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Cyber security

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While internet-connected digital systems make our lives easier, they bring challenges, including security. This module covers four key knowledge areas prescribed by the Cyber Security Body of Knowledge (CyBOK), including systems and infrastructure security, attacks and defences, and human aspects of cyber security. In addition, the module introduces concepts of digital forensics. Essential topics include cryptography, operating systems security, application security, and incidence management. You'll develop knowledge and understanding of the principles, methods and tools relevant to the technical and human factors of cyber security.

What you will study

The module has five blocks: 

Block 1: Concepts of cyber security
As well as serving as an introduction to the module, this block covers areas of risks, threats and vulnerabilities. This includes threats, threat landscape and attack vectors. In addition, the block covers aspects of human factors in security, including social engineering and security usability.

Block 2: Systems security
The focus of this block is concepts of systems security, covering operating systems security, cryptographic methods, and attacks. It also covers concepts of systems hardening and defence methods. It extends operating systems and cryptography discussion from earlier modules, and introduces advanced aspects of the topics.

Block 3: Infrastructure, host and application security
This block is concerned with physical and infrastructure security measures to defend against attacks and threats. It discusses defence mechanisms, host and application security, as well as the importance of considering human factors when securing networks and applications. The block also addresses aspects of mobile and cloud security.

Block 4: Security operations and incident management
This block is concerned with day-to-day security. Plus, responding to incidents, including ensuring business continuity and resilience issues.

Block 5: Fundamentals of digital forensics
This block introduces digital forensic concepts and practices in the context of the UK legal framework. It’s a high-level overview of topics, including the investigation process, data collection and analysis.

You will learn

This module will enable you to:

  • demonstrate techniques and processes involved in assessment of security infrastructure and related hardware and software controls
  • demonstrate an understanding of the theory and practice of systems security that includes identifying associated threats, controls and policies
  • describe the governing principles of cyber operations, incident response and management
  • discuss the role of digital forensics within the larger discipline of forensic science and the appropriate use of scientific methods, including the legal requirements.

Entry requirements

You must have passed or started studying the following module:

Talk to an advisor if you’re not sure you’re ready.

TM256 begins in February. If you’re still studying TM129 (i.e. you started last October), you can register on TM256 before you finish, and partially overlap studying the two modules.

Preparatory work

Suggested previous study to revise includes:

  • Networking block from TM129
  • Operating Systems block from TM129
  • weeks 14–20 content from TM112
  • Block 3: Network technologies from TM111.

What's included

You’ll have access to a module website, which includes:

  • a week-by-week study planner
  • course-specific module materials
  • audio and video content
  • assignment details and submission section
  • online tutorial access.

You will need

Throughout your module studies, you’ll get help and support from your assigned module tutor. They’ll help you by:

  • Marking your assignments (TMAs) and providing detailed feedback for you to improve.
  • Guiding you to additional learning resources.
  • Providing individual guidance, whether that’s for general study skills or specific module content.
  • Facilitating online discussions between your fellow students, in the dedicated module and tutor group forums.

Module tutors also run online tutorials throughout the module. Where possible, recordings of online tutorials will be made available to students. While these tutorials won’t be compulsory for you to complete the module, you’re strongly encouraged to take part.

Computing requirements

You’ll need broadband internet access and a desktop or laptop computer with an up-to-date version of Windows (10 or 11) or macOS Ventura or higher.

Any additional software will be provided or is generally freely available.

To join in spoken conversations in tutorials, we recommend a wired headset (headphones/earphones with a built-in microphone).

Our module websites comply with web standards, and any modern browser is suitable for most activities.

Our OU Study mobile app will operate on all current, supported versions of Android and iOS. It’s not available on Kindle.

It’s also possible to access some module materials on a mobile phone, tablet device or Chromebook. However, as you may be asked to install additional software or use certain applications, you’ll also require a desktop or laptop, as described above.

Teaching and assessment


The assessment details for this module can be found in the facts box.

If you have a disability

The OU strives to make all aspects of study accessible to everyone and this Accessibility Statement outlines what studying TM256 involves. You should use this information to inform your study preparations and any discussions with us about how we can meet your needs.

Future availability

Cyber security (TM256) starts once a year – in February.

This page describes the module that will start in February 2025.

We expect it to start for the last time in February 2027.

Course work includes:

3 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)