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As if malware is not already a big enough problem with script-kiddies and a thriving underworld market in readymade malware exploit kits adding to the agony. One university is now actively teaching students how to write viruses properly...

There is something of an 'Oh My God' feel to the Newsweek article which covers the story. It claims that Professor George Ledin is somehow trying to disrupt the IT security industry status quo: "His syllabus is partly a veiled attack on McAfee, Symantec and their ilk" it says.

The course in question, tackling computer-security issues, is conducted at the Sonoma State University, San Francisco. Professor Ledin, Newsweek proclaims, has showed his students "how to penetrate even the best antivirus software."

Security vendors are, perhaps understandably, more than a little peeved. This could well be more to do with the arguments emanating from the direction of the good Professor than the actual course itself.

Newsweek sums up the Ledin position as being, in a nutshell, that consumer antivirus products are useless in college students can work around them. They are nothing more than a $5 billion per year cash cow for the vendors.

Of course, not everyone who uses a computer is taking a college course which teaches them to evade security software protection, so the argument does have some flaws. But then so does the counter-argument that Professor Ledin is some IT Dr Evil turning geeks into cyber-criminals.

The course has actually got much more to do with churning out future computer security professionals who can join the fight against cyber-crime rather than Mini-Me miscreants. Sure, there is the potential for harm but then the same can be said of any course which teaches the relevant programming skills.

When the courses first started, the Sonoma State University said that "students are learning the intricacies of how computer viruses are constructed in much the same way biology students learn about the intricacies of bacterial organisms and other life forms that cause disease."

But what about the ethics of malware instruction, and what do the security vendors have to say about it all? Find out on page 2...

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