I’ve been hearing more and more about free online college courses lately, and Stanford University’s Cryptography course in particular came up in conversation twice last week, in two separate contexts. This got me wondering what else was available by way of computer and security-related education. As it turns out, there are a ton of what look to be fantastic options out there for those of us who are looking to get a more in-depth look into the subject.
Just like traditional college courses, you can take these classes for the possibility of credit, complete with graded homework and quizzes. But if you’re just looking to get some quality, technical yet approachable information on how to securely use these fantastic computational devices, you can take the self-study route and simply watch the videos and read the lecture notes at your leisure.
- Computer Science 101
If you’re a relative newcomer to computer jargon and concepts, you might want to start with this introductory class from Stanford. The course starts out with discussing how computers work and goes all the way through computer networking and security concepts.
- Internet History, Technology and Security
This is another good beginner-level class from the University of Michigan, covering the early days of computing and the Internet, from the 1940s to today. It will also introduce some very basic networking concepts so you can get a good idea of what makes the Internet go.
- Introduction to Databases
There would be no Internet as we now know it without databases. These are what power websites, banks, video games, not to mention storing information for offices and businesses all over the world. And gaining access to databases is the goal of many information security breaches. This Stanford class will help you understand the structure of databases.
- Introduction to Computer Networks (Stanford) or Introduction to Computer Networks (University of Washington)
Once you have a solid grounding in the workings of individual machines and data storage, you could get more in-depth with networking concepts. This is important background for security concepts, as much of what troubles the Internet involves transporting information from one machine to another. These Stanford and University of Washington classes will get you into the nitty-gritty of the many different ways machines communicate.
- Applied Cryptography (University of Virginia) or Cryptography 1 (Stanford)
Once you’ve got a thorough understanding of how data is stored and transferred, you’ll want to know how to protect it. These two classes by the University of Virginia and Stanford will tell you about cryptography and how to apply this information to protecting data.
Once you’ve gotten this far, you’re ready to get really specific. Malicious Software and Its Underground Economy? Securing Digital Democracy? There are a ton of different classes out there, with more appearing all the time. Here are a couple good sites for keeping up with what class options are out there:
What online courses would you like to see on computer security subjects? Have you ever taken a free online college security course? What was your experience like?