blogs and Courses that one could follow to become a Malware Analyst

As mentioned in other answers, you also need to be fundamentally good at x86, C/C++, Assembly

I would suggest a self paced course like eLearnSecurity Advanced Reverse Engineering of Software

Later on, when you've got more hands on experience, other courses I would recommend are

(Google these, my reputation level does not allow me to post more than 2 links in my answer)

  • InfoSec Institute Reverse Engineering Training
  • MANDIANT Introduction to Malware Analysis
  • MANDIANT Customized Malware Analysis
  • MANDIANT Intermediate Malware Analysis
  • MANDIANT Advanced Malware Analysis
  • InfoSec Institute Advanced Reverse Engineering Malware
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I too had the same question and the answer is join a company which is into malware analysis work and don't loose hope. Have patience for a few weeks/months and realize your dream job.

Learn x86, C/C++, Win32 API, Windows internals, PE file structure basics... Then when you are comfortable with these, try tools like ollydbg and IDA Pro. This will help if you want to learn on your own. You can try tools side by side.

The best option is to join a small company which does malware analysis and learn on the job. Not only will you work on PE files but you will have to deal with other file formats like PDF, doc, web files etc.

Also you will have to learn Android/iOS to stay ahead of the race.

It is a very vast field; the more knowledge you have the better. Linux, shell coding, python, ruby, etc. But this is for experienced guys.

Don't do a certification: they can't teach you reversing in a week's time. You require years to perfect the art.

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SANS-GREM is good place for certification; but for the study you need to have good understanding of x86 assembly language, IDA pro tool, also couple of good books. For assembly - Step by step assembly by Jeff Duntemann and Practical Malware Analysis | No Starch Press. Good start and SANS reading room some samples analysis papers.

Also need to setup lab in your PC with virtual machine to do the real world analysis.

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I believe for Malware research, SANS GREM is the closest and highly regarded: SANS-GREM

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UNITE affiliated computer help forums offer training programs (for free) in malware removal which is probably a good place to start. I don't think they go in depth into dissecting malware rather focusing on diagnosis and cleaning.

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