Feeds

McAfee: Save the planet - use a spam filter

Junk mail makes monster carbon emissions? Oh noes!

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup

Spam is more than a nuisance - it's damaging to the environment, according to net security firm McAfee.

McAfee reasons junk email contributes to green house gas emissions because of the computer resources allocated to processing unwanted messages. Annual spam uses the equivalent electricity of 2.4m US homes or creates the carbon equivalent of 3.1m passenger cars using 2bn US gallons of gasoline, a McAfee-funded study calculates.

The security firm's Carbon Footprint of Spam report, released on Wednesday, is based on a study by climate-change consultant ICF International. Its figures are based on an estimate that 62tn spam emails were sent in 2008.

The international survey suggests the carbon footprint of a single spam message is 0.3 grams of CO2. More than half (52 per cent) of the energy consumption associated with junk mail comes from end-users deleting spam and searching for legitimate email, with spam filtering accounting for just 16 per cent of spam-related energy use. So, the argument goes, if more people used efficient inbox spam filters then even more energy might be saved.

Transmiting, processing and filtering these messages tied up computing resources that used an estimated 33bn kilo watt-hours (KWh) or 33 terawatt hours (TWh) of energy, equivalent to the electricity used in 2.4m US homes in the US. If every inbox was protected by a state-of-the-art spam filter, spam processing energy expenditure could be reduced by 75 percent or 25 TWh per year, the equivalent of taking 2.3m cars off the road, the survey suggests.

ICF reckons more than one-fifth of the annual energy used at a medium-size business on email is associated with spam. It estimates an average business email user is responsible for 131kg of CO2 per year in email-related emissions, one-fifth (or 22 per) is related to spam.

There are more leaps of logic in that reckoning than it's possible to adequately summarise. For starters, there's the idea that if they weren't processing spam messages then computer and routers would be idle. Gauging the financial impact of computer viruses is a notoriously difficult business, and we'd suggest the same applies to the cost - much less the impact on the environment - of spam.

McAfee's study recalls a January survey that suggests two Google searches take up a similar energy consumption as does boiling a kettle. A spokesman for the firm said that the earlier research did not inspire McAfee's probe, which came as a result of its wider research into cybercrime.

"As the world faces the growing problem of climate change, this study highlights that spam has an immense financial, personal and environmental impact on businesses and individuals," said Jeff Green, senior vice president of product development at McAfee Avert Labs.

"Stopping spam at its source, as well investing in state-of-the-art spam filtering technology, will save time and money, and will pay dividends to the planet by reducing carbon emissions as well." ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Ice cream headache as black hat hacks sack Dairy Queen
I scream, you scream, we all scream 'DATA BREACH'!
Goog says patch⁵⁰ your Chrome
64-bit browser loads cat vids FIFTEEN PERCENT faster!
NIST to sysadmins: clean up your SSH mess
Too many keys, too badly managed
JLaw, Kate Upton exposed in celeb nude pics hack
100 women victimised as Apple iCloud accounts reportedly popped
Scratched PC-dispatch patch patched, hatched in batch rematch
Windows security update fixed after triggering blue screens (and screams) of death
Researchers camouflage haxxor traps with fake application traffic
Honeypots sweetened to resemble actual workloads, complete with 'secure' logins
Attack flogged through shiny-clicky social media buttons
66,000 users popped by malicious Flash fudging add-on
New Snowden leak: How NSA shared 850-billion-plus metadata records
'Federated search' spaffed info all over Five Eyes chums
Three quarters of South Korea popped in online gaming raids
Records used to plunder game items, sold off to low lifes
Oz fed police in PDF redaction SNAFU
Give us your metadata, we'll publish your data
prev story

Whitepapers

Endpoint data privacy in the cloud is easier than you think
Innovations in encryption and storage resolve issues of data privacy and key requirements for companies to look for in a solution.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Advanced data protection for your virtualized environments
Find a natural fit for optimizing protection for the often resource-constrained data protection process found in virtual environments.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.