Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Teaching writing Spyware at the Univ. Of Calgary (CA)

Teaching to write spyware? If you want, this could make you ecstatic.
The University of Calgary is about to introduce another controversial computer science course. Students will be taught how write programs that create e-mail spam as well as spy software. It will be similar to an existing course where students learn how to create computer viruses. The aim is to develop new ways to fight these online nuisances."The idea is for the students to learn how these things propagate, how they are created, how they interact with the system and that sort of thing," says John Aycock, who teaches the viruses course."Then we turn around and say, OK, here are these things you've created; now we write the anti-software and figure out how to fight against them."Aycock says he plans to add a similar course on spyware and spam in the fall, even though some in the computer industry don't like his approach. He says some companies have said they're not going to hire his graduates because they don't like the perception of having someone on board who has written viruses. Aycock acknowledges there is a potential for viruses and other malicious software to spread outside the classroom. He says that's why there are precautions, such as security cameras and a ban on all outside electronic equipment in the classroom. Each student signs a legal form that says a breach of the security means an automatic "F" and a potential criminal investigation. So some of his students will actually retain the knowledge they gain in the classroom. How long before some of the more 'ethically challenged' students put their new-found knowledge to use to the detriment of us all?