Vulnerabilities / Threats
4/16/2009
03:08 PM
Connect Directly
Google+
LinkedIn
Twitter
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

Spam Is Killing The Planet

McAfee says that the energy required to send, route, and filter spam e-mail each year could power 2.4 million homes and release as much greenhouse gas as 3.1 million cars.

Forget the fact that spam costs you time you'll never get back and money that probably wasn't easy to earn. Ignore the possibility that malicious links or files contained in spam might lead to the theft of your identity or bank account.

Focus for a moment on spam as an environmental scourge that damages the planet and contributes to greenhouse gas emissions.

You might wonder whether you should be thinking about Hormel's Spam, the canned meat product. Industrial meat production, after all, has been linked to environmental damage and the increased release of greenhouse gases.

But no. We're talking about spam e-mail. According to a study released by McAfee, "Carbon Footprint of Spam," the world expends 33 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity, or 33 terawatt-hours, to send, route, and filter spam messages.

That's the equivalent of the electricity required to power 2.4 million homes, the study estimates. And that much energy use emits the same amount of greenhouse gases as 3.1 million passenger cars using 2 billion gallons of gasoline.

Jeff Green, senior VP of product development and McAfee Avert Labs, argues that spam has a major financial impact and that spam filtering saves both the environment and money.

The study finds that spam filtering saves 135 TWh of electricity per year, an amount that equates to the removal of 13 million cars from the road. And it estimates that if every e-mail in-box had state-of-the-art spam filtering, spam could be reduced by 75%, or 25 TWh per year, a reduction comparable to the removal of 2.3 million cars off the road.

For those who haven't yet guessed as much, McAfee offers an anti-spam service.

What McAfee's study neglects to estimate is the revenue that spam and associated malware generates for computer security companies and computer equipment makers. We're talking about many billions of dollars annually. How many computer security jobs depend on spam's environmental damage?

What's more, the argument that spam should be fought to save the planet can be applied to other computing activities. Consider the environmental impact of more than 11 million World of Warcraft subscribers, or the broader population of gamers and their consoles. How much energy is frittered away as a result of Facebook, MySpace, and other social networks?

Reversing the fragile logic of environmental impact, one could argue that spam is better for the environment than junk mail, which is transported by actual polluting vehicles and, by one estimate, leads to the destruction of 100 million trees annually.

Send spam, save a tree, and help power the security economy. Just remember to do so legally, as allowed by the Can-Spam Act of 2003.

Better yet, turn off your computer and deliver your message in person.


E-mail is the backbone of most organizations -- and a huge resource hog. Learn how to make it greener in a special InformationWeek report (registration required).

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Cartoon
Current Issue
Dark Reading Tech Digest, Dec. 19, 2014
Software-defined networking can be a net plus for security. The key: Work with the network team to implement gradually, test as you go, and take the opportunity to overhaul your security strategy.
Flash Poll
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2014-5208
Published: 2014-12-22
BKBCopyD.exe in the Batch Management Packages in Yokogawa CENTUM CS 3000 through R3.09.50 and CENTUM VP through R4.03.00 and R5.x through R5.04.00, and Exaopc through R3.72.10, does not require authentication, which allows remote attackers to read arbitrary files via a RETR operation, write to arbit...

CVE-2014-7286
Published: 2014-12-22
Buffer overflow in AClient in Symantec Deployment Solution 6.9 and earlier on Windows XP and Server 2003 allows local users to gain privileges via unspecified vectors.

CVE-2014-8015
Published: 2014-12-22
The Sponsor Portal in Cisco Identity Services Engine (ISE) allows remote authenticated users to obtain access to an arbitrary sponsor's guest account via a modified HTTP request, aka Bug ID CSCur64400.

CVE-2014-8017
Published: 2014-12-22
The periodic-backup feature in Cisco Identity Services Engine (ISE) allows remote attackers to discover backup-encryption passwords via a crafted request that triggers inclusion of a password in a reply, aka Bug ID CSCur41673.

CVE-2014-8018
Published: 2014-12-22
Multiple cross-site scripting (XSS) vulnerabilities in Business Voice Services Manager (BVSM) pages in the Application Software in Cisco Unified Communications Domain Manager 8 allow remote attackers to inject arbitrary web script or HTML via a crafted URL, aka Bug IDs CSCur19651, CSCur18555, CSCur1...

Best of the Web
Dark Reading Radio
Archived Dark Reading Radio
Join us Wednesday, Dec. 17 at 1 p.m. Eastern Time to hear what employers are really looking for in a chief information security officer -- it may not be what you think.