Editor, the Gauntlet,

Editor, the Gauntlet,


Re: “Experts decry virus course,” May 29, 2003


It is possible to interpret the University of Calgary’s actions on this matter as a potential security threat to both Canada and the United States. Since many of the recent terrorists gained access to North America through Canada, it is quite reasonable to suppose that some are students in our universities as well. It is believed by many, particularly those in positions of authority and responsibility, that the next major attack or war will be preceded by a blitz attack on our critical communications and computer network infrastructure. The use of malware in this context would classify it as a weapon.


The weaponization of malware is not a far fetched concept. Since most universities are not geared up to perform background checks on their students, they cannot control the potential threat that might be created by, or emanated from, their institution.


Academic license is not in a vacuum outside the realm of ethics. The implied argument by the University of Calgary that they are not responsible for how students may use their new skills and knowledge is akin to the argument many scientists have offered in the past. They have claimed to just develop or invent the item, thereby denying responsibility for how it is used (e.g. moral neutrality).


That is, always has been, and always will be a bunch of bull pucky.


The university does have an ethical obligation for what it teaches. In fact, the U of C might be leaving itself wide open to a plethora of lawsuits if one of their students creates and releases a virus that causes harm. I can see the headlines now. “University of Calgary student releases new computer virus shutting down emergency services in several cities. Several people die because they cannot contact 911.” If I were president of this school, I would be quickly rethinking this decision.


As for P.C. Safe Devices, Inc., we will not consider job applicants who have received this type of training. As for AVIEN’s analysis of this matter, they are right on target as usual.


It’s time to get our heads out of the clouds, and back down to earth.

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