Apr 17 2009

“Email spam is destroying life on earth,” but McAfee’s anti-spam software can save our planet

McAfee's marketing team scores way better drugs than the rest of us
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Antivirus vendor McAfee issued a truly bizarre report that claims spam releases 17 million metric tons of CO2 into the atmosphere each year.

Pardon me while I repeat the previous sentence: “spam releases 17 million metric tons of CO2 into the atmosphere each year.”

Irony, any­one? McAfee’s press coverage re­leased 104.37K tons of CO2 into the atmo­sphere. It’s the equi­va­lent of 46,500 Vmyths colum­nists de­bunking McAfee’s cal­cu­la­tions since 1988…

My jaw hit the floor when McAfee trumpeted this absurdly precise cause-and-effect between spam and greenhouse gases. My first thought was, “which world-renowned experts on greenhouse gases vetted this report?”

{sniff} I smell a massive pile of False Authority Syndrome here, folks. This paltry 12-page “scientific” report blames unsolicited commercial emails for 1/500th of all the carbon dioxide pollution we humans spew into the atmosphere each year. The “references” section itself is a scant one page long. Heck, the title page takes up as much space as the references!

Listen to me carefully — you are tin-foil-hat insane if you actually take this report at face value. Ask the men with the butterfly nets to drive you to their happy town. Oh, and click here for some important advice.

How on earth did an antivirus firm come up with this idea in the first place? I’m guessing McAfee’s chief marketing officer, David Milam, scores way better drugs than the rest of us. I can only imagine the pitch he gave to a smoke-filled board room:

“Look, guys. You’re the board of directors, right? You know spam burns a lot of finance and productivity among our customers. Well, my kids were watching Sesame Street the other day and {inhales deeply} Oscar was burning some trash in his garbage can {exhales} and that really pretty human chick walks by, you know the babe I’m talkin’ about, right? Well, she starts chiding Oscar for adding greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. And I’m thinking {inhales deeply} spam is a waste of electricity and {exhales} power plants burn a lot of fossil fuel and I’m thinking, wow, spam must be a big reason why we spew greenhouse gases into the air! So I think it’d be a great idea to spend some money to hire a climate change consultant and a spam expert…

I swear I don’t make this stuff up — McAfee’s report declares their “state-of-the-art spam filter” software can eliminate nearly one out of every 500 particles of CO2 humanity releases into the atmosphere each year. I quote directly from McAfee’s report:

If every inbox were protected by a state-of-the-art spam filter [like the one McAfee sells], organizations and individuals could reduce today’s spam energy by approximately 75 percent or 25 TWh per year. That’s equivalent to taking 2.3 million cars off the road.

Folks, if that’s not computer security hype, then I don’t know what is.


Let’s enjoy ourselves for a moment, shall we? Let’s take McAfee’s absurdist claims at face value and take the logical next step.

McAfee’s report actually claims their spam filtering product can eliminate nearly 1/500th of all greenhouse gases currently released into the atmosphere each year. But as we all know, spam’s not the only computer security problem we’ve got out there.

Take March Madness, for example: it threatens the survival of our planet with greenhouse gases and it destroys billions of U.S. dollars in lost productivity. McAfee could issue a “green” report saying:

If every computer was protected by a state-of-the-art March Madness filter, organizations and individuals could reduce today’s wasted energy by approximately 75 percent per year. That’s equivalent to taking 2.3 million cars off the road.

Or take political TV advertising, for example: it threatens the survival of our planet with greenhouse gases and it destroys billions of dollars of hard-earned money. McAfee could issue a “green” report saying:

If every television was protected by a state-of-the-art political advertising filter, organizations and individuals could reduce today’s wasted energy by approximately 75 percent per year. That’s equivalent to taking 2.3 million cars off the road.

“C’mon, Rob. That’s absurd.” Exactly my point. And so is McAfee’s report.

Memo to McAfee CMO David Milam: my “tin foil hat” assessment applies to you. Click here for some important advice…

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  • By AmyRQANo Gravatar, 19 April 2009 @ 9:21 pm

    Hi again Rob.. Here’s a choice item for you. I Buzzed this up with a nod to check out Vmyths. Again, thanks for your spot-on work. Amy

    False Security: ‘Scareware’ Spreads

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123976230407519659.html#mod=loomia?loomia_si=t0:a16:g2:r4:c0.0496176:b23888222

    By JOSEPH DE AVILA

    While surfing the Web in December, Keren Brophy got a message on her computer screen telling her to update her antivirus software. The pop-up message looked similar to Windows security warnings she’d routinely received. She paid $49.99 for a program called Antivirus 2009 from a company calling itself Meyrocorp and thought she was safe.

    A few days after she installed the software, Ms. Brophy’s computer wouldn’t boot up properly and soon was unusable; she noticed the desktop icon for the software she’d bought had disappeared. She had to wipe her hard drive clean to get the computer working again. Hoping for a refund, she sent email to Meyrocorp but got only automated replies.

    “I never got a dime back from them,” says Ms. Brophy, a 37-year-old restaurant hostess from North Port, Fla. Meyrocorp couldn’t be located for comment….

  • By GsparkyNo Gravatar, 25 April 2009 @ 9:15 am

    “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.” WHAAAAAT!?!?? This means that the business has servers dedicated to e-mail that are consuming 5.7 kW constantly. 24/7. All the time. Given that one server can typically cover, oh, 30 people, that seems a bit, uh, HIGH. Further, since the crux of their report is that “filtering is the way”, they’re NOT going to cut down on emissions; they’re going to make it worse. They mention that they’d like to be able to stop it at the source, but realize that they can’t. Therefore, we need to filter. Which means the spam will still get sent (those 19 servers are still working), but they also have to work more because of the filtering. Then, there’s the issue of “falses”, meaning false positive and false negative. False positive means they mistook spam for legitimate e-mail. But the filters will create false negatives, meaning legit e-mail is mistaken for spam. This is an issue my wife has with her workplace (a major university). The filters her workplace uses guess wrong about 25% of the time on EVERY e-mail she receives. (I have no idea what crappy filter they’re using, but you don’t want it.) Which means she spends a lot of time sorting through e-mail (read “burning carbon”) because of *spam filtering*.
    Hey, McAfee, whatever yer smokin’, take another drag then sit down and shut up.

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