Just like the snake it’s named after, Python has wrapped itself around the programming world, becoming a deeply entrenched teaching and practical tool since its 1991 introduction. It’s one of the world’s most used programming languages, with Statista claiming that 48.07% of programmers use it, making it as essential as SQL, C, and even HTML to computer scientists.

This article serves as an introduction to Python programming for beginners. You’ll learn Python basics, such as how to install it and the concepts that underpin the language. Plus, we’ll show you some basic Python code you can use to have a little play around with the language.

Python Basics

It stands to reason that you need to download and install Python onto your system before you can start using it. The latest version of Python is always available at Python.org. Different versions are available for Windows, Linux, macOS, iOS, and several other machines and operating systems.

Installing Python is a universal process across operating systems. Download the installer for your OS from Python.org and open its executable. Follow the instructions and you should have Python up and running, and ready for you to play around with some Python language basics, in no time.

Python IDEs and Text Editors

Before you can start coding in your newly-installed version of Python, you need to install an integrated development environment (IDE) to your system. These applications are like a bridge between the language you write in and the visual representation of that language on your screen. But beyond being solely source code editors, many IDEs serve as debuggers, compilers, and even feature automation that can complete code (or at least offer suggestions) on your behalf.

Some of the best Python IDEs include:

  • Atom
  • Visual Studio
  • Eclipse
  • PyCharm
  • Komodo IDE

But there are plenty more besides. Before choosing an IDE, ask yourself the following questions to determine if the IDE you’re considering is right for your Python project:

  • How much does it cost?
  • Is it easy to use?
  • What are its debugging and compiling features?
  • How fast is the IDE?
  • Does this IDE give me access to the libraries I’ll need for my programs?

Basic Python Concepts

Getting to grips with the Python basics for beginners starts with learning the concepts that underpin the language. Each of these concepts defines actions you can take in the language, meaning they’re essentially for writing even the simplest of programs.

Variables and Data Types

Variables in Python work much like they do for other programming languages – they’re containers in which you store a data value. The difference between Python and other languages is that Python doesn’t have a specific command used to declare a variable. Instead, you create a variable the moment you assign a value to a data type.

As for data types, they’re split into several categories, with most having multiple sub-types you can use to define different variables:

  • String – “str”
  • Numeric – “int,” “complex,” “float”
  • Sequence – “list,” “range,” “tuple”
  • Boolean – “bool”
  • Binary – “memoryview,” “bytes,” “bytearray”

There are more, though the above should be enough for your Python basics notes. Each of these data types serves a different function. For example, on the numerical side, “int” allows you to store signed integers of no defined length, while “float” lets you assign decimals up to 15 points.


When you have your variables and values, you’ll use operators to perform actions using them. These actions range from the simple (adding and subtracting numbers) to the complex (comparing values to each other). Though there are many types of operators you’ll learn as you venture beyond the Python language basics, the following three are some of the most important for basic programs:

  • Arithmetic operators – These operators allow you to handle most aspects of basic math, including addition, subtraction, division, and multiplication. There are also arithmetic operators for more complex operations, including floor division and exponentiation.
  • Comparison operators – If you want to know which value is bigger, comparison operators are what you use. They take two values, compare them, and give you a result based on the operator’s function.
  • Logical operators – “And,” “Or,” and “Not” are your logical operators and they combine to form conditional statements that give “True” or “False”

Control Structures

As soon as you start introducing different types of inputs into your code, you need control structures to keep everything organized. Think of them as the foundations of your code, directing variables to where they need to go while keeping everything, as the name implies, under control. Two of the most important control structures are:

  • Conditional Statements – “If,” “Else,” and “elif” fall into this category. These statements basically allow you to determine what the code does “if” something is the case (such as a variable equaling a certain number) and what “else” to do if the condition isn’t met.
  • Loops – “For” and “while” are your loop commands, with the former being used to create an iterative sequence, with the latter setting the condition for that sequence to occur.


You likely don’t want every scrap of code you write to run as soon as you start your program. Some chunks (called functions) should only run when they’re called by other parts of the code. Think of it like giving commands to a dog. A function will only sit, stay, or roll over when another part of the code tells it to do what it does.

You need to define and call functions.

Use the “def” keyword to define a function, as you see in the following example:

def first_function():

print (“This is my first function”)

When you need to call that function, you simply type the function’s name followed by the appropriate parenthesis:


That “call” tells your program to print out the words “This is my first function” on the screen whenever you use it.

Interestingly, Python has a collection of built-in functions, which are functions included in the language that anybody can call without having to first define the function. Many relate to the data types discussed earlier, with functions like “str()” and “int()” allowing you to define strings and integers respectively.

Python – Basic Programs

Now that you’ve gotten to grips with some of the Python basics for beginners, let’s look at a few simple programs that almost anybody can run.

Hello, World! Program

The starting point for any new coder in almost any new language is to get the screen to print out the words “Hello, World!”. This one is as simple as you can get, as you’ll use the print command to get a piece of text to appear on screen:

print(‘Hello, World! ‘)

Click what “Run” button in your IDE of choice and you’ll see the words in your print command pop up on your monitor. Though this is all simple enough, make sure you make note of the use of the apostrophes/speech mark around the text. If you don’t have them, your message doesn’t print.

Basic Calculator Program

Let’s step things up with one of the Python basic programs for beginners that helps you to get to grips with functions. You can create a basic calculator using the language by defining functions for each of your arithmetic operators and using conditional statements to tell the calculator what to do when presented with different options.

The following example comes from Programiz.com:

# This function adds two numbers

def add(x, y):

return x + y

# This function subtracts two numbers

def subtract(x, y):

return x – y

# This function multiplies two numbers

def multiply(x, y):

return x * y

# This function divides two numbers

def divide(x, y):

return x / y

print(“Select operation.”)





while True:

# Take input from the user

choice = input(“Enter choice(1/2/3/4): “)

# Check if choice is one of the four options

if choice in (‘1’, ‘2’, ‘3’, ‘4’):


num1 = float(input(“Enter first number: “))

num2 = float(input(“Enter second number: “))

except ValueError:

print(“Invalid input. Please enter a number.”)


if choice == ‘1’:

print(num1, “+”, num2, “=”, add(num1, num2))

elif choice == ‘2’:

print(num1, “-“, num2, “=”, subtract(num1, num2))

elif choice == ‘3’:

print(num1, “*”, num2, “=”, multiply(num1, num2))

elif choice == ‘4’:

print(num1, “/”, num2, “=”, divide(num1, num2))

# Check if user wants another calculation

# Break the while loop if answer is no

next_calculation = input(“Let’s do next calculation? (yes/no): “)

if next_calculation == “no”:



print(“Invalid Input”)

When you run this code, your executable asks you to choose a number between 1 and 4, with your choice denoting which mathematical operator you wish to use. Then, you enter your values for “x” and “y”, with the program running a calculation between those two values based on the operation choice. There’s even a clever piece at the end that asks you if you want to run another calculation or cancel out of the program.

Simple Number Guessing Game

Next up is a simple guessing game that takes advantage of the “random” module built into Python. You use this module to generate a number between 1 and 99, with the program asking you to guess which number it’s chosen. But unlike when you play this game with your sibling, the number doesn’t keep changing whenever you guess the right answer.

This code comes from Python for Beginners:

import random

n = random.randint(1, 99)

guess = int(input(“Enter an integer from 1 to 99: “))

while True:

if guess < n:

print (“guess is low”)

guess = int(input(“Enter an integer from 1 to 99: “))

elif guess > n:

print (“guess is high”)

guess = int(input(“Enter an integer from 1 to 99: “))


print (“you guessed it right! Bye!”)


Upon running the code, your program uses the imported “random” module to pick its number and then asks you to enter an integer (i.e., a whole number) between 1 and 99. You keep guessing until you get it right and the program delivers a “Bye” message.

Python Libraries and Modules

As you move beyond the basic Python language introduction and start to develop more complex code, you’ll find your program getting a bit on the heavy side. That’s where modules come in. You can save chunks of your code into a module, which is a file with the “.py” extension, allowing you to call that module into another piece of code.

Typically, these modules contain functions, variables, and classes that you want to use at multiple points in your main program. Retyping those things at every instance where they’re called takes too much time and leaves you with code that’s bogged down in repeated processes.

Libraries take things a step further by offering you a collection of modules that you can call from as needed, similar to how you can borrow any book from a physical library. Examples include the “Mayplotlib” library, which features a bunch of modules for data visualization, and “Beautiful Soup,” which allows you to extract data from XML and HTML files.

Best Practices and Tips for Basic Python Programs for Beginners

Though we’ve focused primarily on the code aspect of the language in these Python basic notes so far, there are a few tips that will help you create better programs that aren’t directly related to learning the language:

  • Write clean code – Imagine that you’re trying to find something you need in a messy and cluttered room. It’s a nightmare to find what you’re looking for because you’re constantly tripping over stuff you don’t need. That’s what happens in a Python program if you create bloated code or repeat functions constantly. Keep it clean and your code is easier to use.
  • Debugging and error handling – Buggy code is frustrating to users, especially if that code just dumps them out of a program when it hits an error. Beyond debugging (which everybody should do as standard) you must build error responses into your Python code to let users know what’s happening when something goes wrong.
  • Use online communities and resources – Python is one of the most established programming languages in the world, and there’s a massive community built up around it. Take advantage of those resources. Try your hand at a program first, then take it to the community to see if they can point you in the right direction.

Get to Grips With the Basic Concepts of Python

With these Python introduction notes, you have everything you need to understand some of the more basic aspects of the language, as well as run a few programs. Experimentation is your friend, so try taking what you’ve learned here and writing a few other simple programs for yourself. Remember – the Python community (along with stacks of online resources) are available to help you when you’re struggling.

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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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