The BBC has been accused of going soft recently, but the hiring a botnet complete with 22,000 zombie PCs by its online show Click, is anything but.
Inevitably, the legal pedants have had a good bleat about the demonstration , closely followed by the smug Apple users who boast that Macs don't suffer from such woes (yes you do - you receive the same spam as the rest of us, don't you?!).
The argument against what the BBC show did is that by sending gobs of spam to two victim accounts (Gmail and Hotmail of course) they have effectively hijacked the PCs set up by the bot to relay this traffic. Some have even invoked the UK Computer Misuse Act, a troubled and sometimes ambiguous piece of legislation that would appear to outlaw such actions when undertaken without consent.
Then again, there is no easy way to show which, if any, of the PCs used were in the UK, the jurisdiction of such law. Almost certainly, the vast majority weren't.
There is always a remote possibility that an outraged user in the UK would be misguided enough to take the BBC to task for its bitmap scraping (co-opted zombies apparently received a message from the bot-herding BBC), but that would be another example of that over-used legal technique, the ‘shark' principle; you sue someone not because they are the right person to use, but because they are the easiest target.
More likely, they should thank their stars that the tax-payer funds programmes such as Click to tell people they have a problem. The anti-virus programmes security companies would have people buy have been known to be less helpful.
The BBC still does useful things and this is one of the more inspired examples which, by the power of the web, will probably be seen by more of the unsuspecting and unprotected than any security company demo. Anybody with the right connections and a few thousand dollars can rent out a bot, launching a personalised DDoS or just ramping spam about whatever they want. Presumably, there are people who aren't concerned about this.
The Computer Misuse Act was passed into law to tackle computer crime, that is where a crime has been committed intentionally. The notion that such law should be used to smash a law-abiding corporation out to do some good is as insane as the idea that forgotten medieval by-laws should be dredged up to punish the ownership of black cats as acts of Satanic possession.
Let's choose the right target, not any target. And think ourselves lucky that we have organisations like the BBC that will take on the risk of being disagreed with.