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In the digital age, virtually every aspect of people’s lives is connected through digital channels. On the positive side, this allows instant communication and information access, as well as global connectivity. But this connectivity also introduces a myriad of risks, with cybersecurity threats chief among them.
In such an environment, protecting sensitive information and critical infrastructure has never been more crucial. And yet, the cybersecurity industry is short 4 million workers.
That’s why we invited Tom Vazdar, the program chair of the Master in Enterprise Cybersecurity program at the Open Institute of Technology (OPIT), to shed light on cybersecurity’s critical role in safeguarding our interconnected world. Professor Vazdar will also walk us through the Enterprise Cybersecurity Master’s program at OPIT, explaining what makes it stand out among similar programs.
With extensive experience in various industries (like finance and manufacturing) and countless successful cybersecurity strategies, risk management frameworks, and compliance initiatives under his belt, Professor Vazdar is truly the one to consult. His take on the pressing challenges (and solutions) within the cybersecurity field is invaluable for future students and those already in the industry.
The Current State of Cybersecurity
As Professor Vazdar puts it, “We are living in an era where digital transformation is accelerating.” So, it’s not surprising that new trends (and challenges) continue to emerge in the field. Here’s what Professor Vazdar has to say about them.
Cyberattacks Are Increasing
According to the ISACA’s 2023 State of Cybersecurity report, 48% of organizations reported an increase in cyberattacks compared to the year prior. Professor Vazdar says that this primarily has to do with the increasing complexity of cyberthreats. Simply put, organizations can’t keep up with the escalating sophistication of these threats, resulting in their increased frequency.
But there’s another element to this alarming increase in the number of cyberattacks – a lack of transparency. You see, Professor Vazdar claims that many organizations are believed to underreport cyberattacks. Such underreporting might be due to concerns about reputational damage or regulatory consequences. Either way, it’s exceptionally harmful to the industry, as it hinders the ability to collaborate on developing effective countermeasures and strengthening collective cybersecurity defenses.
Cybersecurity Lacks Workers
As previously mentioned, the cybersecurity industry is experiencing a severe staffing challenge. Interestingly, this doesn’t mean the number of cybersecurity professionals is decreasing. It’s quite the opposite, really.
In 2023, the global cybersecurity workforce grew 8.7% to reach 5.5 million people, a record high. And yet, another 4 million professionals are needed to meet the escalating demand for cybersecurity. If there has ever been a stat to prove just how critical cybersecurity is, this undoubtedly does it.
New Technologies Are Constantly Adopted
Artificial intelligence. Machine learning. Cloud computing. Internet of Things. Blockchain technology. These are just some of the technologies Professor Vazdar singles out as transformative forces reshaping cybersecurity.
On the one hand, these technologies have the power to enhance threat detection and cybersecurity response. On the other, they can also introduce new vulnerabilities and threats, such as data poisoning. The worst part? We’ll let Professor Vazdar explain it:
“All of this has come in a really short period of time, and we, as people, are actually struggling to learn about all these new technologies.”
That’s why he emphasizes the need for continual education in the field, as this is the only way to stay ahead of the curve.
Cybersecurity Strategies Are Becoming Proactive and Predictive
Here’s how it used to be in the cybersecurity world, according to Professor Vazdar: A new massive threat would emerge every few years, affecting the whole world. In the aftermath, you would scramble a team together and work tirelessly for a few days to develop a patch or a solution.
As you can imagine, this approach is hardly viable in today’s oversaturated cybersecurity landscape. That’s why “we’re seeing a shift toward more proactive and more predictive security strategies,” as Professor Vazdar puts it.
Cyberpsychology Is Gaining Importance
Cyberpsychology is by no means a new concept. According to Professor Vazdar, this term was first used in 2008 by Professor Zheng Yan. However, its significance has grown exponentially in recent years. This field of study shifts the focus from the cyberthreat to the cyberattacker.
Its goal is to understand what these malicious actors are doing and why. The result? “We, as humans, know how to defend [ourselves].”
According to Professor Vazdar, this is the third (and most important) layer of defense against cyberthreats. The first concerns the physical environment (i.e., the computer and information systems), while the second is a logical layer that “connects everything together.”
No One Is Immune to Cyberthreats
There’s a common misconception that smaller organizations and individuals aren’t “appealing” to hackers and other malicious actors. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth. No one is immune to cyberthreats, as cybercriminals always have something to gain (regardless of the target’s size or perceived importance).
That’s why investing in cybersecurity is crucial, whether you work for a small IT team or a huge company or just use technology in your day-to-day life.
Why Continuous Education Matters in Cybersecurity
There’s no doubt about it – cybersecurity should be a top priority for everyone in the industry and beyond. But as Professor Vazdar has underscored, what was effective in cybersecurity yesterday might not be sufficient today.
That’s why he emphasizes that “it’s important to get educated [now] more than ever.”
After all, there’s a single constant in the ever-changing cybersecurity field – humans as a crucial line of defense. The more people get educated, the more resilient the protection against cyberthreats becomes.
Why Pursue a Master’s Degree in Cybersecurity at OPIT
One of the postgraduate programs offered by OPIT is the Master of Science (MSc) in Enterprise Cybersecurity. This program is fully remote and can be completed in 12 to 18 months. But enough with the logistics – what makes this program the right choice for getting the much-needed education mentioned above?
Given that he practically shaped this program, Professor Vazdar is the best person to ask this question. He shares with us what makes this program uniquely positioned to prepare students for all the cybersecurity challenges he has touched on in this article.
A Comprehensive Curriculum
According to Professor Vazdar, the first thing that sets this program apart is “the curriculum depth and breadth.” This program covers various topics, from cybersecurity fundamentals (the first module) to advanced areas like AI-driven cybersecurity (the second module).
In other words, this program guarantees two things – a solid cybersecurity foundation and a deep dive into specialized topics. This focus makes it ideal for individuals seeking a well-rounded education in corporate cybersecurity, regardless of their previous experience in the field.
A Unique Structure
Unlike most programs in the industry, OPIT’s Enterprise Cybersecurity program doesn’t solely focus on the technical aspects of cybersecurity. But it doesn’t only dive into the managerial aspect of it either. Instead, it gives you just the “right blend of knowledge,” as Professor Vazdar puts it. Thanks to this approach, you can start working immediately after completing the program. After all, you’re all set skill-wise!
Alignment With Industry Certifications
Industry-standard certifications are becoming increasingly important, as most employers prioritize them when hiring new people. If you’re considering a career in cybersecurity, you’ll be happy to know that OPIT’s Enterprise Cybersecurity program is fully aligned with industry certifications like the Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP). As Professor Vazdar puts it, this ensures that OPIT graduates are “not only academically proficient but that they’re also industry-ready.”
It’s also important to note that this program is internationally recognized and ECTS-accredited by the European Agency for Higher Education and Accreditation.
An Emphasis on Practical Applications
The Enterprise Cybersecurity program places a strong emphasis on practical applications. After all, this is the only way for OPIT students to be industry-ready upon graduating. That’s why the entire third module of the program is dedicated to a Capstone project, a hands-on endeavor that also serves as your dissertation.
A Supportive Environment
One of the aspects of studying at OPIT we’re most proud of is our carefully crafted support team. From the class coordinator to the career advisors, everyone at OPIT has a single goal – to help you succeed.
To this end, all the professors in the Enterprise Cybersecurity program (and beyond) are either academics or experienced professionals with plenty of valuable insights “from the forefront of cybersecurity.”
This course includes interactive lessons, live lectures, and private mentoring sessions, ensuring you never feel alone or isolated at OPIT.
One of the primary reasons for choosing online studying is its incredible flexibility. But OPIT takes this aspect to another level. Besides dictating your own study pace, OPIT lets you choose from several elective courses, allowing you to tailor your learning to your interests and career goals. Professor Vazdar singles out the following courses as the most appealing in terms of what this article has discussed:
- Behavioral Cybersecurity
- Secure Software Development
- AI-Driven Forensic Analysis in Cybersecurity
Give Yourself a Competitive Edge With OPIT
OPIT’s Master of Science in Enterprise Cybersecurity program does much more than educate students. It also prepares them for the future, allowing them to become leaders in cybersecurity. As Professor Vazdar puts it, “Our graduate students will be well-equipped to tackle current and future cybersecurity challenges in different sectors.” And given just how quickly these challenges evolve, you can’t really put a price on such preparation (and education).
So, get in touch with our team of experts to give yourself a competitive edge in the dynamic field of cybersecurity.
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, 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?
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.
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.