In April 1999, a $433 million Air Force rocket inexplicably malfunctioned almost immediately after liftoff, causing the permanent loss of an $800 million military communications satellite. This $1.2 billion disaster remains one of the costliest accidents in human history.


You might wonder if scientists ever found out what caused this misfiring. They sure did! And the answer is a software bug.


This accident alone is a testament to the importance of software testing.


Although you can probably deduce the software testing definition, let’s also review it together.


So, what is software testing?


Software testing refers to running a software program before putting it on the market to determine whether it behaves as expected and displays no defects.


While testing itself isn’t free, these expenses are cost-effective compared to potential money loss resulting from software failure. And this is just one of the benefits of this process. Others include improving performance, preventing human and equipment loss, and increasing stakeholder confidence.


Now that you understand why software testing is such a big deal, let’s inspect this process in more detail.


Software Testing Fundamentals


We’ll start with the basics – what are the fundamentals of testing in software engineering? In other words, what exactly is its end goal, and which principles underlie it?


Regarding the objectives of software testing, there are three distinct ones aiming to answer crucial questions about the software.


  • Verification and validation. Does the software meet all the necessary requirements? And does it satisfy the end customer?
  • Defects and errors identification. Does the software have any defects or errors? What is their scope and impact? And did they cause related issues?
  • Software quality assurance. Is the software performing at optimal levels? Can the software engineering process be further optimized?

As for principles of software testing, there are seven of them, and they go as follows:


  1. Testing shows the presence of defects. With everything we’ve written about software testing, this sounds like a given. But this principle emphasizes that testing can only confirm the presence of defects. It can’t confirm their absence. So, even if no flaws are found, it doesn’t mean the system has none.
  2. Exhaustive testing is impossible. Given how vital software testing is, this process should ideally test all the possible scenarios to confirm the program is defect-free without a shadow of a doubt. Unfortunately, this is impossible to achieve in practice. There’s simply not enough time, money, or space to conduct such testing. Instead, test analysts can only base the testing amount on risk assessment. In other words, they’ll primarily test elements that are most likely to fail.
  3. Testing should start as early as possible. Catching defects in the early stages of software development makes all the difference for the final product. It also saves lots of money in the process. For this reason, software testing should start from the moment its requirements are defined.
  4. Most defects are within a small number of modules. This principle, known as defect clustering, follows the Pareto principle or the 80/20 rule. The rule states that approximately 80% of issues can be found in 20% of modules.
  5. Repetitive software testing is useless. Known as the Pesticide Paradox, this principle warns that conducting the same tests to discover new defects is a losing endeavor. Like insects become resistant to a repeatedly used pesticide mix, the tested software will become “immune” to the same tests.
  6. Testing is context-dependent. The same set of tests can rarely be used on two separate software programs. You’ll need to switch testing techniques, methodologies, and approaches based on the program’s application.
  7. The software program isn’t necessarily usable, even without defects. This principle is known as the absence of errors fallacy. Just because a system is error-free doesn’t mean it meets the customer’s business needs. In software testing objectives, software validation is as important as verification.

Types of Software Testing


There are dozens (if not hundreds) types of testing in software engineering. Of course, not all of these tests apply to all systems. Choosing the suitable types of testing in software testing boils down to your project’s nature and scope.


All of these testing types can be broadly classified into three categories.


Functional Testing


Functional software testing types examine the system to ensure it performs in accordance with the pre-determined functional requirements. We’ll explain each of these types using e-commerce as an example.


  • Unit Testing – Checking whether each software unit (the smallest system component that can be tested) performs as expected. (Does the “Add to Cart” button work?)
  • Integration Testing – Ensuring that all software components interact correctly within the system. (Is the product catalog seamlessly integrated with the shopping cart?)
  • System Testing – Verifying that a system produces the desired output. (Can you complete a purchase?)
  • Acceptance Testing – Ensuring that the entire system meets the end users’ needs. (Is all the information accurate and easy to access?)

Non-Functional Testing


Non-functional types of testing in software engineering deal with the general characteristics of a system beyond its functionality. Let’s go through the most common non-functional tests, continuing the e-commerce analogy.


  • Performance Testing – Evaluating how a system performs under a specific workload. (Can the e-commerce shop handle a massive spike in traffic without crashing?)
  • Usability Testing – Checking the customer’s ability to use the system effectively. (How quickly can you check out?)
  • Security Testing – Identifying the system’s security vulnerabilities. (Will sensitive credit card information be stored securely?)
  • Compatibility Testing – Verifying if the system can run on different platforms and devices. (Can you complete a purchase using your mobile phone?)
  • Localization Testing – Checking the system’s behavior in different locations and regions. (Will time-sensitive discounts take time zones into account?)

Maintenance Testing


Maintenance testing takes place after the system has been produced. It checks whether (or how) the changes made to fix issues or add new features have affected the system.


  • Regression Testing – Checking whether the changes have affected the system’s functionality. (Does the e-commerce shop work seamlessly after integrating a new payment gateway?)
  • Smoke Testing – Verifying the system’s basic functionality before conducting more extensive (and expensive!) tests. (Can the new product be added to the cart?)
  • Sanity Testing – Determining whether the new functionality operates as expected. (Does the new search filter select products adequately?)

Levels of Software Testing


Software testing isn’t done all at once. There are levels to it. Four, to be exact. Each level contains different types of tests, grouped by their position in the software development process.


Read about the four levels of testing in software testing here.


Level 1: Unit Testing


Unit testing helps developers determine whether individual system components (or units) work properly. Since it takes place at the lowest level, this testing sets the tone for the rest of the software development process.


This testing plays a crucial role in test-driven development (TDD). In this methodology, developers perform test cases first and worry about writing the code for software development later.


Level 2: Integration Testing


Integration testing focuses on the software’s inner workings, checking how different units and components interact. After all, you can’t test the system as a whole if it isn’t coherent from the start.


During this phase, testers use two approaches to integration testing: top-down (starting with the highest-level units) and bottom-up (integrating the lowest-level units first).


Level 3: System Testing


After integration testing, the system can now be evaluated as a whole. And that’s exactly what system testing does.


System testing methods are usually classified as white-box or black-box testing. The primary difference is whether the testers are familiar with the system’s internal code structure. In white-box testing, they are.


Level 4: Acceptance Testing


Acceptance testing determines whether the system delivers on its promises. Two groups are usually tasked with acceptance testing: quality assessment experts (alpha testing before the software launches) and a limited number of users (beta testing in a real-time environment).



Software Testing Process


Although some variations might exist, the software testing process typically follows the same pattern.


Step 1: Planning the Test


This step entails developing the following:


  • Test strategy for outlining testing approaches
  • Test plan for detailing testing objectives, priorities, and processes
  • Test estimation for calculating the time and resources needed to complete the testing process

Step 2: Designing the Test


In the design phase, testers create the following:


  • Test scenarios (hypothetical situations used to test the system)
  • Test cases (instructions on how the system should be tested)
  • Test data (set of values used to test the system)

Step 3: Executing the Test


Text execution refers to performing (and monitoring) the planned and designed tests. This phase begins with setting up the test environment and ends with writing detailed reports on the findings.


Step 4: Closing the Test


After completing the testing, testers generate relevant metrics and create a summary report on their efforts. At this point, they have enough information to determine whether the tested software is ready to be released.


High-Quality Testing for High-Quality Software


Think of different types of software testing as individual pieces of a puzzle that come together to form a beautiful picture. Performing software testing hierarchically (from Level 1 to Level 4) ensures no stone is left unturned, and the tested software won’t let anyone down.


With this in mind, it’s easy to conclude that you should only attempt software development projects if you implement effective software testing practices first.

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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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