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University College for Interdisciplinary Learning

Trust and Security in a Digital World: From Fake News to Cybercriminals

Course Unit Code

UCIL20132 (10 credits)

UCIL20182 (20 Credits)

Course Unit Details

This unit has been designed specifically for online learning and offers a unique interactive experience.


  • Level 2
  • Schools of Social Sciences and Department of Computer Science


Rapid advances in technology and connectivity have led to new opportunities in every aspect of life, from manufacturing, finance and retail, to education, media, and politics. Digital technologies and services profoundly influence our lives and improve our world in countless ways.

But these advances also raise challenges. What do our digital footprints reveal, and who is trying to exploit them? How do new technologies offer new opportunities for cybercriminals to steal our data, our money, and our identities, lock us out of our homes, poison our water, and switch off our lights? How does the use of digital media change the nature of democracy and affect trust in democratic systems and established authorities? And what technical, behavioural and legal measures are available to prevent harm and maintain trust in digital systems?

This unit explores the risks to security in our super-connected, data-driven world and what can be done to preserve trust in our digital environment.

The unit is delivered online via Blackboard and includes contributions from leading researchers, both from Manchester and external to the University. It is available as both a 10 and a 20 credit option.


This unit addresses social, psychological, legal and technical aspects of threats to security in digital contexts, and the impact on trust. The unit will enable you to understand the nature of digital harms, from online crimes to the malicious manipulation of information to influence behaviours and attitudes - transcending the digital boundaries to effect physical and psychological attacks. We will explore the different ways in which those harms can be reduced or prevented so that you can make well-informed choices about countering security threats in personal, societal and business contexts.

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of the unit you will be able to:

  • Describe the range and nature of threats to security and trust in digital contexts, and the personal, societal, economic and political impacts of these threats
  • Understand the ways in which threats and harm can be managed through technical and non-technical means, in the workplace and at home
  • Analyse the nature, scope and severity of different threats and harms in digital contexts
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of different approaches to mitigation, at individual, organisational and societal level
  • Identify the skills and knowledge required by professionals working in the industry
  • Take practical steps to identify and counter cyber threats in your personal life and future career
  • Prepare well-researched written presentations
  • Engage in constructive debate, developing and defending your own arguments while recognising the views of others


All students take eight core modules. 10 Credit students take two additional optional modules, and 20 Credit students take five additional optional modules.

Core modules

  • Our hyperconnected world
  • Core issues in cybersecurity
  • Financial Crime and Digital systems
  • Organised crime, cryptomarkets and the dark web
  • The surveillance society?
  • 'Fake News': Conspiracy theories, misinformation and disinformation in the digital world
  • Keeping a digital system safe
  • Responding to a threat scenario

Optional Modules

  • Online child exploitation and abuse
  • CSI Cyber - Investigating cybercrime
  • Digital security and trust in democratic institutions
  • Online harassment
  • Security for humans
  • Protecting data


10 Credits

1. Ongoing end of Module Assessment (30%)

a. 6 x core module assessed discussions (15%)

b. Core Module 08 Case study reflective task (10%)

c. 2 x Optional Module Assessments (Short answer or multiple choice tests) (5%)

2. 1000 word x Written Assessment Task 01 (35%)

3. 1000 word x Written Assessment Task 02 (35%)

20 Credits

1. Ongoing, end of module assessments (30%)

a. 6 x core module assessed discussions (15%)

b. Core Module 08 Case study reflective task (5%)

c. 5 x Optional Module Assessments (Short answer or multiple choice tests) (10%)

2. 2 x short written assignments (35%)

3. Extended written assignment (35%)


UCIL units are designed to be accessible to undergraduate students from all disciplines.

UCIL units are credit-bearing and it is not possible to audit UCIL units or take them for additional/extra credits. You must enrol following the standard procedure for your School when adding units outside of your home School.

If you are not sure if you are able to enrol on UCIL units you should contact your School Undergraduate office. You may wish to contact your programme director if your programme does not currently allow you to take a UCIL unit.

You can also contact the UCIL office if you have any questions.

Teaching Staff

Emma Barrett, Daniel Dresner, David Buil-Gil, Nicholas Lord (with contributions from experts from The University of Manchester and beyond)

Teaching and Learning Methods

The unit includes contributions from leading researchers located in Manchester and around the world.

The unit is delivered entirely via Blackboard, and everything you need to pass each module is included in the module content. Further study suggestions are included for students who wish to explore the topics in more detail.

As well as module text, there are case studies, interactive exercises, videos, games and other activities to help extend and consolidate your learning.

Unit leaders and teaching assistants are on hand throughout the course to answer any questions you have.

10 credit students complete 10 modules ( 8 core plus 2 optional)

20 credit students complete 13 modules (8 core plus 5 optional)

Modules are released at intervals throughout the semester. Core module assessed discussions must be completed weekly, but you can work through the optional modules at your own pace, as long as all optional module assessments are complete by the deadline (usually Week 11).


Material and tasks released at intervals but, because the unit is studied online, it is free of timetable constraints.
Cybersecurity is something that affects us all. In today's digital world, ignorance is not bliss. Anyone, regardless of profession, who uses the internet should develop an awareness of potential harms and methods to protect ourselves. This UCIL unit does just that in a well-structured, easily digestible and engaging manner.Chu Poh, Business Studies & Economics

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