Media giant CNN caused more than a few raised eyebrows in the tech community when it was revealed recently that it installs an application that lets CNN use subscribers’ computers to distribute its live streaming content the first time viewers sign in to view streaming content.
It’s not a drive-by download or some insidious secret hack — more of a social engineering scam, actually. Millions of users who signed up for the live streaming feed of U.S. President Barach Obama’s inauguration last month were told they couldn’t get hooked in unless they first installed something called ‘the Octoshape Grid Delivery enhancement’ for their Flash Player.
Among other things, the ‘enhancement’ turns subscribers’ computers into relay stations, making them part of a grid to, “deliver parts of the video and audio stream to other end users of the Software,” as the Octoshape end user agreement clearly states.
Octoshape Grid Delivery is a peer-to-peer application that, in effect, uses the subscriber’s computer and Internet connection to create an ad-hoc distribution network for CNN.
CNN and independent security researchers confirm that the octoshape ‘enhancement’ is still being installed the first time a fan views any streaming CNN program feed. Non-streaming (pre-recorded) CNN video clips do not require installation of Octoshape.
Critics of CNN’s Octoshape gambit say CNN indulged in deceptive marketing to get end users to become part of their network. They also note that CNN downloaded the cost of distributing its streaming feeds to end users and ISP without asking their permission or expressly informing them.
And, of course, there is the question of security. Researchers charge that other Web sites which are ‘Octoshape aware’ can detect it on your system and activate it for their own purposes without your knowledge.
You can find out if you have Octoshape running on your system by right-clicking in any clear space the Windows Task Bar and then clicking on Task Manager. If you see an entry labeled ‘octoshape.exe’ under the ‘Processes’ tab, you’ve got the bug.
To remove Octoshape, use Add/Remove Programs in XP or Programs and Features in Vista to uninstall the app in the conventional way.
Mac users must manually delete the Octoshape folder that the download created on their systems to rid themselves of the infestation.