Should colleges really teach hacking?

Summary:Newsweek featured an interesting article Saturday about a professor at Sonoma State University who actively teaches his students to create malware and otherwise do the nasty things online that cost companies billions of dollars every year.According to the Newsweek piece,[Professor George] Ledin insists that his students mean no harm, and can't cause any because they work in the computer equivalent of biohazard suits: closed networks from which viruses can't escape.

Newsweek featured an interesting article Saturday about a professor at Sonoma State University who actively teaches his students to create malware and otherwise do the nasty things online that cost companies billions of dollars every year.

According to the Newsweek piece,

[Professor George] Ledin insists that his students mean no harm, and can't cause any because they work in the computer equivalent of biohazard suits: closed networks from which viruses can't escape. Rather, he's trying to teach students to think like hackers so they can devise antidotes. "Unlike biological viruses, computer viruses are written by a programmer. We want to get into the mindset: how do people learn how to do this?" says Ledin.

While that may be the case, anti-malware companies have threatened not to hire his students and otherwise point his efforts as potentially destructive.

"Why should we shy away from learning something that is important to everyone?," Ledin asks. "Yes, you could inflict some damage on society, but you could inflict damage with chemistry and physics, too."

His approach seems to make a lot of sense. Does showing students a fire escape cause them to start fires? I don't think so and, having used Norton and other intrusive anti-malware tools too often, I think I'd rather just have one of Ledin's grads handling my security instead of, as Ledin says, "McAfee, Symantec and their ilk, whose $100 consumer products he sees as mostly useless."

Topics: Security

About

Christopher Dawson grew up in Seattle, back in the days of pre-antitrust Microsoft, coffeeshops owned by something other than Starbucks, and really loud, inarticulate music. He escaped to the right coast in the early 90's and received a degree in Information Systems from Johns Hopkins University. While there, he began a career in health a... Full Bio

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