Monday, February 07, 2005

Teaching the Bad to Create the Good

One can make up many analogies for this story, but I'll leave it to the facts: the University of Toronto is offering a computer science course that teaches students how to write spam and spyware. The university already offers a course on creating computer viruses. The aim, according to one of the teachers, "is for the students to learn how these things propagate, how they are created, how they interact with the system and that sort of thing." All to be able to write a better anti-code and fight them.

Of course some software companies have cried fire and are threatening never to hire any of the course's graduates. This is something of a hollow threat, since software companies (consciously) employ more than a few ex-hackers. The university tries to ease some of the concerns by forbidding outside electronic equipment in the clasroom and installing security cameras. I wonder what these measures try to prevent, except from unleasing malicious actions from university grounds, and as such trying to decreases the universities liability. Nothing prevents students from doing some home work.

But then, that's not the real issue here. The question is if academic freedom entails the instruction of knowledge and skills that may potentially lead to illegal actions? This needs an answer next to, for example, academic circumvention research, which actually is deemed illegal under the DMCA/EUCD, but should not be. Research and teaching go hand in hand, but are they truly two sides of the same coin of academic freedom?

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Thru broadbandreports


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