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Canada's University of Calgary is to run a course in writing malicious computer viruses.

Computer Viruses and Malware focuses on "developing malicious software such as computer viruses, worms and Trojan horses". It kicks off in the autumn.

Course leader Dr. John Aycock,is said to have convinced the University to authorise virus writing on the basis that it will lead to a greater understanding of how to stop viruses.

Aycock equates teaching students how to develop malicious computer code to what medical researchers do when they try to understand biological viruses. Just for good measure, the page advertising the course throws in some ludicrously high figures for the annual cost of computer viruses. Computer viruses took $1.6 trillion out of the economy in the year 2000? We think not.

Aycock's reasoning comes under fire from Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant for Sophos Anti-Virus.

"Should we teach kids how to break into cars if they're interested in becoming a policeman one day? It is simply not necessary to write new viruses to understand how they work and how they can be prevented," he says.

"One wonders if the University will be held legally and financially responsible if any of the viruses written on their course break out and infect innocent computer users." ®

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