A university course in Canada teaching students how to create computer viruses has been met with derision by angry industry watchers, who believe it will create a pool of future virus writers.
The 'Computer Viruses and Malware' course will begin next autumn at the University of Calgary.
It is described as focusing on "developing malicious software such as computer viruses, worms and Trojan horses that are known to wreak havoc to the tune of billions of dollars worldwide on an annual basis".
The thinking behind the course is that educating students in virus writing will lead to a greater understanding of how to stop viruses. The teaching will also cover legal, ethical and computer security issues.
The University's Department of Computer Science explained that it "explores new territory as it becomes the first institution in Canada to offer such a course as part of its undergraduate programme".
Dr John Aycock, professor for this course, likened it to medical research. "This attitude is similar to what medical researchers do to combat the latest biological viruses such as Sars," he said.
"Before you can develop a cure, you have to understand what the virus is and how it spreads. Why should combating computer viruses be any different?"
But Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant for Sophos Anti-Virus, dismissed the course as a bad idea.
"Should we teach kids how to break into cars if they're interested in becoming a policeman one day?" he asked.
"Creating new viruses is of no benefit at all, but could lead to greater danger.
"One wonders if the university will be held legally and financially responsible if any of the viruses written on their course break out and infect innocent computer users."
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