Hackers manage again and again to steal passwords, to access sensitive enterprise and user data, and, in the worst case scenario, to even paralyze entire companies. The Internet offers various possibilities to its users, but, at the same time, it harbors dangers and vulnerable points of attack, which many people are not even aware of. In this openHPI course you will learn the basics of Internet security. Why is the Internet insecure by nature of its design? What are the weak spots of the Internet and how are they exploited by cybercriminals? We want to answer these questions and a lot more in this course. Additionally, we will advise you on how to protect yourself from such cyberattacks.

Self-paced since April 27, 2018
Language: English
Beginner, Cybersecurity, Internet

Course information

Since the late sixties, American researchers have not only been able to use computers as standalone calculating machines but to connect them to a broad network. This was the start of the Internet which, in the meantime, connects nearly four billion people and around 23 billion devices, (e.g., computers, smartphones and sensors). The network of networks has therefore also become an attractive target for criminals. Around four million attacks are registered every day, (i.e., 50 per second). Although the economic damage around the globe is huge - and we are talking about US$400 billion a year - only a small amount of resources is spent on Internet security.

Protection from Internet risks requires more action worldwide: from businesses, institutions, public authorities, and every one of us. In this 6-week free course in English, we offer practical support to face this challenging task. With no prior knowledge required, participants can find out what methods hackers use to break into computers and networks. Learn how cybercriminals manage to steal passwords and how you can protect yourself from such cyberattacks.

The workload of this course is equivalent to 2 ECTS credits.

Course characteristics:

  • Language: English
  • Starting from: February 26, 2018
  • Course end: April 9, 2018
  • Duration: 6 weeks (3-6 hours per week)
  • Target group: Anyone who uses the Internet
  • Course requirements: none

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Use the hashtag #intsec2018 to join and contribute to social media conversations about this course.
Additional video lecturing material can be found at www.tele-task.de .

Course contents

  • Week 1:

    We will explain the basic terms vulnerability, attack, and incident in the first week. Furthermore, we will elaborate on attackers, their motives and their origins.
  • Week 2:

    In week 2, we will explain the idea and the concept of digital Identities and passwords. We will discuss the digital footprint, the feasibility to (easily) crack passwords and guidelines to chose a secure password.
  • Week 3:

    In this week we will discuss several issues about malware. We will cover different types, such as, viruses, worms, and trojans, talk about botnets and mention some countermeasures.
  • Week 4:

    In week 4, we will talk about dangers and risks that arise through the usage of open routes in the Internet. Therefore, we will discuss how attacks can capture messages and eavesdrop or even manipulate and compromise connections. Furthermore, some security mechanisms for those open communication channels, such as firewalls and encryption are illustrated.
  • Week 5:

    In the 5th week, we will take a closer look at the general topic encryption. Therefore, we explain different cryptographic algorithms and how they can be used for various purposes.
  • Week 6:

    In this week we will talk about several topics related to data privacy and private sphere in the digital world. Starting at the Internet as one big eco-system we will also cover privacy in the context of smartphones and wearables, the Internet-of-things or cloud computing, for example.
  • Final Exam:

    Show what you have learned during the course by taking the final exam and qualify for a certificate.
  • I like, I wish:

    Here you can give us feedback for the course and propose changes.

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The course is free. Just register for an account on openHPI and take the course!
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Course End
Apr 27, 2018
Course Start
Feb 26, 2018


This course was rated with 4.09 stars in average from 56 votes.

Certificate Requirements

  • Gain a Record of Achievement by earning at least 50% of the maximum number of points from all graded assignments.
  • Gain a Confirmation of Participation by completing at least 50% of the course material.

Find out more in the certificate guidelines.

This course is offered by

Prof. Dr. Christoph Meinel

Christoph Meinel (Univ. Prof., Dr. sc. nat., Dr. rer. nat., *1954) is CEO and Director of the Hasso Plattner Institute for Digital Engineering gGmbH (HPI) at the University of Potsdam.

Christoph Meinel is full professor (C4) for computer science at the HPI at the University of Potsdam, and holds there the chair of Internet Technologies and Systems. He was the founding dean of the first private faculty of Germany, the Digital Engineering faculty of the university of Potsdam.

He teaches courses on IT Systems Engineering in the Bachelor and Master Degree programs on digital engineering of the HPI and on design thinking at the HPI D-School. He is the author of various interactive online courses at the MOOC platform openHPI.de which was and is developed and operated by his team. His research focus is currently on knowledge and educational technologies, security engineering, and AI. He is also active in innovation research and design thinking. Earlier scientific work concentrated on efficient algorithms and complexity theory.

Christoph Meinel is author or co-author of 19 books, many anthologies, as well as numerous conference proceedings. He has more than 700 (peer-reviewed) papers published in scientific journals and international conferences, and holds a number of international patents. He has supervised and supervises many master and doctoral students, more than 70 have already successfully defended their doctoral theses.
He is a member of the National German Academy of Science and Engineering (acatech), director of the HPI-Stanford Design Thinking Research Program, member of the board of governors of the Technion in Haifa, visiting professor among others at the TU Beijing, and member of numerous scientific committees and supervisory boards. Together with Larry Leifer he was program director of the HPI Stanford Design Thinking Program and serious editor of the Springer serious “Understanding Innovation”. Since 2012 Christoph Meinel has developed the MOOC platform openHPI which is meanwhile used by various partners (SAP, WHO, KI-Campus, …) and counts more than 15 Mio. learner enrollments. In the years 2016-2021 he has developed the HPI Schul-Cloud which meanwhile is used in more than 4.000 schools all over Germany. For many years he offers the HPI ID Leak Checker service which is frequently used by 16 Mio. users. He was the founder of the scientific journal ECCC and in the years 1994-2016 its editor-in-chief.