UK launches online course to promote security in cyber space

Out-Law News | 05 Sep 2014 | 4:16 pm | 2 min. read

The UK has launched the first government-supported online course to “inspire and educate” the next generation of cyber security professionals.

The free ‘Massive Open Online Course’ (MOOC) is backed by the UK’s National Cyber Security Programme, which is investing £860 million over five years to protect and promote the country in cyber space.

MOOC, launched by the Department for Business Innovation & Skills on 3 September, has been developed with the Open University (OU). The University has worked with government agencies, including the UK intelligence and security organisation GCHQ, to develop the course, which will be available on FutureLearn.com, a platform which hosts free online courses from a range of UK and international universities.

The course has the potential to reach 200,000 students and ensure the UK “has the knowledge and capability to meet current and future challenges”, the Department said. “It will also help to raise awareness of cyber security amongst the general public.”

The Department said the ‘Introduction to Cyber Security’ course is open to anyone with access to the internet and will cover subjects such as network security, the threat landscape, cryptography, malware and how to manage security risks. MOOC does not lead to a formal qualification.

“The course will enable anyone, from young people considering study or a career in computing, to existing employees wanting to improve their knowledge and skills, or members of the public interested in staying safe online, to gain an insight into cyber security and have the opportunity to take their interest to the next level,” the Department said.

UK minister for culture and the digital economy Ed Vaizey said Britain’s “vision for a vibrant, resilient and secure cyberspace, contributing to economic prosperity, national security and a strong society, can only become a reality if we have a strong cyber security skills base in the UK, both within government and the private sector.”

Vaizey said: “Employers are looking for skilled people in the cyber security field, now and in the future and we’re particularly keen to encourage more young people and women into the profession. It’s vital that we have the people and the skills to ensure the UK remains at the forefront of the information revolution.”

Tim Hamer, the director of knowledge at the UK’s Institution of Engineering and Technology, which is supporting MOOC, said: “With increasing threats emerging daily, online courses such as this have a vital role to play in raising awareness of the need to improve our cyber security. The course will also help to fill the shortage of skilled cyber security professionals that the UK needs.”

The UK's National Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-UK), which began operations on 31 March 2014, has said weak passwords and unpatched software is enabling hackers to use organisations' own servers as the hosts of cyber attacks (20-page / 1.26 MB PDF).

CERT-UK, which helps operators of critical national infrastructure (CNI) handle cyber threats, said that most of the incidents (51%) reported to it between the beginning of April and end of June came from organisations that do not operate CNI. It said it "processes over 250,000 reports of ‘abuse’ every day".

In a speech earlier this year, a senior UK government minister revealed details of a cyber attack by “a state-sponsored hostile group” that infiltrated UK government systems.