UK's first 'ethical hacking' degree planned

A Scottish university has become the first in the UK to offer a degree course in what it describes as “ethical hacking”.

The University of Abertay, based in Dundee, will offer the 3-year course from this September with the aim of turning out “white hat” experts to help companies protect themselves from computer security risks.

The course will be thoroughly vetted, with the background of each applicant being studied by The UK Home Office to stop the possibility of criminals signing up.

“We will be monitoring the students very closely because we want them to come out the other end as ethical hackers,” Abertay’s head of computing and creative technologies, Lachlan MacKinnon, was reported to have said.

In an interview for The Sunday Times newspaper, MacKinnon also admitted he’d had to overcome the scepticism of colleagues before running the course.

Short-term hacking courses are currently offered by a number of private companies, but becoming the first UK higher learning institute to offer a degree is a clever move by the University. The course is bound to tap into a healthy demand from students.

Equally, the hacking element of modern security is, arguably, not that important. Most security issues come from the execution of automated programs such as Trojans. Defending against them is a matter of software expertise and good security practice.

Anyone learning about hacking is probably going to be more useful in the overall design of security systems rather than security defence.

There will also be critics who say that hacking can’t be taught, and requires rare aptitude and real-world experience.

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