The entire month of April, participants will expose themselves to spam using a Dell laptop provided by McAfee - which they will keep - sans spam protection and with a fresh email address. As the month goes by, participants will blog about their experiences on http://www.mcafeespamexperiment.com/ (participants will blog in their native languages).
Participants won't just be receiving spam; they'll be responding to it, to prove just how harmful spam is. In a press release, Christopher Bolin, chief technology officer for McAfee said:
"Spam isn't just a nuisance. It's a tool used by cyber criminals to steal personal and business data. And, as scammers become more adept at writing spam in local languages it's becoming more difficult for Internet users to detect spam. It's vital that computer users understand the risks of leaving their computers unprotected."A good question would be just how many Nigerian / 419-type scams participants will enjoy.
Dave DeWalt, CEO for McAfee said:
"Cybercrime won't go away without solving the problem of spam. McAfee is leading the fight against cybercrime and spam. This experiment will raise awareness of the problem by showing that a 30-day diet of spam is bad for your online health."Sounds a lot like a Super Size Me type experiment doesn't it?
There's no doubt that besides the annoyance of being buried under a mountain of spam, if you're not wary you can become infected with viruses and trojans - or those who are the most careless can be tricked into giving away sensitive financial information.
At the end of the experiment McAfee's Avert Labs will be analyzing the spam and writing a report. I assume they will also analyze just how many viruses were introduced to the laptops as well - as well as, since the participants are keeping the laptops, provided a fresh hard drive or formatting the old one.
It should be noted that McAfee provided both antivirus and antispam products, so it has a vested interest in this study.
Ready, set, start clicking on that spam!