[subtitle: Confessions of a Hero/Villain]
-mid-2009 or so-
David Archuleta came to Sri KDU. THE David Archuleta (DA), the winner of American Idol (halfway round the world), came to a small (ok, maybe not so small) school in the middle of the country right above Singapore.
How did this happen? It’s a long story. But I can say, it was probably my fault.
First off, some organisers paid good money to Archuleta’s agents to come over to Malaysia. Then these organisers sold rights to many companies to give away exclusive tickets to people in exchange for promotions which bring in lots and lots and lots of money and publicity for the companies. Ka-ching, $_$ and all that. One of these companies was hitz.fm.
Hitz.fm had a great idea! Why not send DA to a school? Run a contest to see which school wins, and free publicity rolls in! Nice idea!
They made a webpage for it. The contest was quite simple:
- Register for an account
- Choose your school from a list
- Answer 10 questions about DA correctly
- Your school gets 1 entry!
- Repeat for further success!
Mrs. Chan, our principal, was/is a devout fan of DA. She called up an assembly to tell every student in school to vote for DA to come to Sri KDU. To rephrase, our principal told every student to go online to win a contest so that a celebrity singer would come to our school. Somehow, she had also managed to print out about, say, 200-300 small slips of paper with all the answers to the 10 questions to help us students answer correctly.
I was quite bemused, but hey, it’s worth a shot to get a celebrity to come over right? Especially since I can now brag, forever, that David Archuleta came to my school. So I went online, registered an account and voted. Nothing special.
But what really caught my eye was that there was absolutely no protection from automated voting.
Chanced are, if you’ve been around the Internet long enough, you’ve seen one of those little images where there are letters which are bent strangely and distorted like mad. These are called CAPTCHAs. Basically they make sure you’re not a robot so that you don’t make 1000 accounts or do something 1000 times unless you’re actually doing it manually.
Without any Captchas, the voting is ridiculously easy to automate. Using iMacro, I set up a macro. A macro is a recording of actions, for example, this macro’s instructions was to:
- Go to the website.
- Choose the correct school from the list.
- Click on the 10 correct answers.
- Click vote.
All this is really, really easy. You just have to click record, do the actions manually yourself, then click stop.
Now, if you hit the play button, it goes through the list and votes. If you fill the “Repeat” box with a number, say, 100, then it repeats it 100 times.
I was triumphant when I voted 100 times in about 2 minutes.
And that was that. I could so easily destroy this contest. If I set the repeat to one million times, I could leave it overnight and pretty much ensure that Sri KDU wins. But my conscience tugged at me. How could I deprive the other schools of getting DA to their school? It’s not fair, right? Maybe some other true fans of DA were voting right now, every hour, slaving away to get a chance to meet DA?
Well screw them, why didn’t they think of this?
But there was another problem which prevented me from voting a million times. I was worried that if hitz.fm saw a million votes for Sri KDU they’d be so surprised that they would just disqualify KDU from the contest. That would suck, every DA fan in school would hate me, and Mrs. Chan would probably… well let’s not go into detail about that.
I finally decided not to bother voting. Instead I told a friend about this method, then I showed him the exact steps involved. There’s nothing worse that a secret unshared. (The friend was SY. I don’t know if I should involve his name or not, so let’s leave it at that for now.)
SY told CF about this, and together they made 20,000 votes. When they told me I was something like:
Well, the day finally arrived. DA came to our school. The entire event should be summarised in another post, but here’s a quick reminder of the concert:
In total, there were 65,700 votes. From a school of about 1200 students, and that’s including primary and secondary. I heard that the method spread to a few other students and some people in the IT department as well. In any case, I read somewhere that there were about 100,000 votes total, which means that we voted almost twice as much as every other school combined. Haha.
Why post this almost half a year after he left Malaysia? I’m only posting this because of ego. It’s quite likely that my experimentation caused David Archuleta to come to my school. Wooo. That’s a story I can tell my grandchildren.
To Sri KDU-ens: Thank you, thank you. You’re welcome.
To hitz.fm: Please, perhaps you might want to look into some ways of stopping automated voting? Also, don’t you find that 65,000 votes just a little suspicious?
To other schools out there: Sore luck. Be smarter next time. :P