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Applicants to the University of Abertay's new Ethical Hacking course will be subject to stringent background checks before being offered a place, to make sure they are not likely to abuse the knowledge they will gain.

The four-year degree "Ethical Hacking and Countermeasures" will be on offer from this September, and is designed to produce White Hat hackers, capable of working with businesses to defend their networks.

A university spokesman said the institution would be working with the Home Office, using "Home Office type procedures and Disclosure Scotland" to rule out applicants with a criminal past.

"This isn't something we do as standard," he told us. "It's just that the particular circumstances of this course make it advisable."

The degree is the first of its kind in the UK, and is expected to attract a lot of interest from students.

Course leader professor Lachlan McKinnon tried to address concerns that the course would simply produce skilled hackers, saying the only sure-fire way to secure a computer is to unplug it.

He added: "We will monitor students closely because we want them to become ethical hackers. But there is no guarantee. Harold Shipman qualified as a doctor, after all, before deciding to become a murderer."

Other courses that can require background checks include medicine, dentistry and even speech science. ®

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