Day by day email is sent from and to all kinds of clients (PC’s, laptops, Blackberry’s, IPhone’s etc.) and where the email server acts as the man in the middle. These email servers are mostly located in data centers and there they are processing, world-wide, billions of email per day. These mails are not only processed but also routed through the networks and stored in huge quantities.
Of all these billions of emails not every email is welcome. The MessageLabs Annual Security Report 2009 highlights that throughout the year 2009 “average spam levels reaching 87.7%, but with highs and lows of 90.4% in May and 73.3% in February respectively”. Resulting in 107 billion spam messages distributed globally per day on average.
Take an average size of 5 kB per email and the 107 billion spam messages and on a daily basis we have 535 Terabyte of spam floating around the world and being processed and temporarily stored in data centers. For a whole year we are talking about 195 Petabyte going down the drain, rubbish being processed and stored for nothing.
According to MessageLabs by the end of 2009, 83.4% of spam originated from botnets, “Botnets are groups of semi-autonomous compromised computers that are all under the control of cyber criminal organizations. Each botnet varies in size and may contain thousands, tens of thousands, or even millions of computers that will receive instructions from command and control channels. Botnets can be very flexible and are often used for a variety of criminal activities, including distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks, hosting websites and sending spam emails. Much of the remainder of spam not sent from botnets originated from compromised mail servers and webmail accounts created using CAPTCHA-breaking tools.”
How much energy usage goes behind this spam processing? Processing and temporarily storing unsolicited email in these quantities cost a lot of effort and also a lot of energy. First you must have extra equipment for this enormous volume and then you have to process it for filtering out the garbage. It is therefore not only a misusage and theft of service but also a misusage and theft of energy. Improving IT security and especially email security can help reduce energy usage.