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Internet users have long known that spam emails – offering everything from cheap medicines and sex aids to get-rich-quick schemes – are an unwanted annoyance, but new research suggests that they are also hugely damaging to the environment.

More than 80% of the world’s email traffic is now spam and the transmission and receipt of unwanted email gobbles up 33bn kilowatt-hours of electricity a year, according to anti-virus software specialist McAfee. That is the equivalent of the electricity used by 2.1m US homes.

The report follows research published yesterday by rival online security firm Symantec showing that cyber criminals are now trading stolen credit card details for as little as 4p, while a person’s full identity can change hands between gangs for 50p.


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