The first free eight-week online course, Introduction to Cyber Security, developed by The Open University with support from the UK Government's National Cyber Security Programme, has just completed.
As a participant whose background is publishing, I did find it both interesting and useful – clarifying the differences between worms and viruses, explaining the finer details of man-in-the middle attacks, Wi-Fi vulnerabilities, and encryption options as well as how the internet routes messages - among the bases covered. It also exhorted participants to strengthen their own security, from better passwords and backups to encrypted email, with practical advice and exercises as well as a requirement to provide plans of action after an audit of information assets held.
Each lesson is billed as three hours study, and while some of the lessons with practical exercises did take longer than the earlier ones, which were more basic and so quicker, two hours was enough for most. However, one of the best aspects was the comments from other participants – which ranged from about 100 to more than 2,000 in a module – so further time would then be spent pursuing these, and many of the more informed participants offered additional expertise and links to extra resources. The course, headed up by Dr Arosha K Bandara, senior lecturer in the Department of Computing at the OU, also provided further resources, with moderators answering student questions.
The participants – judging from the responses – appeared to be primarily from within the industry, but there were also students and even members of the general public with an interest in cyber-security. Teaching was a mix of text, videos and some practical exercises, and testing was via multiple-choice – with the answers effectively within the teaching resources, so it was a CPD level of understanding that was sought rather than a more rigorous examination – though a hasty response to misread questions did result in dropping some points.
If you want an introduction to the subject that provides an overview or to improve your own personal information security, it is an excellent course – enjoyable, informative, engaging, and authoritative; if you are in the industry and want to close any potential black holes and ask questions, it may still be useful; if you are an expert across a broad range in this sector, it's probably not for you – unless used as CPD – but you may want your new staff to consider it. On successful completion, there is also the option of a certificate of participation costing £24.
There was certainly demand for a more advanced course, coming from those who had completed the introduction course, and based on comments from the OU, it appears likely that this will happen.
The next course starts on Jan 26th 2015 - for more information, click here.