Combine mathematics with analytics, mix in programming skills, and add a dash of artificial intelligence, and you have the recipe for creating a data scientist. These professionals use complex technical skills to parse, analyze, and draw insights from complex datasets, enabling more accurate decision-making in the process.

As companies gather more data than ever before (both about their customers and themselves), these skills are in increasingly high demand. That’s demonstrated by data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, which says that the number of data science jobs in the U.S. alone looks set to increase by 36% between 2021 and 2031.

That higher-than-average growth rate creates an opportunity for students, though grasping that opportunity requires a dedication to learning. This article explores the question of what is data science course material and highlights a selection of courses that set you on a data-propelled career path.

What to Expect From a Data Science Course

Answering the question of “what is data science course?” starts with examining the components of the typical course. Bear in mind that these components vary in nature and complexity depending on the specific course you take, though all are usually present.

Overview of Course Content

The content of a data science course is usually split into four core categories:

  • Statistics and Probability – Math underpins everything a data scientist does, as they use numbers to spot patterns and determine the likelihood of various potential outcomes. Most data science courses delve into statistics and probability for this reason, with more advanced courses often requiring a degree in a field related to these areas.
  • Programming – Whether it’s Python (the most popular data science programming language), R, or SQL, your course will teach you how to write in a language that machines understand.
  • Data Visualization and Analysis – Anybody can collect reams of data. It’s the ability to visualize that data (and draw insights from it) that sets data scientists apart from other professionals. A good course equips you with the ability to use visualization tools to shine a spotlight on what a dataset actually tells you.
  • Machine Learning and AI – The rise of machine learning transformed data science. Using algorithms created by data scientists, machines can analyze datasets presented to them and learn from the patterns to predict probabilities for different outcomes and even predict market trends. Your course will teach you how to create the algorithms that serve as a machine learning model’s “brain.”

Hands-On Projects and Real-World Applications

If you had the desire, you could read pages and pages on how to tune a car’s engine. But without practical and real-world wrench-in-hand experience working on an engine, you’ll never figure out how what you learn from books applies in the field.

The same line of thinking applies to data science, which is often so technically complex that it’s difficult to see how what you learn applies in the real world. A good data science course incorporates a real-world component through projects and exposure to faculty members who have direct experience in using the skills they teach.

Peer Collaboration and Networking

What is data science course for if not to learn how to become a data scientist? While learning the technical side is crucial, of course, a good course also puts you in contact with like-minded individuals who have the same (or similar) goals as you.

That contact helps you to build the collaborative skills you’ll need when you enter the workforce. But perhaps more importantly, it aids you in creating a network of peers who could lead you to job opportunities or work with you on entrepreneurial ventures.

Top Data Science Courses Available

With the components of a data science course established, you have a vital question to answer – what data science course should you take? The following are four suggestions (two online courses and two university courses) that give you a solid grounding in the subject.

Online Courses

Taking a data science course online gives you flexibility, though you may miss out on some of the collaborative and networking aspects that university-led courses provide.

Course 1 – What Is Data Science? (IBM via Coursera)

Coming with the stamp of approval from IBM, a leading name in the computer science field, this nine-hour course is suitable for beginners who want a self-paced learning approach. It’s part of a multi-part program (the IBM Data Science Professional Certificate) that’s designed to give you an industry-recognized qualification that could fast-track your entry into the field.

As for the course itself, it’s split into three parts, each containing multiple instructor-led videos and quizzes to test what you’ve learned. By the end, you’ll understand what data scientists do, build a basic understanding of various data science-related topics, and see how the profession relates to the modern business world. Granted, the course offers a surface-level understanding of the subject, with more complex topics examined in other classes. But it’s a superb tool for developing the foundation on which you can build with other courses.

Course 2 – Introduction to Data Science With Python (Harvard via edX)

Where IBM’s course equips you with general knowledge, Harvard’s online offering digs into the practical side of data science. Specifically, it focuses on using Python (and its many libraries) to solve data science problems drawn from real-world examples.

The course takes eight weeks, with study time between three and four hours per week. Ultimately, this class helps you build on your established programming skills and shows you how to apply them in a data science context.

As you may have guessed, that mention of building on existing skills means you’ll need a solid understanding of Python to participate in this free course. But assuming you have that, Harvard’s class is ideal for showing you just how flexible the language can be, especially when developing machine learning algorithms. Furthermore, simply having the word “Harvard” on your online certification adds credibility to your CV when you start applying for jobs.

University Programs

University programs demand a larger time (and monetary) commitment than purely online programs, though the upside is that you get a more prestigious qualification at the end. These two courses are ideal, with one even being a hybrid of online and university-level courses.

Course 1 – Master in Applied Data Science & AI (OPIT)

Let’s get the obvious out of the way first – you’ll need a BSc degree, or an equivalent, in a computer science or mathematical subject to take OPIT’s data science Master’s degree course.

Assuming you meet that prerequisite, this course comes in 18 and 12-month varieties, with the latter being a fast-tracked version that delivers the same content while asking you to dedicate more time to studying. It costs €6,500 to take, though early bird discounts are available, and an EU-accredited university delivers it.

The course eschews traditional exams by taking a progressive assessment approach to determine how well you’re absorbing the materials. It’s also focused on the practical side of things, with the application of data science in business problem-solving and communication being core modules.

Course 2 – MSc in Social Data Science (University of Oxford)

As the world’s leading university for seven consecutive years, according to Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings, the University of Oxford has outstanding credentials. And its MSc in Social Data Science is an interesting course to take because it specializes in a specific subject area – human behavior.

The degree stands on the precipice of an emerging field as it focuses on using data science to analyze, critique, and reevaluate existing social processes. It combines general machine learning models with more specialized data science tools, such as natural language processing and computer vision, to equip students with a high degree of technical knowledge.

That knowledge doesn’t come cheap, either in time or monetary commitment. The University of Oxford expects students to devote 40 hours per week to study, with overseas students having to pay £30,910 (approx. €35,795) to participate. While these investments are naturally intimidating, the university’s prestige makes the time and money you spend worthwhile when you start speaking to employers.

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Data Science Course

The four courses presented here each offer something different in terms of delivery and the expertise required of the student to participate. When choosing between them (and any other courses you find), you should consider the following questions:

  • Does the course content and curriculum align with your career goals?
  • Can you make time for the course within your schedule, and how much flexibility does it offer?
  • Do the instructors provide the expertise you need and teach in a style that suits your preferred way of learning?
  • Will you get an adequate return on your investment, both in terms of the prestige of the certification you receive and the knowledge you gain?
  • Have past (or current) students recommended the course as a good option for prospective data scientists?

The Benefits of Completing a Data Science Course

Given the technical nature of the subject, you may be asking yourself what is data science course content going to deliver in terms of benefits to your life. The answers are as follows:

  • Your skills improve your job prospects by putting you in pole position to enter a market that’s set for substantial growth over the next 10 years.
  • The problem-solving and analytical tools you gain are useful in the data science field and other career paths.
  • Any course you select puts you in contact with industry professionals who offer networking opportunities that could lead to a new job.
  • You get to learn about (and experiment with) cutting-edge tools and technologies that will become the standard for modern business, and more, in the coming years.

What Is Data Science Course – It’s Your Route Into a Great Career

Let’s conclude by reiterating something mentioned at the start of the article – the data science sector will grow by 36% over the next decade or so.

That growth alone demonstrates the importance of data science, as well as why choosing the right course is so critical to your future success. With the right course, you make yourself a desirable candidate to organizations that are quickly accepting that they need data scientists to help them make decisions for the future.

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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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