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10 Best cybersecurity courses online for 2021

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Few career tracks have the kind of job security and growth potential as cybersecurity. Digital data isn’t going anywhere, and high-profile cyber crimes have brought enterprises like Target, Equifax, and Home Depot to their knees. It gets even more dire in the small-business sector—60% of small businesses fold within six months of falling victim to data theft.

A good cybersecurity professional is close to unfireable and has next to no salary ceiling. So how does one become a good cybersecurity professional? Certification and degree programs are available from tech schools or major universities, while companies like Google and IBM offer training courses specific to their technology.

One certificate or degree isn’t enough, though. Cybersecurity is an arms race with cybercriminals. Whatever technique works to protect data today, cybercriminals are working to find a way to breach it. They could succeed next year; they could succeed tomorrow.

It behooves cybersecurity experts to constantly upgrade their skills and stay current on industry developments and best practices. A cybersecurity professional who hasn’t trained in a few years is perilously out of date on his/her understanding of current threats.

Fortunately, an entire cybersecurity education, certification, or degree program can be absorbed online, often at affordable prices, with certificates and degrees issued by reputable and even prestigious institutions. Aspiring cybersecurity professionals can acquire basic competency, while seasoned pros can advance their education, all from the comfort of home or anywhere in the world with an internet connection.

Here are our picks for the ten best online cybersecurity courses of 2021:

1. StationX VIP Membership

station X cybersecurity school logo

Price: $1119/year

Difficulty: All Levels—Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced.

Time commitment: Ongoing

Description: As an emerging field, cybersecurity does not have a well-beaten educational track as does engineering or medicine. As such, non-accredited schools rub elbows with the Harvards and MITs of the world, claiming to offer credible education for a discount price.

StationX is one man’s for-profit enterprise—but UK-based cybersecurity veteran Nathan House delivers the goods. StationX makes an effective pitch for being the last educational tool you will ever need. All at a steal of a price in the form of an annual membership that affords you access to a massive course library.

No accredited university or trade school, StationX offers no certificate or degree in and of itself, but House and his team of pro lecturers offer material and practice tests targeted at preparing students to earn in-demand certifications from CompTIA, Cisco, GIAC, and more.

With new material constantly coming out and scores of satisfied students, the value of the StationX VIP membership is hard to deny.

What users could learn about:

  • Networking
  • Ethical Hacking And Penetration Testing
  • Information And Cyber Security
  • Linux
  • Digital Forensic And Incident Response
  • Blue Team And SOC
  • Coding And DevSecOps
  • IT Basics
  • Microsoft
  • Cloud
  • Privacy
  • Miscellaneous

Course modules: Numerous

Pros:

  • Unlimited access to the course library for a low annual fee.
  • Preparation and practice tests for in-demand certifications.

Cons:

  • Non-accredited, for-profit school.
  • No certificate issued directly.

Do you get a certificate? No, but training modules prepare you for:

  • CompTIA IT Fundamentals
  • CompTIA A+
  • CompTIA Network+
  • CompTIA Security+
  • CompTIA CySA+ Cyber Security Analyst
  • CompTIA Cloud+
  • CompTIA Pentest+
  • Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)
  • Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH)
  • Offensive Security Certified Professional (OSCP)
  • Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA)
  • Certified Information Security Manager (CISM)
  • Cisco's CCNA
  • Cisco's CCNP (200-301)
  • GIAC Security Essentials Certification (GSEC)
  • GIAC Information Security Fundamentals (GISF)
  • GIAC Web Application Penetration Tester (GWAPT)

2. Introduction to Cyber Security Specialization

Price: $39-$79/month

Difficulty: Beginner, some familiarity with IT management and concepts.

Time commitment: 64 hours

Description: Coursera Specializations are a class of online courses calibrated to train students in a new skill, complete with a hands-on applied learning component to take the subject matter out of the lecture hall and into the realm of relevant practice. The Coursera Specialization on Introduction to Cyber Security comes with the weight of NYU behind it, taught by Dr. Edward G. Amoroso, Professor of Computer Science and CEO of TAG Cyber LLC.

Dr. Amoroso walks students through the basics of cybersecurity, including identification, authentication, and security through obscurity. The learn-at-your-own-pace course, calibrated for four months at four hours per week, is current and lays a firm foundation for cybersecurity beginners, focusing on foundational principles rather than rote memorization.

What users could learn about:

  • Cryptography
  • Cybersecurity
  • Risk assessment
  • Cyber defense
  • Various cyberattacks
  • Information security (INFOSEC)

Course modules:

  • Introduction to Cyber Attacks
  • Cyber Attack Countermeasures
  • Real-Time Cyber Threat Detection and Mitigation
  • Enterprise and Infrastructure Security

Pros:

  • Hands-on applied learning.
  • Learn at your own pace.
  • NYU accredited.

Cons:

  • Further certifications may be required to be employable.

Do You Get a Certificate? Yes


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3. Essentials of Cybersecurity

Price: $716.40

Difficulty: Beginner

Time commitment: 48-120 hours

Description: This online course, offered by the University of Washington through the edX program, unpacks the role of the Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) under various circumstances.

Instructors Barbara Endicott-Popovsky and David Aucsmith address the fact that cybersecurity isn’t a unified field with a one-size-fits-all approach. Savvy students of cybersecurity actually have a lot of leeway in charting their own career path.

To arrive at the most lucrative and fulfilling career, it helps to begin with the end in mind. Endicott-Popovsy and Aucsmith chart out several possible endpoints and the steps to get there, along the way describing the cybersecurity toolkit. This course is an excellent jumping-off point to help students decide what the next steps of their cybersecurity education should be.

What users could learn about:

  • The vast array of roles and sectors within the Cybersecurity industry.
  • The relationship between management and technology in cybersecurity protection.
  • Appropriate types of security controls to the actions of different and evolving threat actors.
  • Terminology and basic concepts of cybersecurity.
  • Assessing own knowledge, skill, and abilities toward identifying a career path in cybersecurity.

Course modules:

  • Introduction to Cybersecurity
  • Cybersecurity: The CISO’s View
  • Building a Cybersecurity Toolkit
  • Finding your Cybersecurity Career Path

Pros:

  • Practical course for planning a cybersecurity career.
  • University of Washington accredited course.

Cons:

  • Price.
  • May need more certifications to become employable.

Do you get a certificate? Yes.

  • Professional Certificate in Essentials of Cybersecurity

4. Cybersecurity Specialization

Price: Free

Difficulty: Intermediate

Time commitment: 64 hours

Description: For students who have mastered the basics of cybersecurity and want to step up their game, the University of Maryland offers this free intermediate specialization course to deepen their understanding of some of the most relevant cybersecurity methodologies.

The course is taught by Professor Michael Hicks, Professor and Director of the Maryland Cybersecurity Center Jonathan Katz, and Associate Professor Gang Qu, alongside Jennifer Golbeck, Director of the Human-Computer Interaction Lab.

Human-computer interaction forms a key thrust of the course, along with cryptography and the methods of building secure hardware and software systems. An affordable way that current cybersecurity pros can enhance their value offerings, or for aspiring cybersecurity pros to burnish their core competencies.

What users could learn:

  • Software Testing
  • Cryptography
  • Usability
  • Penetration Test
  • Cybersecurity
  • Privacy
  • User Interface
  • Fuzz Testing
  • Buffer Overflow
  • Sql Injection
  • Number Theory
  • Public-Key Cryptography

Course modules:

  • Usable Security
  • Software Security
  • Cryptography
  • Hardware Security
  • Cybersecurity Capstone Project

Pros:

  • Intermediate survey
  • Free course

Cons:

  • May require other certifications to become employable.

Do You Get a Certificate? Yes.

5. Applied Cryptography Specialization

Price: Free

Difficulty: Intermediate

Time Commitment: 40 hours

Description: Cryptography—the scrambling of data into codes that can be decrypted with the authorized encryption key—plays an important role in cybersecurity at all levels. A specialization in cryptography—including its history and current state of evolution—will probably never fall out of demand as encryption technology gets more and more sophisticated, the cybercriminals along with it.

This Coursera Specialization offered by the University of Colorado provides 40 free hours of cryptography instruction for intermediate cybersecurity students, digging into symmetric encryption, asymmetric encryption, hash functions, digital signatures, key management, information theory, and more.

Instructor Sang-Yoon Chang builds a coherent foundation in cryptography, students to build the logic and pseudo-codes for the most common cryptographic algorithms and primitives.

What users could learn about:

  • Cryptography
  • Entropy (Information Theory)

Course modules:

  • Cryptography and Information Theory
  • Symmetric Cryptography
  • Asymmetric Cryptography and Key Management
  • Cryptographic Hash and Integrity Protection

Pros:

  • Free course.
  • In-demand specialization.
  • Applied, hands-on learning.

Cons:

  • May require other certifications to be employable.

Do You Get a Certificate? Yes.

6. Cybersecurity for Critical Urban Infrastructure

Price: Free. Add a Verified Certificate for $100.

Difficulty: Advanced

Time Commitment: 20 hours

Description: To remain effective and employable, cybersecurity professionals must stay on the cutting edge of current threats that apply to the most critical systems. Systems don’t get more critical than urban infrastructure. Energy, transportation, emergency services, waste management, communications… a successful cyber attack on one of these systems could cause significant chaos, suffering, and loss of wealth.

Offered by the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology through their MITx online learning program, this advanced course is taught by none other than Harvard Law luminary Dr. Lawrence Susskind, in collaboration with researchers Gregory Falco, Jungwoo Chun, and Daniel Weitzner. Together, this team unpacks current cyber threats to urban infrastructure in exacting detail.

Who are the hackers who target these systems, and how do they approach such an audacious caper? What can cities do to counteract social engineering? What can we learn from past attacks? What should cities do if they have been attacked? What are the minimum countermeasures needed in today’s urban infrastructure environment?

Dr. Susskind and his team dig into all of these meaty questions in this tour-de-force piece of continuing education.

What users could learn about:

  • Scale, scope, and impact of current cyberattacks
  • How to prepare a vulnerability assessment
  • Rules of confidentiality

Course modules:

  • Cybersecurity for Critical Urban Infrastructure

Pros:

  • Free course.
  • Prestigious institution.
  • Acclaimed teacher.
  • Relevant and up-to-date.

Cons:

  • While the course is free, the certificate itself costs $100.

Do You Get a Certificate? Yes

7. Cybrary Introduction to IT and Cybersecurity

Price: Free

Difficulty: Beginner

Time commitment: 4 hours and 51 mins

Description: For complete beginners on a limited budget, Cybrary offers this roughly five-hour online course on the basics, completely free. It’s not a deep dive, but for students just dipping their toes into the idea of a cybersecurity career, this could be the perfect, most affordable way to decide whether it’s worth investing more time and money into a more complete education.

Taught by Senior Instructor Joe Perry (presumably no relation to the Aerosmith guitarist) and Master Instructor Ken Underhill, Cybrary’s Introduction to IT and Cybersecurity course touches on key concepts like system administration, network engineering, incident forensics, and penetration testing.

What users could learn about:

  • Verticals
  • Cybersecurity
  • Data Science
  • IT
  • Cloud
  • DevSecOps
  • Skillset

Course modules:

  • Introduction
  • System Administration
  • Network Engineering
  • Incident Response and Forensics
  • Offensive Security and Penetration Testing
  • Summary and Overview
  • Course Assessment

Pros:

  • Free
  • Approachable introduction to basic concepts

Cons:

  • Not a deep dive.
  • May require more certifications to become employable.

Do You Get a Certificate? Yes. IT & Cybersecurity Certificate of Completion

8. Harvard Cybersecurity: Managing Risk in the Information Age

Price: $2,800

Difficulty: Intermediate

Time Commitment: 88 hours

Description: Want to add the ivy laurels of Harvard to your cybersecurity credentials? You will pay Harvard prices, but the Office of the Vice Provost for Advances in Learning at America’s oldest and most prestigious university offers this eight-week “short course” for qualifying students with three grand to burn.

For their investment, students get 88 hours of online instruction from Eric Rosenbach, co-director of the Belfer Centre for Science and International Affairs at Harvard Kennedy School. “Harvard-educated cybersecurity specialist” definitely has a nice ring to it, but this certificate isn’t just for looks.

Rosenbach, a former US Army intelligence officer, burnishes this course with heady but relevant discussion about cybersecurity in the context of business risk. This is a refreshingly down-to-earth approach compared to framing it as Orcs vs. Humans in a battle for the One Ring. Rosenbach also touches on accountability and legal aspects of cyber risk.

Aspiring cybersecurity executives and specialists will find this course to be a relevant, up-to-date exploration of cyber threats that lead to actionable approaches—what cybersecurity threats apply to the business system in front of you, and what is the best defense? Plus, the certificate says “Harvard.”

What users could learn about:

  • Cybersecurity as a function of business risk
  • Business systems and the right approach to cybersecurity
  • Accountability and legal ramifications of cyber risk
  • Cybersecurity mitigation strategies

Course modules:

  • Cybersecurity Risk Is Business Risk
  • Identifying The Threats To An Organization
  • Identifying Important Business Systems And Assets
  • The Crucial Role Of Leadership In Managing Cyber Risk
  • Understanding Your Technology
  • Cyber Risk And The Law
  • Incident Response And Accountability
  • Designing And Implementing A Mitigation Strategy

Pros:

  • Ivy league prestige.
  • Actionable, relevant business theory approach.

Cons:

  • High cost.

Do You Get a Certificate? Yes. A premier certificate from Harvard University’s Office of the Vice Provost for Advances in Learning

9. Introduction to Cybersecurity Tools & Cyber Attacks

Price: Free

Difficulty: Beginner

Time Commitment: 20 hours

Description: For newcomers interested in an IBM cybersecurity certification, IBM offers a dedicated 20-hour introductory course for free. Successful students can qualify for an IBM digital badge, having learned the skills needed to become employable as an IBM Junior Cybersecurity Analyst.

Additionally, IBM has partnered with MyInnerGenius to offer successful students boutique career placement services. Once the course is completed, students can use MyInnerGenius to find leads on promising open roles that fit their new skillset.

Taught by the staff at IBM Security Learning Services, the coursework also counts towards other certifications, including the IBM Cybersecurity Analyst Professional Certificate and the Coursera IT Fundamentals for Cybersecurity Specialization.

What users could learn:

  • Information Security (INFOSEC)
  • IBM New Collar
  • Malware
  • Cybersecurity
  • Cyber Attacks

Course modules:

  • History of Cybersecurity
  • A brief overview of types of actors and their motives
  • An overview of key security concepts
  • An overview of key security tools

Pros:

  • Eligible for IBM digital badge
  • Qualifies student for Junior Cybersecurity Analyst Role
  • Career placement services from MyInnerGenius
  • Free course
  • Course hours apply to other certifications

Cons:

  • Students may not qualify for other roles

Do You Get a Certificate? Yes

10. IT Security: Defense Against The Digital Dark Arts

Price: Free. Financial Aid Available

Difficulty: Beginner

Time commitment: 29 hours

Description: We love the Harry Potter reference, but the clever name isn’t the only thing to love about Google’s introduction to the cybersecurity methodologies most relevant to the Cloud-computing giant.

Google breaks down digital security into the “Three A’s”—authentication, authorization, and accounting. The course also touches on basic encryption, risk assessment, and best practices for network security. It also covers the all-important, oft-overlooked art of explaining cybersecurity—and its importance—to people who don’t have your tech savvy or understanding of what is at stake.

All of this is presented with Google’s characteristic cheek and humor—for example, encrypting the title of the “Cryptology” module.

What users could learn:

  • Cryptography
  • Authentication
  • Authorization
  • Accounting
  • Risk Assessment
  • Network Security
  • Company Culture of Security

Course modules:

  • Understanding Security Threats
  • Pelcgbybtl (Cryptology)
  • AAA Security (Not Roadside Assistance)
  • Securing Your Networks
  • Defense in Depth
  • Creating a Company Culture for Security

Pros:

  • Free course
  • Applicable to Google careers
  • Sense of humor

Cons:

  • May require more certifications to become employable at other companies.

Do You Get a Certificate? Yes

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Comments
Robert Demoss
Robert Demoss
prefix 1 month ago
No, the pricing stated is correct. You may see it for yourself by clicking the hyperlink. It's true that they're that pricey.
Lukasz
Lukasz
prefix 7 months ago
You have an error uder StationX VIP membership, it’s not $1119 but $119 or so
CyberNews Team
CyberNews Team
prefix 7 months ago
No, the mentioned price is correct. You can click the hyperlink, and you’ll see it for yourself. They really are that expensive.
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