Professional Skills and Issues

7 Pages   |   1,654 Words

Introduction

The purpose of this essay is to discuss a scenario in which the merits of teaching hacking as a course in a university final year degree program are discussed. A lot had been said for and/or against teaching of such a course to the students. We will try to explore the essay in detail with important possible implication either good or bad and give our conclusion at the end of the essay. The essay will give background on the issue, arguments from critics and advocates, how the critics calm down and supported the university course teaching, can the hacking be good, and conclusion at the end of the essay.
 

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Background

Let us first lay down the background on a university offering a course which included with other stuff to teach how to write a malicious code of a virus, worms, or a Trojan. It draws much criticism from the industry to the extent to not support such a move which taught how to create virus in the lab. The final year of a degree program in a University taught a course on ‘Computer Viruses and Malware’.
This turned industry to go to the extent to say that they would not hire those graduates. The administration expected the industry to support the move which was designed to educate future virus fighters. On the other hand the industry came forward with the argument that, “it would legitimize the creation of destructive code and provide justification for virus writers to do their work.” Some thought that salability of spam tools would create such financial propositions to tempt hard up students (Sturgeon, 2005).
Despite this negative criticism from the industry the university insisted that such a class will help develop the next generations of computer security specialists not rogue hackers. As Dr. Ken Barker, chair of Computer Science department at the university put it, “The course is about understanding viruses adequately in order to stop them from happening.” He further elaborated, “We want to create the next antivirus professional who can be proactive at anticipating the next kind of virus software, the next innovators in antivirus.” It will be followed by the larger program of computer security which will also discuss ethics and legal issue. So as we know university was advocating the stated course with a purpose of producing ethical virus writer which are able to perform their roles as future bread of security specialists.
On the other hand the representatives of antivirus software companies did not approve the idea of teaching virus writing could benefit anyone. This may have some merits in it but we can also smell the ill designs behind close minds of antivirus companies which have benefit of keeping this knowledge to them. It is advantageous for them to train and keep these specialists to them so for every new virus created the business run to them for a solution instead of hiring independent security consultants. On the other hand we should acknowledge that some students may refrain to sign up such a course but not all students who join such a controversial course would join it for the right reasons. So industry argue that how would university would make sure that who should join the course and they not start writing viruses and worms once they pass the course. They go to the extent of saying that like telling someone how to steal car in order to expect to come in future with designs which stop such a move.
The industry was such serious against teaching such a course that they stated if such a course was mention in any candidate’s resume they would not have hired such candidates. In another essay author believed and argued sophos has reacted with surprise and criticism over the news that university is teaching a course to the final years network security students on writing malicious viruses (Sophos, 2003) .
Let’s now summarize the main arguments from both critics and advocates of the move to teach that controversial course by university.

Critics:

The main objections from the critics were (Kabay, 2004):
  • Teaching to write malicious codes is not needed to teach how the viruses, worms, and Trojan horses works
  • The malicious codes are bound to come out of the closed lab environment.
  •  Some students may have wrong intentions and message to create and spread such a harmful code
  • Such can be expected to remain jobless as there are rumors that antivirus companies are behind creating such a viruses for the sake of profit

Advocates:

The supporters of the course rejected above assertions by assuring that’s (Kabay, 2004):
  • Closed lab environment would be well protected. This is small part course would also teach history of such malicious codes 
  • There would be ethical values taught to help educated the participants against negative side of the picture.
  • They assured the virus writing would not be the only part of the course but would include; history of malware, economic consequences, counter measures, legal consequences, and wider principles of computer and network security.
  • The information is freely available on the internet, introducing it in mainstream education system would create ethical security specialists (Sturgeon, 2005).

Storm calm down for good

As the university administration held strong on their arguments the industry criticism slowed down with the passage of time. In 2005, after 2 years of first course, the industry reaction to the latest addition of the syllabus has been more measured. They asserted that right skills, taught in a controlled environment will make them a useful addition to their industry.  Later the time also proved that students which pass that course did not happen to be a threat to the security (Sturgeon, 2005). The tide turned to such an extent the CEO of SurfControl, said they would give special consideration to the graduate of such a course.

Ethical Hacking

After discussing both critics and advocates point of view in detail we believe that university authorities turnout to be true in their assertions as with the passage of time criticism calmed and critics admitted the fact that the virus writing skills under the ethical considerations are good and they welcomed such a graduates for jobs. So we may argue that ethical hacking for the purpose of learning in close door secure environment is good for creating next generation of security professionals (University, 2006). The paper argues that ethical hacking is rapidly growing area of security. The paper further proposes a model of ethical hacking. 
The author argues that since hacking has become widespread problem especially with everything available in the internet so the protection against such threat is as much important. It discusses the hacking practices, ethical hacking, and need of teaching computer science students about ethical hacking in order to strengthen their skills as security professionals (Pashel, 2006).
Thus with continuous understanding of the both sides of the picture we know that there are more advantages of teaching such a course by the university to the mature final year students. For example take the case of hacking.

Example: Is there good-hacking?

Most of us would never think that there could be a good side of hacking. Consider, there are such individuals and companies that perform security audits to publish their findings about security industry and also to help individual who do not know much about security. Furthermore, it could help us secure our society from such threats. This could also help people which can find security holes and help fix them. People who develop security tools fight in future against such threats is also known as hacking but used in a good way (Gerardo, 2008). This foundation is same on which the topic of this easy is based so if such a good hacking is nice so does the teaching the same in the universities. Another essay presents study that there is a thin line between a good hacker and a bad one (Schwartzel, 2010). There can be many advantages or disadvantages of giving such an education to the student but as Shakespeare once said (Shakespeare, 2010); 
“Nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so”

Conclusion

We know that there is nothing good or bad but the thinking makes it so. We extend this argument in the essay with the example of the good-hacking case. Furthermore we study that if there could be a could a good hacking than the teaching of such traits in a university environment with not only teaching the developing and understanding of the virus but economic, social, ethical, counter measures, and legal issue is of more good. The critics with passage of time calm down and on the others hand supporters increased. Based upon the detailed discussion taking both pros and cons of the subject we can safely conclude that the university did nothing wrong to offer the said course while fulfilling different aspects of such a move.

Works Cited

Gerardo, 2008. Is Hacking Good Or Bad? [Online] Available at: http://www.theinternetprotectors.com/?q=node/45 [Accessed 4 November 2010].
Kabay, M.E., 2004. Creating viruses in a university course. [Online] Available at: http://www.networkworld.com/newsletters/sec/2004/0920sec2.html [Accessed 5 November 2010].
Pashel, B.A., 2006. Teaching students to hack: ethical implications in teaching students to hack at the university level. InfoSecCD '06 Proceedings of the 3rd annual conference on Information security curriculum development.
Schwartzel, E., 2010. Thin line separates the good hackers from the bad. [Online] Available at: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/10063/1040105-28.stm [Accessed 4 November 2010].
Shakespeare, 2010. Nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so. [Online] Available at: http://www.enotes.com/shakespeare-quotes/nothing-either-good-bad-but-thinking-makes [Accessed 7 November 2010].
Sophos, 2003. University course for virus-writing is irresponsible, says Sophos. [Online] Available at: http://www.sophos.com/pressoffice/news/articles/2003/05/va_calgary.html [Accessed 5 November 2010].
Sturgeon, W., 2005. University offers spam and spyware writing course. [Online] Available at: http://www.silicon.com/technology/security/2005/02/08/university-offers-spam-and-spyware-writing-course-39127703/ [Accessed 4 November 2010].
University, E.C., 2006. Ethical Hacking: Teaching Students to Hack. [Online] Available at: http://www.zdnetasia.com/whitepaper/ethical-hacking-teaching-students-to-hack_wp-178127.htm [Accessed 7 November 2010].

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