Could we process data more sustainably? Most certainly yes. Does malware aggravate the situation? Definitely, because it increases the load on computing capacity. Could this load be decreased by using cybersecurity solutions? Let's take a closer look.
Flashback to 2016
Four years ago, we wanted to find out whether we could measure USB data transfer energy consumption. We were eager to understand how much energy could be saved by eliminating data transfer at the moment a connection is established (known as “the handshake”) with the help of Pure.Charger.
As it turned out, the proposition was feasible. We learned how to measure the power consumption of test systems and the “handshake” power losses when a phone is connected to a computer, a laptop, or a car. Compared to the power consumption of the phone itself, this may seem negligible. However, if every person in Europe went for just one “handshake”, the energy saved would provide enough power for an average city resident for an entire month.
Two years later...
Cryptocurrency mining has become a global trend. Naturally, Kaspersky's experts have been trained to closely follow the hidden miners used by cybercriminals and not their legitimate counterparts.
After simulating a crypto-jacking attack on a test system, we attempted to measure the resulting increase in power consumption. Cryptocurrency mining is an energy-hungry business. According to some estimates, Bitcoin miners consume as much energy as the Czech Republic, a country with a population of 10 million people.
Considering the distribution of CPUs and the aggregate number of crypto-jacking attacks, we managed to assess the global impact of miners being blocked. The annual amount of energy that Kaspersky products had helped our clients save turned out to be twice as large as the power consumption of all Bitcoin miners in the world put together. In terms of carbon dioxide emissions, this means we prevented the discharge of between 115 and up to 800 tons of carbon dioxide.
Hidden mining uses other people's resources by launching specialized malware on victims' devices (computers, servers, or phones).
Back to the present.
It is safe to assume that cybersecurity has had a positive impact in cases other than malicious mining. How can this be assessed though?
Kaspersky launched a research project to understand the impact of cybersecurity on energy consumption and carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere. During the research, we gathered data on mining-related attacks from the Kaspersky Security Network (KSN), analyzed the impact of web miners on an infected system, and identified the priority target: CPUs. The experiment on power consumption measurement encompassed 22 different systems based on the most widespread CPU types. The COVID-19 lockdown prevented us from completing the empirical part of the project this year, but we hope to complete the development of the parametric model, which takes into account the types and the frequency of blocked attacks.
We are currently faced with the task of extrapolating the data obtained on all types of threats that we prevent, including malicious code, phishing URLs, spam, and DDoS attacks. The COVID-19 pandemic has stopped us from completing this process in the first half of 2020, but you can be assured that we will not leave this task unfinished.