Build a Better Virus
Computer science courses are rarely controversial, yet a new offering from the University of Calgary has raised hackles. The class will teach seniors how to create a virus. Instruction will take place in a computer lab that will be monitored 24 hours a day. None of the computers will be connected to a network or the Internet; and the 16 to 20 students will be given ethics training. "This is about scholarly inquiry," says university spokesman Dan Seneker. "Everyone else is focused on the antivirus side of things, but we decided to focus on how they're created." Several colleges have inquired about the class, Seneker adds. Still, critics fear that today's final project in Calgary could wreak worldwide havoc tomorrow. Computer vermin from the "Love Bug" to the Anna Kournikova worm cost American businesses $200 billion a year. "They don't think college students could figure out a way to get a virus out of there?" asks George Pfenenger, CEO of Socket Internet, in Columbia, Mo. "I can think of about a million."