Should we even bother going after cyber-criminals?

At what point do you stop trying to track and prosecute cyber-criminals? Obviously, you can’t let criminals run around willy-nilly, but when you look at the resources involved in bringing those guys to justice—and are you really nabbing the right guys in the first place?—it’s worth at least talking about. Is fighting cyber-crime about as futile as fighting the war on drugs?

The deal is that authorities last week arrested the ringleaders of a Spain-based botnet. Botnets, of course, are hordes of computers that have been “taken over” by evildoers to do their bidding. The issue is that, sure, you can catch three guys who run a botnet, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re catching the people most responsible. As someone from Symantec told CNN, it “takes no more skill than it takes to run Microsoft Office” to start a botnet.

Script kiddies, in other words. You can arrest all the script kiddies you want, but they’re not the ones actually creating the destructive software in the first place.

And then you figure that many of the programmers responsible for all this madness are outside the reach of American authorities, who are the ones who are most gung-ho, let’s go get ’em, well, what are you gonna do?

It’s sorta fascinating, if something can be “sorta” fascinating. You have criminals running amok, they’re essentially untraceable, and they’re distributing tools that any kid with a free hour can figure out how to use.

So that’s the debate: how best to go after the bad guys when they’re impossible to catch, and they’re spreading around the tools of their trade all over the place, tools that any ol’ person can put to use?

Man, all this talk about cyber-crime has me hankering to see a good sci-fi movie à la Blade Runner. Any other recommendations in that vein? Something cyberpunk-y, if you will.