Opinion

School for hackers

A report today suggests that there’s a plan to teach hacking techniques. The Hacker High School at the University of La Salle in Barcelona will be offering a hacking course to its students.

The purpose of the course, according to its organizers, is to help students protect themselves from hacker attacks: ‘We are taking kids who will see this kind of illegal activity, and showing them how it is done, what’s happening.’

They claim that attitudes to hacking are like old attitudes to sex: while everyone’s doing it, few are talking about it. The key difference, of course, is that sex between consenting adults is legal, hacking is not!

In addition, you don’t need to learn about the tools burglars use in order to protect your home. You just need to know there’s a threat and to take steps to minimize the risk of attack.

It’s not the first time that an academic institution has sought to ‘educate’ by teaching methods used by authors of malicious code. Back in May 2003, the University of Calgary announced its plan to teach students how to write viruses. It’s now planning a new course for Autumn 2005 that involves ‘implementing spamming and spyware techniques’.

The virus writing course drew criticism from the security industry. It’s likely that the hacking course planned by the University of La Salle will provoke the same reaction.

And this is as it should be: teaching hacking and virus writing legitimizes the hackers, hacking and the writing and spreading of malicious code. These days the majority of hacking attacks, and many viruses, are designed to steal confidential information and provide remote access to systems, with the aim of using those compromised systems for criminal ends. Why would anyone approve of a course for cyber criminals?

School for hackers

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