Global anti-spam day needs a dose of its own medicine

Jun 23 2004 by Brian Amble Print This Article

British PCs take more days off "sick" than their owners thanks to the deluge of junk emails and viruses they receive every day.

Research commissioned by Yahoo! Mail has found that the average British PC has nine "sick" days a year - that's two days more than the average UK worker and the same as the UK public sector average.

PCs are out of use for 49 hours, more than six working days, while their owners battle spam. A further three working days are lost due to PCs being infected by viruses.

As a result, Yahoo! Mail reckons that Spam is costing the UK economy £6.7 billion a year and that two per cent of the average workerís salary (£463 out of £20,000) is wasted on dealing with spam.

Warming to the theme, Yahoo! Mail have coined the term 'E-Mad' (e-mail affective distress) to describe the effects of too much spam, scam, junk, sleaze and viruses attacking your inbox on a regular basis.

What's more, Yahoo! Warn's direly that " if Spam takes over our emails, our social lives will suffer."

According to the Centre for Stress Management, symptoms of 'E-Madness' include twitching in front of the PC, irritability, snappiness, feeling angry and increased worrying.

Meanwhile the survey suggests that more than four out of ten people say that the chore of dealing with junk emails more stressful than the daily traffic jam.

One in three respondents said that they would even be willing to make a major lifestyle change, such as exercising five times a week, to get rid of spam for good (although the connection between exercise and junk mail is something that we have yet to fathom out).

"Losing control of your email means losing control of a large part of your life," said Professor Stephen Palmer from the Centre for Stress Management, "which explains why more of us are suffering from e-Mad. As with any type of stress related syndrome, the worst thing to do is to sit back and take it. Instead, itís important to take positive steps that give you a feeling of being back in the driverís seat.Ē

The research has been released to coincide with Yahoo's doubtless well-intentioned Global Anti-Spam Day initiative, described by Stephen Timms the DTI Communications Minister as "exactly the sort of initiative that is critical in raising awareness amongst web users. "

However at this point, we feel duty-bound to point out that more spam-savvy visitors to the Global Anti-Spam Day Website will be disturbed to see that the press release for this survey is available only as a downloadable Word document (Word documents were used to spread the Melissa virus). Yahoo! has also populated the site with a number of downloadable zip files (which could also contain Trojans or viruses).

This is doubly ironic given that the same press release points bout that "only 46% [of British PC users] are aware that computers get viruses by opening attachments, while only 17% know that you can get a virus by downloading a file online".

We commend the Head of Yahoo! Mail, Europe, James Bilefield for his statement that: ". . . our battle plan has a sound three pronged attack; technology, education and legislation," but we suggest that he fires the opening salvo in the War Against Spam in the direction of his own web site.