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CS News Fall 2011

CS News:
Professor Jack Davidson - Using Computer Security to Raise Computer Literacy

Jack Davidson, professor of computer
science, is a leading cybersecurity
researcher and educator.

“Every student has to worry about viruses, worms and spyware,” says Professor Jack Davidson. “That’s why courses in computer security are a natural way to engage students in understanding fundamental computer science concepts.” With funding from Microsoft, Davidson developed Defense Against the Dark Arts, a course for third- and fourth-year students.

The popularity of Defense encouraged Davidson to create an introductory course for all students at the University. Davidson’s aptitude for creating catchy titles is evident in its name, Digital Threats: Secrets and Lies. “Computers are ubiquitous,” he says. “As a result, every citizen needs to understand how the underlying technology works and what the threats are. For instance, it’s only when you know how the Internet works that you can appreciate why a denial of service attack can be so devastating.”

To underline his point that hacking is a societal issue, Davidson made service learning an integral part of the course. All students make a presentation on computer security to a community group, whether it is a class of high school students or the residents of a senior living center.

Davidson has not run out of ideas to increase computer literacy. He is thinking about a course he calls CSI Charlottesville, using computer forensics to spread computer literacy.