Our purpose with this series is to use real life examples of
deception, fraud and other evil to show how you can better
protect yourself. The examples cited in these articles are
intended to demonstrate best practices and recommendations.
What would you think about allowing someone to have unlimited
access to your computer system without your knowledge or
permission? Now, how do you feel about letting that person rent
out your CPU, spare disk space and extra memory? Do you like the
idea of these strangers downloading programs, data and lord knows
what else to your machine and using your bandwidth?
A company called Brilliant Digital Entertainment has been quietly
preparing to do just this. They have been distributing their
“free” 3D advertising technology since last fall, and along with
that software they have quietly been installing file-swapping
software called Kazaa.
Brilliant Digital Entertainment has stated as a part of their
SEC filing that they will soon be turning on a vast,
multi-million machine P2P (point-to-point) network. This network
consists of the machines belonging to those people who have
downloaded and installed their software. The network is known as
What does Brilliant want to do with this vast network? They have
some very grand plans, but one major task is using these
personally owned computers to store and serve ads (banners and
other things). Their logic is described in an excerpt from their
“An example of Network Services is ad serving. When a user opens
a new Web page, and the banner ad which appears on that page is
delivered by a third party ad serving company, such as
DoubleClick, the third party ad serving company incurs
infrastructure, management, bandwidth and processing costs for
every single banner ad which gets served. Often times, the same
ad gets “served” millions of times each month. Using Altnet’s
proposed solutions, all of those ads could be delivered to the
users via the Altnet network, thereby saving costs for third
party ad serving companies.”
Brilliant does have some vague plans in place to compensate the
people involved in the network, at least some of them. Here’s what
their SEC filing says about that:
“To maximize the efficiency of the Altnet network, selected
users with higher than average processing power, significant
free space on their hard drives and broadband connectivity to
the Internet, will first be engaged by Altnet to become main
hubs on the network. We refer to each of these hubs as a
qualified PC, or QPC. We intend to enter into an end user
agreement with the owner of each QPC pursuant to which we will
compensate the owner for access to and use of their computers
while logged onto the Internet. We have yet to finalize the
terms of compensation, however we anticipate it will be a
combination of non-cash components, which may include gift
certificates, products and/or access to video content, and we
expect to initiate this process some time in Q2 2002.”
According to other news reports, the end user will have the
option to opt-out from this grand plan. The opt-out method (as
well as the compensation for those who opt-in) is unspecified at
this time, but will most likely be insignificant.
The SEC filing is a very interesting document, and goes on to
explain in exhilarating terms the benefits and uses of this
network. It’s very clear that Brilliant see’s lots of dollar
signs in this concept.
Now for the big question: what is the benefit to the end user?
Absolutely nothing. In fact, the end user’s computer gets used to
serve advertisements and perform other tasks as determined by
The disadvantages of this scheme are many:
Your computer gets used by others – Do you really want unknown,
unnamed third parties to have direct access to your hard drive,
memory and CPU power as well as your bandwidth? Do you want to
trust this company, who covertly installed this software (yes,
there is a clause in the Terms and Conditions, but it’s pretty
small and in legalize) throughout the world?
There is a risk of contamination – In theory, viruses and other
dangers could be loaded onto your system. This is just another
way for hackers and others to gain access and do whatever they
Your own documents could be at risk – Who knows what this software
allows the vendor to do? Perhaps they are looking over your hard
Automatic updates could damage your system – Ever installed
something on your computer which caused it to become unusable or
damaged? Well, I’d bet this software will have (or already has)
the capability to update itself with new versions. Do you want to
take the risk?
How do they protect your privacy? – Do you think this company has
any real concern for your privacy? These guys want to make money.
I could go on and on about this concept and software. My advice
is simple and straightforward – delete it or don’t install it.
This is a stupid idea and it deserves to be buried with the
other bad internet concepts.