Cybersecurity 1b: Defense Against Threats

Course Overview

Units at a glance

Even though it’s a major part of modern life, the internet is still a pretty new invention. And, like any emerging innovation, it has drawbacks. Recognizing these vulnerabilities is important because they give us, as users, the power to see danger and predict problems in cyberspace. There must be a way to protect ourselves from online threats while still enjoying the endless benefits of the web, right? Yes—the answer is most definitely, yes. In fact, it is the main objective of any good cybersecurity effort. Once we are able to identify and respond to the shortcomings of the internet and step up our own defensive behavior as a result, we bring ourselves that much closer to improving, maintaining, and enjoying one of the most valuable technological resources in the world.

Would you ever walk into a store and start breaking things just to see what happens? What about stealing something just to see if you get caught? The reasons you give for why you would or would not do such things are a part of your ethics, or sense of right and wrong. Similarly, whenever you log on to a computer, pick up your smartphone, or access a website, you must also use good judgment. When you’re on the internet, it’s supremely important to behave the same way you would in real life—with integrity, honesty, and a serious regard for the law. Because our online presence can feel anonymous on some level and less “observable” by others, it becomes easier to believe your digital boundaries don’t impose any real limits—but they do. You may be surprised to learn just how many of your clicks, keystrokes, and online movements are tracked by outside entities looking to either enforce or breach security. As a result, it’s important to fully understand how you can navigate and enjoy the internet while still keeping yourself—and your precious data—safe in every way.

While it may seem like just about everything can be found on the internet these days, the truth is Google itself has only indexed about 200 terabytes of data, which translates into a mere 0.004 percent of the total internet. This begs the question, what else is out there? The answer to this question would surprise most people, as it reveals there’s a lot more happening on the internet than most of us can see or access. And understanding a bit more about this complicated online realm can also provide insight about the natural habitat of hackers and how they use it to cultivate their cyber threats. Once we grasp the many ways this larger environment can affect our own online security, it also becomes easier to protect all aspects of privacy.

As we know, the internet can be viewed as one giant analogy for our lives in the real world. The terminology, the construct, the vulnerabilities, the philosophies—they all relate back to what we, as humans, already know and understand about our surroundings. Since the dawn of humankind, we have been required to protect ourselves from predators, from enemies, from starvation, and cold weather. And, in the real world today, we still take endless precautions to protect ourselves from a host of new threats, including those found online. If we don’t, we may likely suffer the digital equivalent of a tiger attack, otherwise known as an exploit. So, no matter what you read and learn throughout this cybersecurity course, the most important takeaway is remembering how to keep your data (and your physical self) safe in the digital world. Just as the hunters and gatherers of long ago knew how to read their landscape for danger, we too must observe our online surroundings with the same degree of caution and good judgment.

Take it from the experts: there are a lot of threats out there in the digital world! And to truly protect your virtual self from malicious actors, you will need to learn more about the art of anticipating, detecting, and mitigating risk through your own best practices. This means listening to the advice of various authorities in the cybersecurity field and learning how to use their knowledge to forge a stronger and more effective personal protocol for the internet and beyond. Once you understand how to turn your security knowledge into practical protection efforts, the internet becomes a more welcoming and enjoyable place for everyone.

Considering recent cyberattacks, it’s easy to assume the world has reached the absolute apex of digital chaos. After all, outside hacking forces have been accused of tampering with national elections, swaying popular sentiment through fake online news, and stealing big data from giant corporations and governments—how could it possibly get any crazier? At times, it can feel a bit like the black hats have taken over the virtual realm and robbed us all of our freedom to move about the internet with safety and confidence. Some hackers claim they can weaponize a commercial airliner by overwriting the flight controls, while others say shutting down the power grid of a whole city is entirely feasible. While some of this may be true, the digital war is far from lost. With the help of ethical hackers and cyber do-gooders, it is possible to actively assess the risks we face and successfully stamp out threats at every turn. Yes, it’s a big job. And yes, it is only going to get bigger. So, the question is, are you ready to join the forces of good?

No one really thinks about a crisis until it happens. When our personal devices, privacy, and information are attacked, finding the best way to recover and move on is the only thing that matters. How we respond, investigate, and use science to accomplish these goals becomes valuable to our livelihood. By learning how to best handle a breach in security, we can begin to see more about our general vulnerabilities and how we—and the world of law enforcement—can continually work to improve our systems and our security.

In the world of cybersecurity, the demand for talented and dedicated people never stops. Most experts agree this emerging field is not only an exciting and robust one, but it may just be the single most important industry to arise in our nation since the Industrial Revolution. Now that’s a big deal! And with this assertion comes all sorts of new ideas about how to launch a cyber career. Not only are the positions plentiful, but they offer a large degree of financial security and the chance to make a real difference in the safety of the nation, its technology, and its people.

Course Highlights

Strategize ways to launch your cyber career.
Anticipate how your online movement will be monitored by hackers.
Forge a personal protocol for the internet and beyond.
Take a critical look at your online behavior and lifestyle.

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