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How the Internet works


About This Course

Can you still picture life without the internet? In the last decade or so, the internet has cemented its place at the centre of many aspects of our lives: social communication, work, research, banking, shopping, storing photos and videos; we are heavily dependent on it.

But most of us never really question how the internet works - until, perhaps, something breaks down and information is lost, or we are prevented from accessing a website or account.

The internet is in fact a complex and diverse infrastructure; an infrastructure that allows you to connect to it in either a less secure or a more secure way. This all depends on the choices you make; the tools and services you use.

In order to make more secure choices, you don’t need to be a tech expert - but you do need to understand the fundamentals of how the internet works. This knowledge is your foundation - from here, you can become an informed internet user. Like crossing the street - you do not necessarily need to know how to drive a car, but you do need to know to look left and right before you cross.

In this course you will explore the infrastructure of the internet - how it works, who owns it, and how you can make informed choices depending on your own privacy and security need.

About Totem

Totem is an online platform that offers interactive courses to learn how to increase digital security and privacy. The optimal user experience is currently on your desktop computer. The aim is to support journalists, human rights defenders and activists use privacy tools and tactics more effectively in their work. Not a journalist? Don’t worry  these courses should work for everyone.

Start today and learn how to protect yourself online.

What will you learn?

You should walk away from this course understanding:
  • How the internet works, i.e. how your emails, messages, passwords, and so on are sent across the internet
  • Who has access to what data along the way
  • What key terms like encryption, HTTP, HTTPS and metadata mean, and why these things matter
  • What you can do to better control your privacy and make your internet browsing and communication more secure


None, this is the primary course of the Totem project.

Last update

This course was updated for the last time in: May 2022