I stumbled across an interesting story about the intersection of law, ethics and technology. Workers at an internet security company called TippingPoint discovered a way to gain control of a network of computers remotely – and secretly – controlled by spammers (a so-called “botnet”). The botnet is made up of 400,000 computers and used to send out huge volumes of spam.
The researchers are now capable of sending out a signal to the infected computers to remove the virus. However, like the way the program installed itself, it would have to be done without the consent of the computer owner.
Killing the network would reduce spam and improve the performance of the infected computers. But the dilemma is that TippingPoint has no more right to interfere with the computers than the original spammers did – unauthorized interference is prohibited by the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. They are naturally concerned with liability arising should any problems occur from the deletion.
A quick look at comments across the blogosphere, however, suggests that most people out there would support the company in running the deletion.