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Dr Aycock's Bad Idea: Is the Good Use of Computer Viruses Still a Bad Idea?

Tony Sampson
M/C: A Journal of Media and Culture, Volume 8, Issue 1, February 2005
ISSN 1441-2616
February 2005

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Following the deep-seated analogy between biological and computer parasites, it is surely inconceivable that anyone would want to deliberately infect a computer. It’s a bad idea, right? Well, not necessarily. It seems that the University of Calgary (UoC) want to challenge the received wisdom of security experts—a judgment, which determines that there is no such thing as a good virus. The UoC wants to encourage their students to write and test malevolent viruses. Still following the biological analogy, Dr John Aycock, the academic who runs the program at UoC, likens the approach to ‘what medical researchers do to combat the latest biological viruses such as Sars’. He argues that ‘before you can develop a cure, you have to understand what the virus is and how it spreads and what motivates those who write malicious software’ (Fried). The reaction from security experts is not surprisingly one of dismay—for them, all viruses are bad.

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