• The Open University

Introduction to Cyber Security

Learn the essentials of cyber security and build your skills to better protect your digital information from security threats.

355,686 enrolled on this course

A cyber security threat – a man looks at his laptop, while people snoop over his shoulder.

Introduction to Cyber Security

355,686 enrolled on this course

  • 8 weeks

  • 3 hours per week

  • Accreditation available

  • Digital certificate when eligible

  • Introductory level

Find out more about how to join this course

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

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

On this eight-week course from The Open University and 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.

This course is supported by the UK Government’s National Cyber Security Programme, is NCSC Assured Training, and is IISP accredited.

Explore how to improve your network security and protect your data as it moves around the internet

Internet routers are designed to move data to its destination, which could take your data through several routers across the world. This creates vulnerabilities that allow that data to be copied.

On this course, you’ll discover tips and strategies to protect your data on a network, including firewalls and VPNs. You’ll also explore intrusion detection systems (IDS) and honeypots to detect attacks.

Assess the current threat landscape and how to protect against it

Our lives increasingly depend on digital services, which makes the internet an attractive target for criminals.

You’ll start this course by looking at the array of current threats to our information assets. You’ll assess the different vulnerable points at risk of a security breach, how threats exploit those vulnerabilities, and some countermeasures that you can use to guard against these threats.

Discover the uses of cryptography and network encryption

Cryptography is a specialised area of mathematics concerned with protecting information so that it can be transmitted and received securely.

This course will guide you through this technique for protecting information, from explaining encryption keys to exploring real-world uses of cryptography.

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Skip to 0 minutes and 8 seconds CORY DOCTOROW: Cyber security isn’t just the preserve of large companies. As more and more of us conduct our lives online, using everything from social networks to payment platforms, understanding how to protect your online identity has never been more important. This course will provide you with the knowledge and skills to enable you to secure your digital information from accidental loss and malicious attack. What I’m actually in is the business of information warfare. We will find a way in, and sometimes it can take just a matter of minutes. We start by looking at the types of threats that exist and ways to prevent these from affecting your digital information.

Skip to 0 minutes and 48 seconds DIGITAL VOICE: Are you about to click on a link you’re not sure about? Well, I hope you’ve taken care because if not, I could quite easily drop a Trojan horse, or a drive-by download, or some other sinister malware into your laptop and turn your computer into a zombie.

Skip to 1 minute and 5 seconds CORY DOCTOROW: The course then delves deeper into the underlying technologies and techniques that are used to solve cyber security challenges. So, what are the threats that affect digital information? How can we improve the security of our information? And how can we stay ahead of these attackers?


  • 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?


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

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.

When would you like to start?

Start straight away and join a global classroom of learners. If the course hasn’t started yet you’ll see the future date listed below.

  • Available now

Learning on this course

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?

This course is designed for anyone interested in improving their online security, whether at home or at work. You do not need any prior knowledge to benefit from this course as it has been created with beginners in mind.

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 systems security at the OU. Twitter: @arosha & @OUCyberSec

Who developed the course?

The Open University

As the UK’s largest university, The Open University (OU) supports thousands of students to achieve their goals and ambitions via supported distance learning, helping to fit learning around professional and personal life commitments.

  • 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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Choose the best way to learn for you!

Buy this course

$134/one-off payment

Fulfill your current learning need

  • Access to this course
  • Learn at your own pace
  • Discuss your learning in comments
  • Tests to boost your learning
  • Printed and digital certificate when you’re eligible

Subscribe & save

$349.99 for one year

Automatically renews

Develop skills to further your career

  • Access to this course
  • Access to 1,000+ courses
  • Learn at your own pace
  • Discuss your learning in comments
  • Tests to boost your learning
  • Digital certificate when you're eligible

Cancel for free anytime

Limited access


Sample the course materials

  • Access expires 14 Sep 2024

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