While many students would be expelled from their computer science programs for writing a virus, the University of Calgary plans to make writing such malicious programs a part of the curriculum.

This fall, the Canadian school is offering a class for fourth-year students titled “Computer Viruses and Malware,” in which students will write and test their own viruses. The move has touched off a wave of criticism within the antivirus community.

Ken Barker, head of the school’s computer science department, contends that such a class is needed to better understand what motivates those who write malicious software, which he says is a growing problem. In just the past 24 hours, McAfee has discovered some 190,000 new infected files, Barker said.

Both those in favor of the class and those opposed agree that virus infections are costing corporations billions, particularly in the lost productivity that comes when an infection brings e-mail servers to a halt.
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