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Paris school offers primer for cyberpirates

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Paris

In a classroom off a small alley in eastern Paris, a fiery-haired teenager - who goes by the name of Clad Strife - lectures passionately about such things as the building of a Trojan horse.

It's not the deceptive vehicle of Greek legend he's describing, however, but a software tool for sneaking into computer systems.

The curriculum in this new school, called Zi Hackademy, is raising eyebrows in the French capital. While the academy's organizers say they're just trying to help people defend themselves by learning the tricks of the hacker's trade, some authorities and computer experts wonder if the lessons will end up promoting illegal cyberactivity.

The police have placed the school under surveillance. Michelle Bruno, a police spokesperson, says detectives are trying to determine whether teaching about hacking - as opposed to hacking itself - is illegal.

Since opening its graffiti-splattered doors last month, Zi Hackademy has attracted 36 people from around France - a motley group, including a grandmother, a French Microsoft executive. and a police officer from the provinces. Many say they are here because they want to improve their online skills and feel safer on the Internet.

"I don't want to crack any CIA or FBI codes or anything else which is illegal," says a director of a large start-up, who declines to give his name for publication. "This is just a hobby."

Clad Strife is also publicity-shy; he does not want to give his off-line name or age.

Before the day's lesson begins, the teacher explains his goal. "I'm going to reveal how I hacked into the website of a large Swiss company yesterday," says Strife, whose "day job" is attending high school."It took me just two minutes to access the hard disk," he says.

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