When it comes to traditional classroom learning, every day looks pretty much the same. You commute to your lectures, sit in a designated classroom, engage with your instructors and peers, and go home and study. This repetitive grind often leaves students yearning for a more dynamic and flexible educational experience.

Enter online learning.

When you study online, you have the freedom to craft your own schedule, escape the confining classroom setting, and explore diverse learning materials at your own pace.

Of course, this doesn’t mean your day shouldn’t be structured and well-organized. It just means that online learning firmly puts the reins of your education in your hands, allowing you to decide when, where, and how you engage with your coursework.

With this in mind, let’s explore what a day in the life of an Open Institute of Technology (OPIT) student might look like.

How an OPIT Student Spends an Average Day

Before diving into the specifics, let’s get to know the online “classroom” OPIT students spend most of their days at – Canvas LMS (Learning Management System).

Canvas LMS is the world’s No. 1 teaching and learning software, revolutionizing the educational experience for OPIT students. This robust LMS serves as a virtual hub for all academic activities, from live lectures to discussion boards.

Canvas LMS checks all the boxes for an enjoyable learning experience – it’s user-friendly, easy to navigate, interactive, and adaptable. Talk about a superior alternative to a traditional classroom!

Without further ado, let’s visit this platform and commence our day of immersive virtual classes, interactive discussions, and self-paced study sessions.

1. Log In to the Canvas LMS

The great thing about online education is that you can start your day whenever you’d like. Still, most OPIT students visit their Canvas account in the morning to check important updates, assignments, and announcements. Of course, this visit can also jog their memory about upcoming deadlines and live sessions.

But doesn’t the platform get confusing with all these different elements?

Absolutely not!

Here’s a quick breakdown of what OPIT students see once they log in.

First up – the dashboard. This centralized hub provides a neat overview of all the courses our students are enrolled in. So, for instance, if the student is pursuing a Master’s Degree (MSc) in Enterprise Security, they’ll see courses like “Cybersecurity Fundamentals and Governance,” “Data Analytics and Risk Management,” and “Cryptography and Secure Communications.”

On the right, next to the dashboard, students can see all their to-do activities, such as live lectures, study sessions, and student mixers. With this handy list, OPIT allows students to always stay on top of their game, as keeping a to-do list is a huge must in online learning.

If we were to go to the left, we’d see an easy-to-follow menu with tabs like “Courses,” “Inbox,” and “Help.” But these don’t come into play just yet. OPIT students typically first check their “Calendar” tab.

Though keeping tabs on all the activities in the calendar is essential for a productive day, our students typically prioritize two – live sessions and assessments (with their due dates).

When there’s a live session, the entire day is centered around it to ensure active participation.

Let’s make our fictional day one of these days to make it more interesting. As an example, suppose the lecture starts at 7 p.m., which OPIT students can find out by clicking on the live session in the calendar. There will also be a Zoom link to facilitate easy access when the time comes.

As far as the assessments go, students should always make sure there aren’t any with due dates close together. If there are, they know what to do – tackle them on time and avoid any last-minute stress.

2. Check the Course Content

At this point, our student knows exactly what their day will look like. Since the focus of that day will be on the live session, it’s time to get acquainted with the course content relevant to the upcoming lecture.

A quick click on the course in question, followed by the “Modules” tab, is all it takes to access this content.

The “Module” tab offers a neat overview of all the past and upcoming modules, broken down into theoretical and practical portions. With well-thought-out overviews, PowerPoint presentations, and tutorials, OPIT students can prep for the live session hassle-free.

3. Start Studying

Now that our students know what to expect from the live session, it’s time to get down to focused studying. Since the live session is in the evening, there’s plenty of time to go over the new module, revise the past one(s), and solidify their understanding.

To make the most out of their study time, OPIT students usually plan it in advance, especially when they intend to work on more than one module at a time. This helps them stay on track and avoid the ever-so-tempting procrastination.

As far as the studying itself goes, it’s all up to our students. They can tackle the material in short bursts or dedicate larger blocks of time to focus on the matter at hand. Whatever works for them!

4. Ask for Help

With online learning and self-paced studying, it’s perfectly normal to encounter challenging concepts and have numerous questions in the process. Moreover, these questions don’t necessarily have to do anything with the course material. Students might struggle to organize their time, balance priorities, or adapt to the online learning environment itself. Whatever the case, we’ve got great news – OPIT has an incredible support system in place.

That’s why our students will take some time after their study session to schedule a meeting with Sara Ciabattoni, OPIT’s Class Coordinator. During this 20-minute meeting, they will greatly benefit from Sarah’s expertise and guidance, allowing them to return to their studies with renewed confidence.

Like everything in Canvas LMS, scheduling this meeting takes only a few clicks. Visit the Class Coordinator Virtual Office, choose your preferred date and time, hit “Next,” and you’re good to go. Upon confirmation, Sarah will provide all the necessary conferencing details. Best of all? The meeting will automatically be added to the student’s Google calendar, so there’s no need to deal with these technicalities.

5. Take a Break Before Live Session

At this point, the day has already been filled with lots of helpful activities, productive studying, and valuable preparation. Do you know what this means? That’s right – a break is well-deserved!

During the break, OPIT students can do virtually whatever they want. After all, they’re home or in their chosen environment. Most of them use the break to relax, do something enjoyable, or grab a meal. Some will even use it to change the scenery a little before the live session.

The great news is that Canvas can come with them wherever they go. Canvas LMS offers a nifty app that allows students to check their calendars, see relevant activities, and read notifications on the go. This adds another layer of flexibility to this already incredibly convenient learning experience.

6. Attend the Live Session

Cue a ringing school bell – it’s time for the live session!

By this time, our students have already found the perfect environment to immerse themselves in the live session. Once the session begins, they can actively listen, take notes, or ask questions. OPIT’s amazing faculty is there to facilitate an engaging and interactive learning experience with lots of valuable insights and guidance.

7. Check the Grades

Thanks to the revitalizing break before the live session, our students won’t be too tired for some more work even after the session has concluded. But first – a quick check of the grades.

Unsurprisingly, grades can be accessed in two clicks by visiting the tab of the same name under “Courses”. One more click is all it takes to understand how these grades have been earned.

8. Work on Assessments

Let’s say our student enjoys studying in the evening and has a lot of energy left after the live lecture. In that case, it’s time to tackle some assignments.

Since OPIT continually assesses its students instead of hitting them with one huge final, keeping up with assignments is crucial.

These assignments often call for teamwork, which Canvas makes easy. A visit to the “Collaborations” tab under “Courses” and a click on the “Start a New Collaboration” button can be the beginning of an incredibly fruitful collaboration.

OPIT students typically use WhatsApp to communicate outside the “official” Canvas and Slack platforms, so a quick message is enough to get all the teammates together.

9. Talk to a Career Advisor

OPIT students nearing the end of their academic journey at our institution typically have important decisions to make regarding their career paths. That’s why it’s perfectly normal to feel slightly anxious or overwhelmed at the end of the day.

So, let’s schedule a valuable one-on-one consultation with the Head of Career Services at OPIT before signing off. The unbelievably experienced Mike McCulloch is at our student’s disposal for any career-related concerns, guidance, or support.

10. Revel in a Day Well-Spent

At the end of such a day, all our students can do is pat themselves on the back. Here at OPIT, we’d like to believe we also have a part in this sense of achievement, thanks to the unparalleled flexibility, clarity, and support we offer.

But what will your typical day as an OPIT student look like? Start your academic journey at this prestigious institution to find out.

 

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Cyber Threat Landscape 2024: Human-Centric Cyber Threats
OPIT - Open Institute of Technology
OPIT - Open Institute of Technology
Apr 17, 2024 9 min read

Human-centric cyber threats have long posed a serious issue for organizations. After all, humans are often the weakest link in the cybersecurity chain. Unfortunately, when artificial intelligence came into the mix, it only made these threats even more dangerous.

So, what can be done about these cyber threats now?

That’s precisely what we asked Tom Vazdar, the chair of the Enterprise Cybersecurity Master’s program at the Open Institute of Technology (OPIT), and Venicia Solomons, aka the “Cyber Queen.”

They dedicated a significant portion of their “Cyber Threat Landscape 2024: Navigating New Risks” master class to AI-powered human-centric cyber threats. So, let’s see what these two experts have to say on the topic.

Human-Centric Cyber Threats 101

Before exploring how AI impacted human-centric cyber threats, let’s go back to the basics. What are human-centric cyber threats?

As you might conclude from the name, human-centric cyber threats are cybersecurity risks that exploit human behavior or vulnerabilities (e.g., fear). Even if you haven’t heard of the term “human-centric cyber threats,” you’ve probably heard of (or even experienced) the threats themselves.

The most common of these threats are phishing attacks, which rely on deceptive emails to trick users into revealing confidential information (or clicking on malicious links). The result? Stolen credentials, ransomware infections, and general IT chaos.

How Has AI Impacted Human-Centric Cyber Threats?

AI has infiltrated virtually every cybersecurity sector. Social engineering is no different.

As mentioned, AI has made human-centric cyber threats substantially more dangerous. How? By making them difficult to spot.

In Venicia’s words, AI has allowed “a more personalized and convincing social engineering attack.”

In terms of email phishing, malicious actors use AI to write “beautifully crafted emails,” as Tom puts it. These emails contain no grammatical errors and can mimic the sender’s writing style, making them appear more legitimate and harder to identify as fraudulent.

These highly targeted AI-powered phishing emails are no longer considered “regular” phishing attacks but spear phishing emails, which are significantly more likely to fool their targets.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t stop there.

As AI technology advances, its capabilities go far beyond crafting a simple email. Venicia warns that AI-powered voice technology can even create convincing voice messages or phone calls that sound exactly like a trusted individual, such as a colleague, supervisor, or even the CEO of the company. Obey the instructions from these phone calls, and you’ll likely put your organization in harm’s way.

How to Counter AI-Powered Human-Centric Cyber Threats

Given how advanced human-centric cyber threats have gotten, one logical question arises – how can organizations counter them? Luckily, there are several ways to do this. Some rely on technology to detect and mitigate threats. However, most of them strive to correct what caused the issue in the first place – human behavior.

Enhancing Email Security Measures

The first step in countering the most common human-centric cyber threats is a given for everyone, from individuals to organizations. You must enhance your email security measures.

Tom provides a brief overview of how you can do this.

No. 1 – you need a reliable filtering solution. For Gmail users, there’s already one such solution in place.

No. 2 – organizations should take full advantage of phishing filters. Before, only spam filters existed, so this is a major upgrade in email security.

And No. 3 – you should consider implementing DMARC (Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting, and Conformance) to prevent email spoofing and phishing attacks.

Keeping Up With System Updates

Another “technical” move you can make to counter AI-powered human-centric cyber threats is to ensure all your systems are regularly updated. Fail to keep up with software updates and patches, and you’re looking at a strong possibility of facing zero-day attacks. Zero-day attacks are particularly dangerous because they exploit vulnerabilities that are unknown to the software vendor, making them difficult to defend against.

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Nurturing a Culture of Skepticism

The key component of the human-centric cyber threats is, in fact, humans. That’s why they should also be the key component in countering these threats.

At an organizational level, numerous steps are needed to minimize the risks of employees falling for these threats. But it all starts with what Tom refers to as a “culture of skepticism.”

Employees should constantly be suspicious of any unsolicited emails, messages, or requests for sensitive information.

They should always ask themselves – who is sending this, and why are they doing so?

This is especially important if the correspondence comes from a seemingly trusted source. As Tom puts it, “Don’t click immediately on a link that somebody sent you because you are familiar with the name.” He labels this as the “Rule No. 1” of cybersecurity awareness.

Growing the Cybersecurity Culture

The ultra-specific culture of skepticism will help create a more security-conscious workforce. But it’s far from enough to make a fundamental change in how employees perceive (and respond to) threats. For that, you need a strong cybersecurity culture.

Tom links this culture to the corporate culture. The organization’s mission, vision, statement of purpose, and values that shape the corporate culture should also be applicable to cybersecurity. Of course, this isn’t something companies can do overnight. They must grow and nurture this culture if they are to see any meaningful results.

According to Tom, it will probably take at least 18 months before these results start to show.

During this time, organizations must work on strengthening the relationships between every department, focusing on the human resources and security sectors. These two sectors should be the ones to primarily grow the cybersecurity culture within the company, as they’re well versed in the two pillars of this culture – human behavior and cybersecurity.

However, this strong interdepartmental relationship is important for another reason.

As Tom puts it, “[As humans], we cannot do anything by ourselves. But as a collective, with the help within the organization, we can.”

Staying Educated

The world of AI and cybersecurity have one thing in common – they never sleep. The only way to keep up with these ever-evolving worlds is to stay educated.

The best practice would be to gain a solid base by completing a comprehensive program, such as OPIT’s Enterprise Cybersecurity Master’s program. Then, it’s all about continuously learning about new developments, trends, and threats in AI and cybersecurity.

Conducting Regular Training

For most people, it’s not enough to just explain how human-centric cyber threats work. They must see them in action. Especially since many people believe that phishing attacks won’t happen to them or, if they do, they simply won’t fall for them. Unfortunately, neither of these are true.

Approximately 3.4 billion phishing emails are sent each day, and millions of them successfully bypass all email authentication methods. With such high figures, developing critical thinking among the employees is the No. 1 priority. After all, humans are the first line of defense against cyber threats.

But humans must be properly trained to counter these cyber threats. This training includes the organization’s security department sending fake phishing emails to employees to test their vigilance. Venicia calls employees who fall for these emails “clickers” and adds that no one wants to be a clicker. So, they do everything in their power to avoid falling for similar attacks in the future.

However, the key to successful employee training in this area also involves avoiding sending similar fake emails. If the company keeps trying to trick the employees in the same way, they’ll likely become desensitized and less likely to take real threats seriously.

So, Tom proposes including gamification in the training. This way, the training can be more engaging and interactive, encouraging employees to actively participate and learn. Interestingly, AI can be a powerful ally here, helping create realistic scenarios and personalized learning experiences based on employee responses.

Following in the Competitors’ Footsteps

When it comes to cybersecurity, it’s crucial to be proactive rather than reactive. Even if an organization hasn’t had issues with cyberattacks, it doesn’t mean it will stay this way. So, the best course of action is to monitor what competitors are doing in this field.

However, organizations shouldn’t stop with their competitors. They should also study other real-world social engineering incidents that might give them valuable insights into the tactics used by the malicious actors.

Tom advises visiting the many open-source databases reporting on these incidents and using the data to build an internal educational program. This gives organizations a chance to learn from other people’s mistakes and potentially prevent those mistakes from happening within their ecosystem.

Stay Vigilant

It’s perfectly natural for humans to feel curiosity when it comes to new information, anxiety regarding urgent-looking emails, and trust when seeing a familiar name pop up on the screen. But in the world of cybersecurity, these basic human emotions can cause a lot of trouble. That is, at least, when humans act on them.

So, organizations must work on correcting human behaviors, not suppressing basic human emotions. By doing so, they can help employees develop a more critical mindset when interacting with digital communications. The result? A cyber-aware workforce that’s well-equipped to recognize and respond to phishing attacks and other cyber threats appropriately.

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Cyber Threat Landscape 2024: The AI Revolution in Cybersecurity
OPIT - Open Institute of Technology
OPIT - Open Institute of Technology
Apr 17, 2024 9 min read

There’s no doubt about it – artificial intelligence has revolutionized almost every aspect of modern life. Healthcare, finance, and manufacturing are just some of the sectors that have been virtually turned upside down by this powerful new force. Cybersecurity also ranks high on this list.

But as much as AI can benefit cybersecurity, it also presents new challenges. Or – to be more direct –new threats.

To understand just how serious these threats are, we’ve enlisted the help of two prominent figures in the cybersecurity world – Tom Vazdar and Venicia Solomons. Tom is the chair of the Master’s Degree in Enterprise Cybersecurity program at the Open Institute of Technology (OPIT). Venicia, better known as the “Cyber Queen,” runs a widely successful cybersecurity community looking to empower women to succeed in the industry.

Together, they held a master class titled “Cyber Threat Landscape 2024: Navigating New Risks.” In this article, you get the chance to hear all about the double-edged sword that is AI in cybersecurity.

How Can Organizations Benefit From Using AI in Cybersecurity?

As with any new invention, AI has primarily been developed to benefit people. In the case of AI, this mainly refers to enhancing efficiency, accuracy, and automation in tasks that would be challenging or impossible for people to perform alone.

However, as AI technology evolves, its potential for both positive and negative impacts becomes more apparent.

But just because the ugly side of AI has started to rear its head more dramatically, it doesn’t mean we should abandon the technology altogether. The key, according to Venicia, is in finding a balance. And according to Tom, this balance lies in treating AI the same way you would cybersecurity in general.

Keep reading to learn what this means.

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Implement a Governance Framework

In cybersecurity, there is a governance framework called ISO/IEC 27000, whose goal is to provide a systematic approach to managing sensitive company information, ensuring it remains secure. A similar framework has recently been created for AI— ISO/IEC 42001.

Now, the trouble lies in the fact that many organizations “don’t even have cybersecurity, not to speak artificial intelligence,” as Tom puts it. But the truth is that they need both if they want to have a chance at managing the risks and complexities associated with AI technology, thus only reaping its benefits.

Implement an Oversight Mechanism

Fearing the risks of AI in cybersecurity, many organizations chose to forbid the usage of this technology outright within their operations. But by doing so, they also miss out on the significant benefits AI can offer in enhancing cybersecurity defenses.

So, an all-out ban on AI isn’t a solution. A well-thought-out oversight mechanism is.

According to Tom, this control framework should dictate how and when an organization uses cybersecurity and AI and when these two fields are to come in contact. It should also answer the questions of how an organization governs AI and ensures transparency.

With both of these frameworks (governance and oversight), it’s not enough to simply implement new mechanisms. Employees should also be educated and regularly trained to uphold the principles outlined in these frameworks.

Control the AI (Not the Other Way Around!)

When it comes to relying on AI, one principle should be every organization’s guiding light. Control the AI; don’t let the AI control you.

Of course, this includes controlling how the company’s employees use AI when interacting with client data, business secrets, and other sensitive information.

Now, the thing is – people don’t like to be controlled.

But without control, things can go off the rails pretty quickly.

Tom gives just one example of this. In 2022, an improperly trained (and controlled) chatbot gave an Air Canada customer inaccurate information and a non-existing discount. As a result, the customer bought a full-price ticket. A lawsuit ensued, and in 2024, the court ruled in the customer’s favor, ordering Air Canada to pay compensation.

This case alone illustrates one thing perfectly – you must have your AI systems under control. Tom hypothesizes that the system was probably affordable and easy to implement, but it eventually cost Air Canada dearly in terms of financial and reputational damage.

How Can Organizations Protect Themselves Against AI-Driven Cyberthreats?

With well-thought-out measures in place, organizations can reap the full benefits of AI in cybersecurity without worrying about the threats. But this doesn’t make the threats disappear. Even worse, these threats are only going to get better at outsmarting the organization’s defenses.

So, what can the organizations do about these threats?

Here’s what Tom and Venicia suggest.

Fight Fire With Fire

So, AI is potentially attacking your organization’s security systems? If so, use AI to defend them. Implement your own AI-enhanced threat detection systems.

But beware – this isn’t a one-and-done solution. Tom emphasizes the importance of staying current with the latest cybersecurity threats. More importantly – make sure your systems are up to date with them.

Also, never rely on a single control system. According to our experts, “layered security measures” are the way to go.

Never Stop Learning (and Training)

When it comes to AI in cybersecurity, continuous learning and training are of utmost importance – learning for your employees and training for the AI models. It’s the only way to ensure all system aspects function properly and your employees know how to use each and every one of them.

This approach should also alleviate one of the biggest concerns regarding an increasing AI implementation. Namely, employees fear that they will lose their jobs due to AI. But the truth is, the AI systems need them just as much as they need those systems.

As Tom puts it, “You need to train the AI system so it can protect you.”

That’s why studying to be a cybersecurity professional is a smart career move.

However, you’ll want to find a program that understands the importance of AI in cybersecurity and equips you to handle it properly. Get a master’s degree in Enterprise Security from OPIT, and that’s exactly what you’ll get.

Join the Bigger Fight

When it comes to cybersecurity, transparency is key. If organizations fail to report cybersecurity incidents promptly and accurately, they not only jeopardize their own security but also that of other organizations and individuals. Transparency builds trust and allows for collaboration in addressing cybersecurity threats collectively.

So, our experts urge you to engage in information sharing and collaborative efforts with other organizations, industry groups, and governmental bodies to stay ahead of threats.

How Has AI Impacted Data Protection and Privacy?

Among the challenges presented by AI, one stands out the most – the potential impact on data privacy and protection. Why? Because there’s a growing fear that personal data might be used to train large AI models.

That’s why European policymakers sprang into action and introduced the Artificial Intelligence Act in March 2024.

This regulation, implemented by the European Parliament, aims to protect fundamental rights, democracy, the rule of law, and environmental sustainability from high-risk AI. The act is akin to the well-known General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) passed in 2016 but exclusively targets the use of AI. The good news for those fearful of AI’s potential negative impact is that every requirement imposed by this act is backed up with heavy penalties.

But how can organizations ensure customers, clients, and partners that their data is fully protected?

According to our experts, the answer is simple – transparency, transparency, and some more transparency!

Any employed AI system must be designed in a way that doesn’t jeopardize anyone’s privacy and freedom. However, it’s not enough to just design the system in such a way. You must also ensure all the stakeholders understand this design and the system’s operation. This includes providing clear information about the data being collected, how it’s being used, and the measures in place to protect it.

Beyond their immediate group of stakeholders, organizations also must ensure that their data isn’t manipulated or used against people. Tom gives an example of what must be avoided at all costs. Let’s say a client applies for a loan in a financial institution. Under no circumstances should that institution use AI to track the client’s personal data and use it against them, resulting in a loan ban. This hypothetical scenario is a clear violation of privacy and trust.

And according to Tom, “privacy is more important than ever.” The same goes for internal ethical standards organizations must develop.

Keeping Up With Cybersecurity

Like most revolutions, AI has come in fast and left many people (and organizations) scrambling to keep up. However, those who recognize that AI isn’t going anywhere have taken steps to embrace it and fully benefit from it. They see AI for what it truly is – a fundamental shift in how we approach technology and cybersecurity.

Those individuals have also chosen to advance their knowledge in the field by completing highly specialized and comprehensive programs like OPIT’s Enterprise Cybersecurity Master’s program. Coincidentally, this is also the program where you get to hear more valuable insights from Tom Vazdar, as he has essentially developed this course.

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