Computer security and networks courses examine how to create secure computing hardware and software data systems, for example through managing access to the network and stopping threats from entering or spreading through it. While information technology or IT security is a broad topic covering the protection of data in any form, whether online or on paper, computer security and networks courses look at cybersecurity - a subset of IT security focused exclusively on the security of electronic data systems.
As more and more of our sensitive personal and business data is stored on the internet, cybercrime has become an everyday threat that no one can afford to ignore. Computer network security specialists help companies and consumers with prevention of data theft, credit card information breaches and other financial fraud, and loss of identity including social security numbers or other PII (personally identifiable information).
Cybersecurty careers usually begin with basic computer programming skills, which help to understand potential system vulnerabilities as well as develop countermeasures and contingency plans. Key programming languages to understand include C, C++, PHP, Perl, Java, and Shell.
More specialized skills to acquire include intrusion detection and malware analysis. Intrusion detection skills require developing and/or deploying software that stays a step ahead of hackers trying to steal data via increasingly sophisticated techniques like trojan horses, rootkits, and backdoor codes. When malware is detected in the system, malware analysis is the process of determining its functionality, origin and potential impact.
Cybersecurity specialists are highly sought after IT professionals, since they possess skills critical for protecting businesses and their customers online. Examples of high-demand computer security and networks jobs found at many companies are security administrator, software security engineer, information security officer, information security analyst, and risk analyst, along with more specialized jobs like cryptographer and penetration tester. Some roles may be associated with specific certifications, like certified information security manager or certified information security systems professionals.
You can also study cybersecurity topics as part of online Master's in Computer Science (MSc) degrees from top-ranked schools like Arizona State University and the University of Illinois. Best of all, all of these online courses and degree programs can be completed at an affordable price, on a flexible schedule, and from wherever you are in the world.
In addition to courses, Coursera offers short Guided Projects to help you practice and hone your skills.