(Cleveland) - Come fall, students at Case Western Reserve University and Cleveland State University will begin hacking computers-for credit.

Each university is offering the first of three courses in a new curriculum in which engineering and computer science students will learn how to break into - and then protect - hardware, software and data.

The goal is for students to understand how they can then protect their own, or their employer’s, computers from viruses, phishing attacks, so-called Trojan horses and other cyber attacks.

“We’re doing a lot of computer security research, but we’ve failed in the need to educate and train students - the future users, developers and controllers of these systems,” said Swarup Bhunia, associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science at Case Western Reserve, who will teach the hardware security class here.

Bhunia tells Newsradio WTAM 1100, they teamed with Cleveland State colleagues to devise a curriculum that is among the first comprehensive cybersecurity education programs in the country offered to undergraduates.

The universities plan to offer versions of the courses to graduate students as well.

The National Science Foundation awarded a total of $200,000 in grants to the researchers to develop and support the courses.

The scale of the world’s cybersecurity problems has become daily news, from the theft of millions of Target customers’ personal data to the infiltration of The New York Times computer systems for four months.

The public, businesses and governments are increasingly vulnerable.

Experts estimate that as many as one in 14 downloads from the Internet carry a virus or malicious code. T

he global electronic piracy market is estimated at more than $1 billion per day, according to the VSI Alliance, which set standards for intellectual property protection in the electronics industry, in 2000.

The courses will teach students how to analyze, validate and build secure computer hardware and systems.

In all three courses, students will perform about a dozen hands-on experiments that will show them how and where the systems are vulnerable and how they can be protected.

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(Photo by Ken Robinson/WTAM)