Microsoft offers $1 million for security education

Three cheers for Microsoft. The Redmond giant recently told a gathering of about 400 faculty researchers from institutions worldwide that it will make available US$1 million to help create courses that promote secure computing.

Microsoft - whose software continues to be hit by computer viruses, worms and other threats - hopes the funds will be used to design new courses and materials to teach people about Trustworthy Computing. Trustworthy Computing, of course, is Bill Gates' initiative to focus on security company-wide.

The company already works with universities around the world to help create courses that teach students about (don't laugh) how to develop secure software. The University of Leeds in the U.K. is reported to be the first to make available such a course.

Microsoft is to be applauded for offering the fund to academia, but I kind of think that it should be a little more than US$1 million. Not only do I think the amount should be more for this important endeavor, but also perhaps Microsoft should send its programmers off to schools to talk about how the company has learned the hard way about the importance of building secure code. The programmers could tell the students about what could go wrong, even with products from a software company that has been around forever (in Internet years, that is).

For years, computer programmers have been taught how to program rapidly and efficiently, but have they been taught how to program securely? Perhaps it is time they should.

In fact, because technology and software touches everyone's lives, why not open secure computing education to all - from those who build the technology, to those who use it in their work, and to casual users who use software to catch up with friends or pay bills online. Perhaps governments and industry - financial institutions, technology vendors and retailers - should come together to promote safe computing. Perhaps this group could produce TV and newspaper ads teaching us how to recognize online scams that rely on social engineering or the dangers of opening e-mail attachments from strangers. That's a public service I'd want to see.

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