Professional development

How to build hands-on cybersecurity skills on a budget

Christine McKenzie
May 27, 2020 by
Christine McKenzie


Cybersecurity is a constantly changing field, so a passion for lifelong learning is a must for infosec professionals. Staying ahead of the bad guys means keeping up with the changing threat landscape and the tools necessary to stop malicious actors in their tracks. 

Fortunately, there are a ton of affordable cybersecurity training resources for you to choose from. From free classes by Ivy League universities to down-to-earth podcasts by infosec’s greatest minds, you have a wealth of resources right at your fingertips.

What should you learn next?

What should you learn next?

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We put together a list of websites and resources you can use to build cybersecurity skills on a budget. Take a look! 

Online classes/MOOCS

MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) are a popular alternative to traditional college classes because they’re cheaper and more flexible. Most MOOCs are free, but some charge a small fee if you want to earn a verified credential to show your employer. Some of the biggest players in the education world are offering cybersecurity coursework, including Harvard, MIT and UC Berkeley. 

MOOCs are a great option for both cybersecurity newcomers and mid-career pros looking to enhance their skills. Since MOOCs don’t require prerequisites of any kind, you can jump right into coursework you need to advance your cybersecurity career. 

Check out these platforms to see their course offerings for information security: 

  • Open University
  • Future Learn
  • MIT OpenCourseWare
  • EdX

Professional groups 

Professional groups are a great, affordable way to deepen your knowledge of information security as well as network with pros in your field. There are a ton of cybersecurity professional groups to choose from depending on what you’re looking to get out of your membership. You’ll find that some groups focus on specific niches within cybersecurity, like penetration testing or incident response, while others have a more broad-reaching focus. 

Here are a few popular groups for information security pros: 

  • Executive Women’s Forum
  • (ISC)2 
  • Cyberjutsu 

And there are lots more to choose from. You can check out a more extensive list of cybersecurity associations put together by CyberCrime Magazine here


Conferences are big events where the brightest minds in cybersecurity get together to network, present and workshop. Cybersecurity conferences take place all over the country, so the best way to make your conference experience as budget-friendly as possible is by attending one close to home. Some conferences will also give you a free ticket if you volunteer at the event, making them one of the most budget-friendly (and exciting!) ways to expand your cybersecurity skill set. 

Here are a few of the most popular cybersecurity conferences you can attend: 

  • Black Hat USA
  • DEF CON 
  • Chaos Communication Congress
  • LeHack
  • ShmooCon
  • The Human Hacking Conference

You can see a list of the top IT security conferences here.


Meetups are less formal than conferences and group memberships, but still a great opportunity for learning and networking. If you don’t live close to a big city for in-person meetups, there are groups that host virtual events so you don’t have to miss out on anything! Meetups are typically free, so they’re an excellent way to pick up skills from seasoned cybersecurity pros on a budget. 

Here are a few cybersecurity meetup groups across the US: 

  • Chicago Security Meetup
  • Boston Security Group
  • NY Information Security Meetup
  • White Hat Academy (Washington D.C.)
  • Houston InfoSec
  • Cyber Security & Threat Intelligence (Palo Alto) 


You may have listened to podcasts for entertainment, but did you know there are also many free cybersecurity podcasts you can tune into? Many podcasts feature knowledgeable hosts and interviews with guests. These guests come from all over the cybersecurity world and include newcomers and old hands, in addition to people from different sectors like healthcare and finance. It's an awesome way to hear a boots-on-the-ground perspective of what it’s like to be on the frontlines of cyberdefense. 

Take a look some of these popular free cybersecurity podcasts: 

Cyber Work 

Knowledge is power when it comes to fighting cybercrime! The weekly Cyberwork podcast by Infosec explores the latest trends in cybersecurity through thought-provoking discussions with industry leaders. 

Security Weekly

Security Weekly has been around since 2005, making it one of the longest-running podcasts in the cybersecurity industry. It’s a great listen for security professionals looking for technical discussions about cybersecurity tools and tactics. 

Risky Business

Risky Business is a weekly podcast run by an award-winning journalist and a cadre of techie co-hosts. This free cybersecurity resource features everything from breaking news to detailed analyses by industry experts. The podcast is paired with a blog where security experts share their expertise on cybersecurity issues. 

Security Now!

Security Now is an interesting take on a cybersecurity podcast because it focuses on ways to enhance personal security. If you’re new to information security or work with non-technical staff, this podcast will expand your knowledge of things like password security, VPNs and firewalls. 

Free videos and webinars

The web is filled with free webinars and how-tos covering a range of cybersecurity topics. These are perfect for getting a deep-dive into a particular area of cybersecurity as well as simply keeping up with trends in the cybersecurity world. 

Dark Reading Free Webinars

Dark Reading is one of the most popular and trusted cybersecurity publications on the web. They also provide tons of free infosec training resources, webinars and videos. In the training videos, you’ll find cybersecurity experts sharing guidance and advice on mitigating data breaches and enhancing your company’s cyber defenses. 

TED talks on cybersecurity

TED talks are brilliant at delivering compelling information in bite-sized pieces. The 18-minute time limit means you can listen to the talks when you have a few minutes of free time in your day. Plus, they’re absolutely free! TED features dozens of informative talks about cybersecurity. 

Stanford University’s free cybersecurity webinars and videos

Stanford offers a graduate certificate in advanced computer security, and all the video lectures are free to watch online. While earning the certificate itself comes with a price tag, you can immerse yourself in the content and pick up the skills for free. Not only that, but Stanford offers virtual meetings with cybersecurity experts and Stanford faculty that goes above and beyond the course material. 

BeyondTrust’s webcast series 

The “WebCast” series by BeyondTrust covers common cyber-threats and how to safeguard your organization from them. Their diverse library of content includes hacking demos and deep-dives into topics like access control, password management, cloud security threats and more. 

BrightTALK’s webinars

BrightTALK is home to an IT security community of over 200,000 professional members. The site features free webinars and live videos on topics like network security, phishing, ransomware and cloud security. BrightTALK’s offerings are frequently updated, so you can feel confident that the content is up-to-date on emerging trends in information security. 

A wealth of infosec resources at your fingertips

In a time of unprecedented cyberattacks, cybersecurity is priceless — but that doesn’t mean learning it has to cost a fortune! There are lots of budget-friendly ways to learn the skills you need to build your cybersecurity skills. And since cybersecurity is constantly evolving, you can rely on these same resources to keep your skills sharpened and relevant well into the future. 

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  1. Cybersecurity Industry Associations, Cybercrime Magazine
  2. The Top 20 Cybersecurity Conferences to Attend in 2020, Security Magazine
  3. Cyber Work Podcast, Infosec
  4. Stanford Advanced Computer Security, Stanford University
Christine McKenzie
Christine McKenzie

Christine McKenzie is a professional writer with a Master of Science in International Relations. She enjoys writing about career and professional development topics in the Information Security discipline. She has also produced academic research about the influence of disruptive Information and Communication Technologies on human rights in China. Previously, she was a university Career Advisor where she worked extensively with students in the Information Technology and Computer Programming fields.