Image by pittigliani2005 via Flickr

As I put the final preparations together for the Computer Science rollout, this story comes in from the BBC.

In an effort to show computer security, an online bot was acquired and reportedly turned loose on  22000 computers in the United Kingdom.  The report goes through and explains the results and what could have happened had this bot been used for evil.

Obviously, this opens the door for a lot of great discussions about viruses and other malware that you can run into on the internet.  Part of the new Computer Studies guidelines talks about setting up a home computer and network and steps that need to be taken to secure it.

A related report:

gives advice about what is needed to make your home computer safe and secure.

Above and beyond learning about the steps needed to be secure, it seems that this opens the door for a great discussion about ethics. 

  • Is it OK to turn a bot loose like this for research purposes? 
  • What’s the difference between this and what a person with evil intents would have? 
  • Could the same results have not been generated in a controlled environment? 
  • How many other activities like this (evil and not evil) are run all the time? 
  • How do you determine what is a good activity and what is not so good? 
  • How do you know that an experiment like this stays within the scope of the 22000 computers?  What would have happened if the bot got out of control?
  • How do you turn it off?
  • How do you track it down?
  • If the BBC could do this, what’s to stop anyone from doing the same thing?
  • Why don’t operating systems just ship with appropriate firewall settings?
  • What’s the difference between the firewall that ships with your operating system and open source and commercial products?

There are lots of news stories daily that can be used to start great classroom discussions.

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