Edinburgh Napier to launch “ethical hacking” course

By Hollie Hanlan and Kirsty Topping

November 27, 2009

Universities across Scotland are to teach students how to circumvent the world’s most secure computer systems.

Abertay University in Dundee  has already launched its Ethical Hacking and Computer Security course and Edinburgh Napier is set to follow suit with a course called Advanced Security and Digital Forensics. Tutors on the course aim to teach students how to outsmart malicious hackers in a bid to protect businesses and the Government from cyber attacks.

The move comes as Gary McKinnon’s appeal against extradition to the US was blocked by the home secretary. The Glasgow-born 43-year-old, who suffers Asperger’s Syndrome, is accused of breaking into military computer systems but claims he was looking for evidence of UFOs. If convicted, he faces up to 60 years in an American prison.

Professor William Buchanan of Edinburgh Napier University will be leading the new course, which begins in January of next year.

He said: “Our course is slightly different. We never use the term hacker in any of our teaching because we think the term hacker already implies guilt – we tend to call someone like that an intruder”.

He is keen to stress the distinction between what the course entails and malicious hacking.

He added: “Half of the course involves security, which is all about defending against the loss of data and abuse. The other half of it is to do with digital forensics, which is the science of trying to analyse digital data”.

For example, often criminal cases involve digital evidence such as mobile phone tracking and recovering information from computer hard drives. Experts in digital forensics often work with the police to solve criminal cases.

It is hoped that the course, which looks at the seedy world of internet crime, will save the economy billions of pounds every year and help improve security within computer networks.

Professor Buchanan also expressed sympathy for Mr McKinnon when Edinburgh Napier News spoke to him earlier today.