Computers are already ubiquitous in the workplace, with the constantly-evolving concept of cloud computing becoming so popular that Tech Jury says 90% of businesses were in the cloud (in some form) in 2022. All of those systems need maintenance and software, requiring people who are dab-hands with keyboards at their fingertips to build networks, analyze data, and develop software.

Enter computer scientists.

By studying computer science, you open yourself up to a branching career path that could take you into almost any sort of business. But before that, you need to know the answer to a simple question – “Is BSc Computer Science a good course?”

Understanding BSc Computer Science

Think of a BSc in Computer Science as though it’s a buffet, with every topic covered being a different dish. You’ll get a taste of everything that’s on offer in the computing field, with your later educational (and career) decisions being based on the dish (i.e., the topic) that you like best. Among those topics and study areas are the following:

  • Networks and Computer Systems – Taking a more hardware-oriented focus (though software plays a part), this topic covers how to connect computers so they can interact with one another.
  • Programming – The language of computers is one you’ll need to learn how to speak if you want to develop software or websites. You’ll discover that there are a lot of languages to choose from, each with its own specific uses.
  • Artificial Intelligence (AI) – As one of the fastest-growing fields in computing (Statista anticipates growth from $100 billion in 2021 to almost $2 trillion by 2030), AI is already becoming essential in business. You’ll learn the concepts that govern AI, such as machine learning and neural networks.
  • Network Security – Every advancement in computer science brings with it malicious parties who wish to use (or subvert) that advancement to their own ends. Computer science courses teach the foundational aspects of network security, setting the stage for later specialization.

Moving beyond what you study (and the above isn’t an exhaustive list of topics), how long you spend on earning your BSc in Computer Science is another key deciding factor. Most traditional universities offer three-year courses, extending to four years if you take an internship or in-course work. The newer breed of online universities offer more flexibility, with some fast-track courses taking as little as two years, while others offer a more free-form version of study that lets you move at your own pace. With the latter, you could take several more years to complete your degree, though you’ll be able to fit your studies around work and family more easily than you would with a full-time course.

Benefits of BSc Computer Science

Assuming you’re willing to place the time (and monetary) investment into a BSc in Computer Science, there are three core benefits you’ll get from the course.

1 – Acquire In-Demand Skills and Knowledge

The basics you learn are in demand in most companies, with many offering additional training and tuition to help you build beyond the basics to become a specialist. Key areas of interest for employers include:

  • Programming – Those who can speak the language that lies behind software are always in demand, with programmers earning an average hourly rate of $33.10, according to Indeed. Salary expectations climb as you move through the ranks, with senior software engineers capable of earning in the early six figures.
  • Data Structures and Algorithms – Problem solvers are popular in any business. The knowledge of algorithms you develop when studying computer science allows you to create code (almost like a set of steps) that’s designed to solve problems. The same applies to data structures, which focus on the locations and methods used to keep data organized.
  • Computer Networks and Security – Even a small office has a network of computers, laptops, smart devices, printers, and servers that all need to communicate with one another. Computer scientists enable that communication, and keep the “conversations” machines have with each other shielded from intruding eyes.

2 – Versatility and Adaptability in the Job Market

Computer science graduates are like the chameleons of the job market. They have so much foundational knowledge in an array of subjects that they’re well-placed to be “Jacks of all trades” as general computer experts. Plus, the base they have can be built from, setting the stage for them to specialize in specific areas of computing based on their preferences.

We’ll dig into some specific roles you could take (along with their salaries) in the next section of the article.

3 – Opportunities for Further Education and Specialization

You’re already part way down the road to computer science mastery once you have your BSc, so why stop there? The opportunity exists for further education and specialization, which could open the door to further career opportunities:

  • Masters and Ph.D. Programs – A Master’s degree in computer science (or a related subject) is the next logical educational step once you have your BSc. You’ll build on what you’ve already learned, in addition to having a chance to specialize in your thesis. PhD programs aren’t immediately open (you’ll need your Master’s first) but they give you a chance to delve into subject-specific research and could set you up for a career in teaching computer science.
  • Professional Certifications – If you prefer the less formal educational route, professional certifications enable you to study at your own pace and give you handy pieces of paper you can use to prove your skills. Great examples include Cisco’s CCIE program and CompTIA’s range of certifications.

Job Prospects and Career Opportunities

Building on the previous mention about your chameleon-like ability to get jobs in multiple fields, you need to know is BSc in Computer Science good for the career-focused student. These are the roles you can get (with salary data from Indeed).

Software Development and Engineering

Rather than being the person who uses software, you can be the person who forms and puts together the building blocks that make the software tick. Software developers and engineers use their coding skills to create the next great apps, websites, computer games, and anything else that needs a computer or mobile device to run.

Average Salary – $114,470

Data Analysis and Data Science

Data, data everywhere, and not a drop to drink. That little spin on the classic “lost at sea” phrase tells you everything you need to know about how many companies feel in the Big Data world. They’re collecting tons of data but don’t know how to organize what they have or extract useful information from it. Data analysts and scientists solve that problem.

Average Salary (Data Analyst) – $74,570

Average Salary (Data Scientist) – $129,574

Cybersecurity and Network Administration

There’s a never-ending battle being waged between network administrators and hackers, with each trying to stay one step ahead of the other. Cyberattacks are on the rise, with Security Magazine pointing out that attacks around the globe increased by 38% in 2022. That means there’s always demand for cybersecurity specialists.

Average Salary – $107,063

Research and Academia

Rather than using your skills to benefit private enterprises, you could be responsible for the next generation of computer scientists. The academic path is a noble one, though not always the most profitable, and it affords you the chance to research the subjects you’re passionate about. The level you reach in academia depends on your own academic accomplishments, with a BSc usually being enough for school-level teaching. You’ll need a Master’s or Ph.D. to go into further education or complex research.

Average Salary (Computing Teacher) – $26.79 per hour

Entrepreneurship and Freelance Opportunities

Why restrict yourself to a single company when you could build your own or spread your scientific seeds wide by becoming a freelancer? More control over your destiny is the biggest benefit of this career path, though there’s a more “sink or swim” mentality. Those who hit it big with a great business idea can hit it really big, but there are plenty of failed computing businesses on the entrepreneurial road.

Average Salary – It all depends on what you do and how well you do it

Factors to Consider When Evaluating the Worth of BSc Computer Science

If you’re still asking “Is BSc Computer Science a good course?” the answer is a definite “yes.” But there are some factors to consider before you commit to several years of computing studies:

  • Personal Interests and Aptitude – Success in any area of study requires a passion for your subject and a certain amount of talent in the field. If you’re missing one (or both) of these for computer science then a BSc may not be for you.
  • Job Market Trends – It’s very possible to make a six-figure salary as a computer scientist, though specialization is often needed to hit the highest figures. Still, it’s worth keeping an eye on what’s happening with the job market to ensure you’re studying toward a future role.
  • Return on Investment – Undergraduate programs can cost anywhere between $15,000 and $85,000, so you need to feel confident that a computer science course is the right one for your future career. Otherwise, you’re left with a massive hole in your bank balance that you need to fill with student loan repayments.
  • Job Satisfaction – Working yourself into the ground is never a good thing. You need to feel confident that you’ll achieve the appropriate balance between your work, personal, and family lives.

Comparing BSc Computer Science With Other Courses

A BSc in Computer Science is far from your only choice if you’re interested in delving into computers. Here are three alternatives to consider.

BSc Information Technology

Though an IT degree covers some of the same ground as a computer science one (especially when it comes to computer networks), you’ll trade theoretical knowledge for practical application. Expect to do a lot of work with databases and basic software, with some coding along the way.

BSc Data Science

As a more specialized course, a BSc in Data Science sees you delving deeper into the math and statistics behind computational systems. You’ll learn how to analyze data and may get a better grip on emerging tech, such as machine learning, than you would with a computer science degree.

Bachelor of Engineering (Computer Science)

A bachelor of engineering takes a more hardware-centric focus than a BSc, with this course teaching more about the principles of electrical engineering and how our computing devices actually work. There are still software components, and you’ll touch on similar subjects to a BSc, but you’ll get more practical experience with this course.

Is a BSc in Computer Science Good for You?

The most important question to ask isn’t “Is BSc Computer Science a good course,” but rather is it the right course for you? Your career goals, coupled with your desire (or lack thereof) to invest your time and money into the degree, may be the main deciding factors.

As with any course, ask yourself what the ultimate benefit is to you and weigh up your options (remembering that there are several types of computing degrees) to make the right choice.

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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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