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Learn to Think Strategically About Cybersecurity: New MOOC Covers Risk Management and Policy Implications

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Recent ransomware attacks that shut down major pipelines, meat processing plants, and other important industries demonstrate the strategic impacts cyber events can have across critical systems. Policy makers, industry officials, and consumers need to understand risks and take precautions, but that is hard to do without a framework for thinking strategically about how to spend limited resources.

Now, anyone who wants to learn the basics of cybersecurity from a popular UMD professor and former practitioner at the National Security Agency can enroll for free in Cybersecurity for Everyone through the online learning platform Coursera. This self-paced course will be taught by Charles Harry, an Associate Research Professor in the Public Policy and Information Schools, and the Director of Operations at Maryland Global Initiative for Cybersecurity.

The course lays the groundwork to understand key issues facing policy makers and organizational leaders attempting to manage problems of cybersecurity in a complex, rapidly changing threat environment. It covers technical foundations; as well as domestic and international policy considerations surrounding governance, privacy, and risk management; and  real-world applications to the cybersecurity needs of an enterprise, an institution, or a nation.

It is designed for students with some or no background in information technology. Engineers and computer scientists will learn the broader context and business aspects of cybersecurity, while students with less technical knowledge will also gain a basic understanding of the structure of global telecommunications, the process of hacking, the motives and types of threat actors, and the broad set of impacts hackers can achieve.

This is the first in a planned series of three courses focusing on the strategic problems posed by cyber attacks for organizational leaders and policy makers. The second course will explore how various threat actors can use different types of tactics to steal information and disrupt operations of the many types of IT systems that public and private organizations use for different purposes. The third course will focus on the use of cyber operations by nation states, and the challenges for devising rules of conduct that support strategic stability.

“These courses put technical threats into a strategic context so students can learn to manage risks and develop resilience for the technical foundations supporting modern societies. They provide a framework that organizational leaders can policymakers can use to differentiate between cyber threats that are meddlesome to individual organizations, but best handled by private enterprise, from those that pose the greatest threat to society, and thus are a public policy problem,” says Dr. Harry.

This series differs from other on-line cyber courses through its an effects-centric framework for cyber risk assessment developed at the Center for International and Security Studies at the University of Maryland (CISSM) to help organizational leaders, chief information officers, and policy makers think strategically about how to allocate scarce resources based on the type of organization they’re protecting, the types of cyber threats it faces, and the consequences of difference cyber events for the organization and its affiliates. It also leverages a unique open-source data set that currently contains information about 7,400 events of all types that have occurred since 2014.

The online course review site Class Central ranked “Cybersecurity for Everyone”  as the most popular new free online university course across multiple platforms. Even before it went live on the Coursera platform on July 5, 2021, over 2000 students from around the world had signed up, marking an excellent start for a unique take on the cyber security challenge

“Cybersecurity for Everyone” is designed with six sessions that students can start and complete on their own schedule. They have the option of purchasing the course and receiving a certificate upon completion or auditing the course for free.

Click here to learn more and enroll in the course.


For Media Inquiries:
Nancy W. Gallagher
Director, CISSM
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