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Cybersecurity 1A: Foundations

Forensics Specialist
Career Pathway Course Units

Unit 1: Basics of Cybersecurity

Today, people carry the world around in their pockets. That’s right—the world. At any given moment, we have the power to seek, find, and interact with just about any kind of information we want via the internet. But it’s not all open doors and friendly faces out there in cyber space. As we continue to navigate our online landscape, it becomes clear it can be a dangerous place indeed, especially if we don’t take the right precautions. Passwords, codes, verification questions—these all serve as watchdogs for our data, but it’s important to remember there are also clever people out there who are adept at sneaking around these safety measures. By looking critically at the connectivity of the internet, it’s easy to see how the pathways of communication can also become avenues for attack. This is the founding notion behind cybersecurity and the exact reason why—many years and several hundred billion dollars later—its efforts still struggle to keep pace with hackers and online threats. And in this brave new cyber reality, learning the ins and outs of the world you carry in your pocket has never been more important.

Unit 2: Computers & Operating Systems

Our personal computers, tablets, and smartphones offer different user options, but they all have one thing in common—operating systems. Since an operating system (OS) is what makes everything on your device run smoothly, it would be pretty terrible if it were to be compromised. Recognizing how our OSes govern what our technology can do is an important part of being a savvy user and crucial to effective cybersecurity. Being a well-protected online adventurer demands more than just a basic understanding of the computer itself; it requires some knowledge about the strengths and weaknesses of the components that live inside the device as well.

Unit 3: Networking Fundamentals

When people “network,” they come together to share information and stay connected. And in that way, you can have a network of friends, a network of systems, or a network of ideas. Computers are similar —they must also join together for the purpose of sharing resources and communicating. This can include sharing anything from a printer to a file server, but the most valued and popular resource today for human connection is the internet. Once we begin to learn how a network really functions and what it can do, it will be easier to understand the vast and complicated world of cybersecurity. Sharing ideas, images, and resources is what makes the world go ‘round, and networks are what form the backbone of this new reality. As the ways and means of connecting and sharing become increasingly complex, so will our need to secure our computer networks, and developing them in innovative ways will become one of the most important challenges we face.

Unit 4: Network Security

Some people might say we already have all the tools we will ever need to protect ourselves from cyberattacks; we just need to learn from the world around us and find ways to use them effectively. Humans have been in conflict since the beginning of time, and technology’s new landscape of virtual warfare is simply an extension of this ongoing condition—the modern battlefield, if you will. Just as our weapons arsenal has expanded over thousands of years from clubs and arrows to machine guns and bombs, the practices of cybersecurity are in the midst of their own mighty evolution. Understanding how a network provides the backbone for communication is just one step in visualizing how we can protect the vitality of our online platforms. From application security to firewalls, guardianship of our virtual world is no small task. But if the defenses of the real world are any indication of our ability to protect ourselves, there’s always a way to stay ahead of any threat. We just have to learn how.

Unit 5: Access Control

One of the biggest vulnerabilities in technology today is the lack of access control. If an online attacker is able to find just the right code, password, or tactic to gain passage through certain obstacles, the treasure of personal data is ripe for the picking. In this way, access is the prized gateway and the main objective of any savvy cybercriminal. And as such, access control is also a security point that requires the utmost attention and support. Understanding how data can be accessed (and what can be done to prevent it) sits at the core of any meaningful cybersecurity effort. Doors of entry and the locks that protect them—in the real world and the cyber one—come in all shapes and sizes, and you need to understand every inch of this digital environment if you hope to protect it.