• The Open University

Introduction to Cyber Security

Discover essential cyber security knowledge and skills, and learn how you can better protect your digital life.

314,282 enrolled on this course

Introduction to Cyber Security

Explore the world of cyber security and develop the skills needed to stay safe

Modern life depends on online services, so having a better understanding of cyber security threats is vital.

On this course, guided by Cory Doctorow, you’ll learn how to recognise online security threats that could harm you and explore the steps you can take to minimise your risk.

The course will improve your online safety in the context of the wider world, introducing concepts like malware, trojan virus, network security, cryptography, identity theft, and risk management.

The course is supported by the UK Government’s National Cyber Security Programme, is GCHQ Certified Training and IISP accredited.

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  • Week 1

    Threat landscape

    • Online, the new frontline

      Meet your course guide, Cory Doctorow, and start to explore the security threat landscape. Learn basic techniques for protecting your computers and your online information.

    • Understanding current threats

      Learn about different kinds of threat, the vulnerabilities that they exploit and some countermeasures that can be put in place to guard against them.

    • Securing my digital information

      Most of us rely on the internet for everyday tasks such as shopping, working, banking and social networking but don't stop to think about the security issues that might be involved.

  • Week 2


    • Who do they think you are?

      Many security threats depend on the attackers being able to impersonate us online. Passwords are the main way we authenticate ourselves to the services we use, therefore you’ll learn ways of improving the security of passwords.

    • Improving password security

      Just about every website you sign up to requires a password. What strategies do you use when choosing passwords?

    • It's not just what you know

      Two-factor authentication can also help with your security. How does it work and how do you implement it on your accounts?

  • Week 3


    • Malware basics

      Find out about different types of malware, how they developed and what damage they can do. Discover some of the terms used to describe malware.

    • How malware gets into your computer

      Learn about malware, phishing and click fraud. Confess to your bad habits and make a plan to change.

    • Keeping malware at bay

      How do can you protect yourself from malware? Learn about antivirus software, sandboxes and some tips on how to spot phishing emails.

  • Week 4

    Networking and communications

    • How does the internet work?

      The internet is not a single entity, it is a hierarchy of individual networks connected to one another. Learn how information is moved through it.

    • Network security challenges

      How secure is the internet? What can you do to keep your information secure?

    • Role of standards

      For the internet to function, common standards apply to every network. Find out what these are and how they operate.

  • Week 5


    • Cryptography basics

      Cryptography is a specialised area of mathematics concerned with securing information so that it can be transmitted safely even when there is a risk it might be intercepted.

    • Putting cryptography to use

      Examine how cryptographic techniques can be used in practice, install encryption software and send an encrypted email.

    • Cryptography in the wild

      There are hundreds of different cryptographic schemes, learn about some of the ways they are used.

  • Week 6

    Network security

    • Protecting your data on the network

      How can you protect your communication networks from attack? Learn how a firewall can help.

    • Keeping your secrets on the network

      How does Virtual Private Networking work? What is it used for? When would you use one? How secure are they?

    • Detecting attacks

      You’ve probably seen a movie or TV programme featuring an attack on a computer network. The administrators rush to their keyboards and frantically begin typing – it’s all very exciting – but does this happen in real life?

  • Week 7

    When your defences fail

    • What’s the worst that could happen?

      What do you do when things go wrong? Learn about the laws that protect you and your data, such as the Data Protection Act and the Computing Act, in the UK.

    • Cyber security and the law

      Look at some of the laws in the UK, such as the Data Protection Act 2018 and the Computer Misuse Act 1990, that help to protect us against information security threats.

    • Putting things right

      Learn how to recover from an attack on your information security and what you can do to prevent a similar attack being successful in the future.

  • Week 8

    Managing security risks

    • Analysing security risks

      Identify and analyse the risks to your own information assets. What information is most valuable? To whom?

    • Managing the risks

      Learn what measures you can take to manage the risks to your information assets and to ensure that you stay safe online.

    • Taking stock

      Take stock of what you've learned and how it will affect your security measures and web practices. Take the end of course assessment and find out about the next steps.

Who is this accredited by?

APMG International
APMG International:

This course is certified by APMG on behalf of the NCSC (part of GCHQ). The NCSC protects critical services from cyber attacks, manages major incidents and improves the security of the UK Internet.

The Institute of Information Security Professionals
The Institute of Information Security Professionals:

The Certificate of Achievement for this course demonstrates awareness of cyber security issues across 12 of the IISP skills groups.


The Certificate of Achievement demonstrates you have completed a course that meets the awareness level requirements of NCSC Certified Training.

When would you like to start?

Start straight away and learn at your own pace. If the course hasn’t started yet you’ll see the future date listed below.

  • Available now

Learning on this course

You can take this self-guided course and learn at your own pace. On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • Explain basic cyber security terminology; have skills for keeping up to date on cyber security issues; and be able to identify information assets.
  • Describe basic authentication mechanisms; have skills to improve their password security; and be aware of alternative authentication methods.
  • Identify main malware types; awareness of different malware propagation methods; and skills for preventing malware infections.
  • Describe cryptography terminology; be able to use cryptography for email; be aware of applications of cryptography.
  • Demonstrate understanding of firewalls, virtual private networks and network intrusion detection and prevention technologies.
  • Describe legal and regulatory issues relating to cyber security; and understand how to recover from security failures.
  • Apply basic risk analysis and management techniques.

Who is the course for?

The course does not assume any prior knowledge of computer security and can be enjoyed by anyone interested in improving the security of their digital information, whether at home or at work.

What do people say about this course?

"A brilliant course for me, although at the beginning I regarded myself as security savvy I realise the importance of the background knowledge as to why measures are needed. The very mechanism of the web and internet, emails, packets so on and so forth have added to my knowledge in a very valuable way. My web use, email use is no longer business orientated as I am well into retirement but the uses, online purchases etc are now a factor. The threats change and the need to adapt to these threats as they materialise is vital."

"In my current role I am responsible for all the IT in the building; therefore cyber security is important to me. Whilst I felt I was reasonably up on the subject I was open to having a more formal briefing on the subject. Cory Doctorow is very well known in the industry, so his endorsement of the course was one of the factors that made me choose it. Having completed course, I felt it so worthwhile that I recommended that all IT staff in our group took it. As for the certificate I got, it goes on my office wall!"

Who will you learn with?

Arosha is a software engineer with research interests in engineering adaptive systems that can improve information security. He also teaches network security at the OU. Twitter: @arosha & @OUCyberSec

Who developed the course?

The Open University

The Open University (OU) is the largest academic institution in the UK and a world leader in flexible distance learning, with a mission to be open to people, places, methods and ideas.

  • Established

  • Location

    Milton Keynes, UK
  • World ranking

    Top 510Source: Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2020

Endorsers and supporters

supported by

HM Government

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  • 20% discount on the APMG International cyber security exam

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Sale price available until 6 December 2021 at 23:59 (UTC). T&Cs apply.

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Sale price available until 6 December 2021 at 23:59 (UTC). T&Cs apply.

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