What does an average day look like for somebody working in cybersecurity?

That isn’t an easy question to answer when you consider the vastness of the field. Somebody who works in cybersecurity needs to stay constantly abreast of industry changes – especially new attacks cooked up by cybercriminals – and help their employers create and tweak their security plans.

However, thanks to Tom Vazdar, who has developed the Open Institute of Technology’s (OPIT’s) Master’s Degree in Enterprise Cybersecurity, we can provide some insight into what your average day may look like.

Who Is Tom Vazdar?

Serving as the Program Chair of OPIT’s upcoming Master’s Degree in Cybersecurity, Tom brings a vast amount of practical experience to the table. His work has spanned the globe. Tom has been employed as the Chief Security Officer for a major Croatian bank, in addition to serving as the Chief Information Officer for a company in the United States’ manufacturing sector.

His practical experience spans other industries – including technology and finance – and he’s currently completing a doctorate while running his own practice. Tom’s specialty is the behavioral aspect of cybersecurity. His deep understanding of the “culture” that surrounds the field has been shaped by his work on development strategies, policies, and frameworks for his past employers.

The Importance of Trends

The first thing Tom highlights is that a cybersecurity professional has to follow the trends in the industry. As he points out: “We are living in an era where digital transformation is accelerating, and with it, the complexity and frequency of cyber threats are also increasing.” To demonstrate this, he points to an ISACA report published in 2023 showing that cyber attacks have increased 48% in 2023 compared to 2022. More worryingly, 62% of the organizations that experience these attacks underreport them – an indication that many simply don’t have the talent to truly understand the threat they face.

As a cybersecurity professional, your role is to provide the expertise such companies are sorely lacking.

Thankfully, many business leaders understand that they need this expertise. Tom points out that 59% of leaders say they’re understaffed in the cyber department, leading to a rising demand for people with the following technical skills:

  • Identity and access management
  • Data protection
  • Cloud computing
  • DevSecOps (development, security, and operations)

Furthermore, Tom says that artificial intelligence (AI) is completely transforming the cybersecurity industry. While AI is often beneficial to professionals in the field – it can enhance threat detection and response – it is also a danger. Malicious entities can use AI to conduct a new wave of attacks, such as data poisoning, for which you need to be prepared as a cybersecurity professional.

Tom’s discussion of these emerging trends highlights one of the most critical aspects of a day in the life of a cybersecurity professional – learning is key. There is no such thing as static knowledge because the industry (and the attacks your company may face) constantly evolve.

An Average Day Broken Down

Now that you understand how important staying on top of the ever-changing trends in cybersecurity is for those in the field, it’s possible to break things down a little further. On an average day, you may find yourself working on any, some, or even all of the following tasks.

Developing and Maintaining a Cybersecurity Strategy

Given that such a large number of business leaders are understaffed and have minimal access to appropriate talent, you’ll often be tasked with creating and maintaining a company’s cybersecurity strategy.

This strategy is not as simple as creating a collection of actions to take in the event of an attack.

Tom emphasizes not only the importance of proactivity, but also of integrating a cybersecurity strategy into the wider business strategy. “It becomes part of the mission and vision,” he says. “After all, there are two things that are important to companies – their data and customer trust. If you lose customer trust, you lose your business. If you lose your data, you lose your business.”

As a technically adept professional, you’ll be tasked with building a strategy that grows ever more complex as the threats the company faces become more advanced. New technologies – such as AI and machine learning – will be used against you, with your main task being to ensure the strategy you create can fend off such technologically-empowered attacks.

The Simpler Day-to-Day

Now, let’s move away from the complexities of developing an overarching plan and go into more detail about daily responsibilities. A cybersecurity professional is usually tasked with dealing with the day-to-day maintenance of systems.

It’s all about control.

Tom says that much of the role involves proactively identifying new protective measures. For instance, software patching is key – outdated software has vulnerabilities that a hacker can exploit. You’ll need to stay up to date on the development of patches for the software your company uses and, crucially, implement those patches as soon as they’re available.

Creating regular backups is also part of this day-to-day work. It’s an area that many businesses neglect – perhaps assuming that nothing bad can happen to them – but a backup will be a lifesaver if a hacker compromises your company’s main data stores.

Tending to Your Ecosystem

It’s not simply your own institution that you must maintain as a cybersecurity professional – everyone who interacts with that institution must also be managed. Vendors, external software developers, and any other part of your supply chain need to be as risk-aware as your business. As Tom puts it: “If they don’t care about vulnerabilities in their system, and they work for you as a company, then you’ll have an issue because their risk suddenly becomes your risk.”

As such, managing the cyber security aspect of your company’s relationships with its partners is a vital part of your duties. You may engage in planning with those partners, helping them improve their practices, or cooperate with them to create strategies encompassing your entire supply chain.

Continued Education

Tom goes on to highlight just how important continued education is to the success of a cybersecurity professional. “It’s always interesting. And if you’re really passionate about it, cybersecurity becomes your lifestyle,” he says. “You want to see what’s new. What are the new attack methods, what are your competitors doing, and what is new on the market.”

He points to a simple example – phishing emails.

These emails – which were traditionally laden with spelling errors that made them easier to spot – are becoming increasingly hard to detect thanks to the use of AI. They’re written better. Failure to understand and adapt to that fact could make it harder to educate yourself and the people in your company.

Your average day may also involve educating your colleagues about upcoming threats and new attack methods they need to understand. The phishing example Tom shares applies here. Any email that looks somewhat legitimate is a threat, so continued education of your colleagues is essential to stop that threat from having its intended effect.

An Example of a Typical Project

Given how vast the cybersecurity field is, the range of projects you may work on will vary enormously. However, Tom provides an example of when he worked in the banking industry and saw the rise of the Zeus Botnet.

In this case, his responsibilities were twofold.

First – finding a way to defend against botnet attacks. That involved researching the malware to figure out how it spread, allowing him to put protective measures in place to prevent that spread. The second task involved creating educational programs, both for employees and his bank’s clients, to make them aware of the Zeus Botnet.

Here, we see the education part of the cybersecurity professional’s “average day” coming into play, complementing the more technical aspects of dealing with malware. We even see supply chain risk coming into play – each client is part of the bank’s supply chain, meaning they need to understand how to defend themselves just as much as the bank does.

The Qualifications Needed to Work in Cybersecurity

With a multitude of cybersecurity qualifications available – many covering specific niches – it’s tough to find the appropriate one to make you attractive to an employer. That’s where Tom’s work with OPIT comes in. The master’s degree that he’s developing not only focuses on the technical skills a professional needs but places those skills in a business context.

The upcoming course will offer electives in subjects such as AI, cloud security, and IoT security, granting students flexibility to pursue a specialization within their degree. The overall program is also closely aligned to industry certifications – such as those offered by CISSP – to ensure graduates are as industry-ready as they are academically qualified.

The intention, Tom says, is to fill the skills gap that 3 million businesses say they have in cybersecurity. The program provides the right blend of knowledge between technical and managerial skills, in addition to allowing students to pursue subjects of particular interest to them.

Ultimately, it doesn’t teach absolutely everything that you could learn about the industry. No course can. But it does equip you with key foundational knowledge aligned with industry certifications that make you more employable. That, combined with your continued education and completion of relevant certifications once you’re employed, means you have an enormous opportunity to build a successful cybersecurity career with OPIT.

So, the qualifications needed for the industry start with a relevant degree. They then blossom out. Professionals focus on courses that meet the specific requirements of their roles so that they learn the cybersecurity techniques that are most effective for their needs.

 

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unite.ai: Interview with Riccardo Ocleppo, Founder & Director of OPIT
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Feb 19, 2024 2 min read

In this unite.ai article, Riccardo Ocleppo, Founder & Director of the Open Institute of Technology (OPIT), leverages his experience from Docsity to revolutionize higher education. OPIT aims to innovate and modernize education by offering high-quality tech degrees at an affordable price. It prioritizes hands-on learning to bridge the theory-practice gap and fosters diverse skill sets and networking opportunities.

Discover OPIT’s innovative approach, which includes embedding AI across all its degree programs, in the full article at unite.ai: https://www.unite.ai/riccardo-ocleppo-founder-director-of-opit-interview-series/

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OPIT: How Its Founder Created It
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Feb 9, 2024 9 min read

The Open Institute of Technology (OPIT) is a unique institution through and through. From an unparalleled support team that guides you every step of the way to state-of-the-art virtual resources, OPIT redefines online learning. This institution also proves that online education can be as enriching as its traditional counterpart. Better yet, it can outperform it in numerous aspects.

This fact alone begs the question – how did it all begin?

To answer this question, we’ll go straight to the source – the founder of OPIT, Riccardo Ocleppo.

In this article, Riccardo will walk us through his journey of envisioning (and building) OPIT and transforming online education in the process.

The Pre-OPIT Years: Where It All Began

To understand how Riccardo came up with the idea for OPIT, we must travel back to the year 2006. That’s when Riccardo graduated from Politecnico di Torino with a bachelor’s in electronics engineering.

This institution is arguably the most prestigious in Italy (and one of the most reputable in Europe). So, it shouldn’t be surprising that Riccardo chose to continue his education here, pursuing a master’s degree.

He completed the master’s program in 2008 and did so with honors.

Yet, Riccardo couldn’t shake the impression that it was all in vain. In his words, “When I left the university, I had the impression that I could do very little, and I knew very little that could help me in my professional endeavors.”

But Riccardo decided not to sit idly by.

He saw it this way – it might be too late for him, as he was done with his studies. But it’s certainly not too late for future students who deserve a better education. That’s why, only two years later, in 2010, he founded Docsity.

Docsity is an online social learning network with over 20 million registered students. Thanks to this network, over 250 universities worldwide received help in improving their study programs (and finding students).

Docsity also gave Riccardo a chance to fully immerse himself into the education sector for over a decade, finding new ways to reform it from within.

OPIT’s Inception: From Vision to Reality

With the knowledge (and the resources) from Docsity, Riccardo started working on a platform designed to provide the kind of education he wished he had received. The platform in question was, of course, the Open Institute of Technology.

The primary goal of OPIT was to bridge the gap between “what students expect, what companies need, and what higher-level institutions actually deliver in terms of training and education.”

From Riccardo’s experience, this gap was pretty huge. Remember that even with a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in electronics engineering, he felt he had little to offer to companies.

This perceived shortcoming primarily comes from the fact he received a lot of theory at the university but very little practice. And that’s not to mention how outdated the curriculum was, as well as laser-focused on electronics engineering. In other words, bid farewell to “competencies on the most recent technologies and project management methodologies.”

This perspective made him determined to create a holistic educational solution. Or, as Riccardo puts it, “When designing OPIT’s degree programs to address the skills in high demand today, we chose to start from scratch to go beyond the limits of traditional higher education.”

At OPIT, you’ll receive valuable knowledge beyond theory. Essentially, OPIT equips you with everything you need to enter the job market, ready to excel in your field from day one (or day zero, as Riccardo calls it!).

Tailored for Triumph: OPIT’s Unique Programs

Designing any online curriculum is no easy task. However, the computer science field comes with its unique set of challenges. Why?

This field is constantly evolving. That’s what makes it difficult for most traditional higher education institutions to keep up. As Riccardo puts it, “[These institutions] are very slow to adapt to this wave of new technologies and new trends within the educational sector.” Of course, thanks to Docsity, Riccardo speaks from extensive experience, as he’s seen “multiple times how difficult it is to help these institutions update their study curriculum.”

Companies have it no easier.

Riccardo says, “A company needs one to two years to make people that should be trained on today’s technologies and on today’s skills effectively enter the job market and be productive when they enter these companies.”

Again, Riccardo speaks from personal experience. As a founder of a tech company (and a manager in others), he was tasked with creating and managing big tech teams on several occasions. However, despite interviewing hundreds of candidates, he couldn’t find those trained in today’s technologies, not those from 20 years ago.

With this in mind, he designed OPIT’s curriculum to effectively “train the next generation of leaders and managers in the field of computer science.” Many people helped him in this endeavor, chief among them Professor Francesco Profumo, current head of institution at OPIT and former Minister of Education in Italy.

This unique approach makes OPIT’s programs different in terms of how they’ve been conceived and how they’ll be delivered.

Take the Bachelor of Science (BSc) in Modern Computer Science program as an example.

Riccardo says that to be a great programmer, “you cannot just dive into programming itself.” First, you must understand how a computer is built and how its various units operate and communicate. This way, you’ll have no issues debugging a code in the future since you’ll understand the underlying mechanisms.

These underlying systems and foundational skills are precisely what is taught during the first term of the modern computer science program. Afterward, you’ll move toward the latest advancements in computer science, including machine learning, artificial intelligence, data science, cybersecurity, and cloud computing. This way, you’ll have quite a broad perspective on computer science, rarely seen in other educational programs, online or offline.

It also means you won’t have to specialize in a particular field, as you’re forced to do with many other programs. In Riccardo’s opinion, the master’s degree is where you should begin your specialization journey.

OPIT offers as many as four master’s degree programs, but Riccardo focuses on Applied Data Science & AI this time.

In Riccardo’s words, “The whole purpose of this [program] is actually to train people that do not want to pursue a super technical career but actually want to pursue a career at the intersection between the tech and the management of a company.” In other words, individuals who complete this program will acquire all the necessary tech skills. However, they’ll also be able to ensure the tech team is “correctly understood by the management of the company,” thanks to the managerial skills earned during the program.

Of course, this program also covers all the essential theoretical knowledge, from Python to machine learning. But it also has a solid applicative angle, teaching students how to use the most valuable tools available in today’s market. Simply put, you’re training “for what you’ll be doing when you enter your next job.”

 

Breaking the Mold: What Sets OPIT Apart

The unique curriculum isn’t the only thing that sets OPIT apart from other higher education institutions in the same field. Here’s what Riccardo singles out as OPIT’s most appealing characteristics.

Continuous Assessment

Learning at your own pace can be a double-edged sword. On the one hand, you have all the flexibility and freedom to organize your studies (and life). On the other, you might start procrastinating without a traditional daily commitment of in-classroom learning.

OPIT ensures this unfortunate scenario never happens by doing away with one big final exam you must cram for. Instead, you’ll be continuously assessed throughout the program, allowing you a much better approach to learning and a deeper understanding of the subject matter.

As Riccardo puts it, OPIT will give you “multiple checkpoints,” preventing you from getting “lost” throughout the learning process.

New Learning Resources

According to Riccardo, most of today’s available resources were created for the “oldest wave of education.” That’s why he (and his team) created all OPIT resources and learning materials from scratch, giving you a fresh perspective on the tech world. These resources also come in the form of engaging videos, which are short enough to keep you fully focused yet detailed enough to provide a deep understanding of the topic.

World-Class Professors

Let’s not sugarcoat it – modern resources mean nothing if the professors teaching them still stick to old-school principles and approaches. Luckily, this isn’t the case with OPIT’s faculty.

Every member of this faculty has been carefully selected based on their academic expertise, business experience, and global perspective. These professors aim to “help you learn in a more engaging and interesting way,” as Riccardo puts it.

He also adds that OPIT’s faculty breaks away from the common saying in academics, “Those who can’t do, teach.” In his words, “We didn’t want to have people that can teach because they cannot do,” so that’s the standard he prioritized when bringing people on board.

Future-Proof Your Career

Now that you know the fascinating tale of OPIT’s conception, all that’s left to do is to get in touch with our team of experts and take the first step in future-proofing your career. As you’ve already seen, OPIT will take care of most of the subsequent steps. All you need is a desire to learn and an interest in developing new skills, and success is imminent.

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