Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Carbon Footprint of Spam

This report from McAfee finds that the energy consumed in transmitting and deleting junk email equals the amount of energy used by 2.4 million U.S. homes.

Among the findings from the report:
• An estimated worldwide total of 62 trillion spam emails were sent in 2008;
• Globally, annual spam energy use totals 33 billion kilowatt-hours (KWh), or 33 terawatt hours (TWh). That’s equivalent to the electricity used in 2.4 million homes in the United States, with the same GHG emissions as 3.1 million passenger cars using two billion United States gallons of gasoline;
• Spam filtering saves 135 TWh of electricity per year. That’s like taking 13 million cars off the road;
• The average GHG emission associated with a single spam message is 0.3 grams of CO2. That’s like driving three feet (one meter) in equivalent emissions, but when multiplied by the annual volume of spam, it’s like driving around the Earth 1.6 million times; • A year’s email at a typical medium-size business uses 50,000 KWh; more than one fifth of that annual use can be associated with spam

The full report is available for free download from at

Published March 22, 2011 

On March 18, 2011 in "With Rustock, a New Twist on Fighting Internet Crime" at Robert McMillan of IDG News reported:

After infecting close to a million computers and spamming out as many as 30 billion unwanted email messages a day, the Rustock botnet went silent around 11 a.m. Eastern Time on Wednesday.

Now we know the reason why: a small group of computer researchers, backed by Microsoft's lawyers, U.S. Marshals and international law enforcement officers executed a number of surgical strikes on the botnet. Hitting it as if it were the mythical Hydra, they cut off Rustock's heads -- its command-and-control servers -- and scorched them to keep them from growing back. And now Microsoft is helping to clean up infected computers before Rustock's owners have a chance to regain control of their botnet.

With seizure warrants in their hands, and U.S. Marshals backing them up, Microsoft's lawyers descended on five hosting providers in U.S. cities such as Kansas City, Scranton, Denver, Dallas, and Chicago on Wednesday and "successfully severed the IP addresses that controlled the botnet, cutting off communication and disabling it," Microsoft said in a blog posting.

Rustock is one nasty piece of software. It gives the criminals control over an infected machine to send spam, attack another computer, or spy on the victim. It's installed by tricking a victim into visiting a malicious Web site or opening a specially coded email attachment -- and it is very difficult to detect and remove.

The botnet is notorious for sending out pharmaceutical spam, and its demise should put a further dent in global spam volumes, which have been down since two other major spamming botnets, Pushdo and Bredolab, were taken offline late last year.

On March 22, 2011 BBC News reported that the Rustock takedown has reduced spam significantly

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