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BBC zombie caper slammed by security pros

Daft Beeb-bot doco gets go-ahead

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Joris Evers, former security reporter turned McAfee spokesman, added: "There is no need for the BBC to commandeer PCs of unknowing Net users, send spam and launch an attack to prove the botnet issue."

Struan Robertson, editor of out-law.com and legal director at solicitors Pinsent Masons, reckons that BBC Click's exercise broke the Computer Misuse Act provisions against unauthorised access, but would probably escape unauthorised modification charge.

The BBC - which, lest we forget is heavily promoting the show - is yet to detail why its lawyers think its action were above board. Discussions around the issue have suggested some sort of public interest defence, a notion scotched by Robertson. "There's no public interest defence to CMA offences," he told us.

Spencer Kelly affably referred our queries on the legality of its exercise to a BBC press officer, who is yet to get back to us. Our electronic messages of the legality of the show - alongside queries on whether the BBC paid crooks to rent access to compromised machines, the normal approach a would-be spammer would take - have also gone begging.

The thought of licence-payers' money going into the back pockets of cybercrooks is an uncomfortable one.

It's quite possible that the BBC got advice on how to take over a low-value botnet without paying a penny of course, but until either the BBC or PrevX step forward to clarify the issue we can't be sure. The PrevX researcher who participated in the programme, Jacques Erasmus, is on holiday in Namibia and couldn't be reached for comment.

The BBC Click programme is due to be broadcast at 06:45 on BBC1 on Saturday, 14 March and the BBC News Channel on both Saturday or Sunday at 11:30. It will also be available through iPlayer.

More discussion on the question of the legality of the exercise can be found on a blog maintained by John Graham, one of the first to pick up on promos for the controversial programme. ®

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