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Last Updated: Friday, 8 April, 2005, 12:42 GMT 13:42 UK
Training a new breed of hacker
David Reid
By David Reid
Reporter, BBC Click Online

The traditional approach to fight hacking is to ban it. In Barcelona however, the war against the hackers has taken a new turn.

Teenagers attending ISECOM's computer security classes
Local teenagers are offered courses in computer security
Barcelona is home to an innovative new project designed to combat hacking.

The Hacker High School is at the University of La Salle, in the same department that churns out some of the best of Barcelona's designers.

The scheme is not the "devil's workshop" it might sound but, say its organisers, aims to tackle a modern-day taboo.

Likening current attitudes to hacking to old repressed notions of sex, they say many are doing it, but few are talking about it.

Pete Herzog, managing director of the organisation that set it up, says: "If you go back 50 years ago what was sex education? Sex education was 'sex is out there, don't do it, you'll get diseases'.

The new breed of hackers are driven by money
Jacques Erasmus, ex-hacker

"We have the same situation now. We can't really tell you what hacking is.

"You'll get worms in your e-mail box all the time. Somebody will probably put Trojans on your computer. Something will happen.

"You'll see it, but everyone who is doing this is doing it illegally, they're bad. We can't define it, but if you do it you'll go to jail. "

Digital self-defence

The programme was set up by the Institute for Security and Open Methodologies (ISECOM), a non-profit computer security outfit that wants to make students streetwise to the hostile neighbourhood the internet can often be.

Children from local high schools get a sort of digital self-defence class, giving teens the moves to tackle fraud, identity theft and attacks on their systems.

Mr Herzog says: "We are taking kids who will see this kind of illegal activity, and showing them how it is done, what's happening.

"This is so they can understand the technical concept, and also, what is their computer doing, how can it be cleaned up, why is this taking over their system, why is their privacy being invaded?"

We want to teach them hacking, to be hackers, but ethical hackers, good hackers
Juame Abella, Hacker High School
The A to Z of hacking includes modules in ports and protocols, malware, digital forensics and e-mail security and privacy, showing how to send an e-mail that looks like it comes from someone else.

Teacher Xavier Cadenas says: "The students should be able to distinguish if the user who sent them an e-mail is a known person and they are who they claim to be, if the e-mail is legal or not legal.

"They should always be suspicious and not believe everything they see."


Naturally enough the school does not want the students hacking into real systems.

To test their skills, ISECOM set up four phantom servers for them.

Juame Abella from Hacker High School says: "If they want to hack we give them a controlled area where they can hack.

"One of the things we want to improve is to get them to give feedback to the teacher about what they did and how they did it.

"We want to teach them hacking, to be hackers, but ethical hackers, good hackers, knowing what they do and what the limits are."

The school believes there could be jobs out there for this new breed of ethical hacker.

They hope the best of the crop passing through Hackers High School will eventually join university IT students vying for jobs in one of the computer industry's biggest growth areas, security.

Click Online is broadcast on BBC News 24: Saturday at 2030, Sunday at 0430 and 1630, and on Monday at 0030. A short version is also shown on BBC Two: Saturday at 0645 and BBC One: Sunday at 0730 . Also BBC World.

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