When you decided to study for a BSc in Computer Science, you put your technical hat on. With reams of coding to wrap your head around (alongside a lot of technical talk about hardware), you’ve set yourself up for a career that could cover everything from software engineering and web development to data analysis.

But there’s another possibility that you may not have considered – engineering. Here, we answer the question “Can I do engineering after BSc Computer Science” and show you why the engineering path may be the right one to follow (both due to interest and potential career payout).

Options for Pursuing Engineering After BSc Computer Science

You have three options for pursuing engineering once you’re in possession of your BSc in Computer Science, some of which give you indirect entry into the field whereas others offer more practical or specialized education.

Lateral Entry into Engineering Courses

Your first choice is a course that combined the best of both worlds – a Bachelor of Engineering (Computer Science), otherwise known as B.E. Computer Science. As another full-time course, this program is usually spread over four years (though some institutions can fast-track you through a two-year course).

Strong high school scores in physics, math, and chemistry are a must if you decide to go down this route, with a minimum of 75% scored across all (with strong proficiency in English to boot). Assuming you hit those criteria, many colleges ask students to complete the Joint Entrance Exam (JEE), which is an exam that assesses your technical abilities and how you can apply those abilities to practical problems.

Master’s Degree in Engineering

Rather than going back to the bachelor’s level to study engineering after finishing your BSc in Computer Science (which is a lateral step as described above), you could keep marching forward. A Master’s degree in engineering is a post-graduate qualification, with most courses requiring you to have a Bachelor’s degree in a suitable technical subject. Engineering is the most obvious choice, though many Master’s programs accept students with computing backgrounds due to the technical nature of their knowledge.

Often called a “terminal” degree, meaning there are no doctorates for the engineering field, a Master’s in engineering should leave you with full accreditation so you can begin a career as a chartered engineer. Thankfully, you don’t usually have to rely on an entrance exam to start the course, as long as you have an appropriate Bachelor’s degree.

Specialized Engineering Courses and Certifications

There’s plenty of crossover between the engineering and computer science paths, particularly when it comes to devising solutions for physical hardware:

  • Network Engineering – Designed to equip you with advanced skills in computing (especially in the areas of developing and managing network systems), network engineering courses come in several flavors. Some universities offer them as specialized Master’s programs, assuming you have an appropriate technical Bachelor’s degree. In some cases, you can enter into trainee courses with workplaces that equip you with network engineering skills, with this option sometimes not requiring formal computer science training beforehand.
  • Cyber Security Engineering – With cybercrime losses exceeding $10 billion in 2022 (according to the FBI), there’s an obvious demand for people who can engineer systems designed to deter hackers. Specialized programs, such as an MSc in cyber security engineering, equip you with the ability to offer hardware security services and reverse-engineer cyber-attacks. Entry requirements vary depending on your university, though many ask for a minimum second-class degree in a subject like computer science or electronic engineering.
  • Applied Data Science – You’ll pick up on some of the technical concepts that underpin data science while studying for your BSc in Computer Science. A Master’s degree in applied data science teaches you the practical side, equipping you with the skills you need to analyze and work on complicated engineering assets. Again, a degree in a technical subject (like computer science) should be enough for most universities, with this course also offering a path into Ph.D. studies in the applied data science and data-based industrial engineering areas.

Benefits of Pursuing Engineering After BSc Computer Science

After having worked so hard to obtain your BSc in Computer Science, the question “can I do engineering after BSc Computer Science?” may not have crossed your mind. After all, you’re equipped to enter the workforce already, so you’re wondering what the benefits of further study may be. Here are three to consider.

Enhanced Career Prospects

Having a joint specialization between engineering and computer science can be your pathway to a higher salary, with specific specializations in applied data science or cyber security engineering veering into six-figure territory.

According to Glass Door, starting salaries for applied data scientists start at around $83,000, though the average is $126,586 per year. Advance in that path until you become a senior or lead data scientist and you’ll find your earnings in the $160,000 range. The same resource suggests the average base pay for a cyber security engineer is nearly as impressive, starting at $92,297 per year, though some organizations offer six-figure contracts for those who have some experience under their belts.

Specialization in a Specific Field

Though a BSc in Computer Science equips you with a ton of foundational knowledge, it can leave you feeling unfocused as potential career paths branch out in front of you. Rather than exploring every one of those branches, shifting into engineering allows you to distill (and build upon) what you already know to create a more focused knowledge base.

In addition to making you more desirable to potential employers (as we see above), a specialization makes it easier to find a job that fits your skill set. You add a layer of polish to your raw skillset, developing an understanding of where your specific talents lie and, more importantly, how you can apply them.

Opportunities for Research and Innovation

Having the skills to access better careers is one thing, but being able to contribute to the development of new technologies can make you feel like you’re making a real difference to the world. Following up your BSc in Computer Science with an engineering specialization equips you with practical knowledge (complementing your technical prowess) to give you the perfect balance for entering into the research world.

As one example, Imperial College London operates a research program that takes a data-driven approach to data science research. Applications of the tech (and ideas) that come from that program are used in fields as diverse as medicine, astrophysics, and finance, allowing researchers to create cross-industry change while working with cutting-edge tech.

Steps to Pursue an Engineering Career Post-BSc

Now that you know that the answer to “Can I do engineering after BSc Computer Science?” is a definite “yes,” there’s one more question to answer:

How?

Step 1 – Research and Choose the Right Engineering Program

Choosing the right engineering program may make you feel like you’re at the starting point of a path that branches out in a dozen directions. Each of those paths has something to offer, though you have to commit to one to become a specialist. Think about what you enjoyed while studying computer science, which, combined with an understanding of your career goals, will help you determine which path leads you toward your passion.

Once you know what you want to study (and why), evaluate the programs open to you using the curriculum offered and the reputations of the programs as your criteria for making a choice.

Step 2 – Prepare for Entrance Exams and Application Process

You’re not going to simply walk into an engineering course because you have a BSc in Computer Science, even if your graduate studies equip you with most of the skills necessary to start a post-graduate engineering course. Some institutions have entrance exams (with the previously mentioned JEE being popular), meaning you need to gather study materials and focus your efforts on passing that exam.

For universities that are happy to accept your BSc in Computer Science as proof of your ability, you still need to complete applications and file them before the appropriate deadlines. These deadlines vary depending on where you apply. For instance, you usually have until the end of June if applying for a program that accepts fall admissions in the United States.

Step 3 – Gain Relevant Work Experience

The more work experience you can get under your belt, especially when studying, the better your resume will look when you start applying for specialized computer engineering roles. Internships and co-op programs can equip you with practical knowledge of the workforce (and help you to build connections), though they’re often unpaid.

If working without pay is a problem for you, accepting part-time or freelance work in an engineering field related to your specialization is an option. Just be wary of burnout if you’re still in the process of completing your studies.

Step 4 – Network With Professionals in the Engineering Field

There’s an old saying that goes “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” While that isn’t always the case in engineering (merit and skills go a long way), it still helps to have connections in the field who can point you in the direction of roles and employers.

Attending industry events and conferences (even if you’re not actively looking for a job yet) allows you to hobnob with people who may prove useful when you’re trying to break into the engineering sector. Joining professional associations, such as the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), offers resources, continuing education, and access to career centers that can help you to get ahead.

Engineer Your Path to a New Career

Computer science and engineering make for good bedfellows, with both fields being highly technical and reliant on you having strong mathematical skills. Perhaps that’s why there are so many attractive (and potentially lucrative) options for specializations, with each offering ways to apply the foundational knowledge you develop during a BSc in Computer Science.

When making your choice, start by figuring out which field grabs your interest before taking the steps described above to reach your career goals.

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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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