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Computer Viruses Invade SSU Class--on Purpose RRS feed

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  • Sonoma State University (SSU) professor and former chair of the computer science department George Ledin Jr. created a class that taught students how to design and execute malicious programs that can take over a computer, steal information, or cause the computer to erase vital information and need a complete overhaul. Ledin believes that teaching students how to write computer viruses will give them a better understanding of how malicious programs are made and the knowledge needed to create better defenses. The controversial class, which SSU officials call the first of its kind in the nation, has drawn heavy criticism from members of the computing community. Three security software development companies sent SSU hostile letters, according to Ledin, and have pledged not to hire SSU graduates. That threat did not stop 15 students from signing up for the course. To prevent any malware created during the course from endangering any computers on the Internet, all work was done in an isolated lab disconnected from the network. Ledin acknowledged that there is a danger that some student might maliciously release a virus, but like with other academic fields that deal with dangerous and controversial material, teachers must rely on the students' ethics. To help reinforce those ethics, SSU assistant professor of philosophy John Sullins was added to the course as a second instructor, and continuously reminded students of the potential consequences. Ledin developed the idea for this class after writing an editorial emphasizing the need for better education on malware for an ACM publication. Ledin said that despite the criticism he plans to teach the course again. "There is a perception that this is a taboo topic and shouldn't be taught," Ledin said. "But if we are going to develop better security, we need to know how these programs
    Tuesday, May 29, 2007 12:47 PM

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    Tuesday, May 29, 2007 12:48 PM