Two Binghamton University computer science majors battled Dropbox in real time last night and early this morning, trying to register enough fake Dropbox accounts using BMail addresses to win BU students extra storage space on the online file syncing service.
Dropbox — which allows users to store files online and have them readily available on every computer they use — is hosting a competition among colleges to see which school can attract the most users. Each student user from the winning university receives 25 extra gigabytes of storage space free for two years.
Gary Wilber and Chaoren Lin, roommates living in CoRE, used virtual computers to run a program that automatically registered new accounts and installed the Dropbox software, netting Binghamton points in the contest. They began coding after they suspected students from Massachusetts Institute of Technology of cheating.
By Monday afternoon, BU had triple the points of MIT, who had more registered users than registered students, which indicated that they were likely cheating the system.
“It felt awesome [surpassing MIT], we — us on the CoRE floor — counted down as we were exceeding them in points,” Wilber said. “Eventually we got double their points, then triple.”
Although MIT students posted a blog post boasting of cheating, their points remain untouched, but BU’s points were reset around 11:00 p.m. on Monday. Wilber hinted that this may be because the CEOs of Dropbox are MIT graduates.
Shortly afterward Wilber restarted the bot, and BU began to creep toward first again.
About a half-hour later, Dropbox added CAPTCHAs to the email verification to sort out automated users, but Wilber and Lin had already registered an extra 17,000 accounts several days earlier, just in case.
“They probably didn’t expect us to have 17,000 accounts that we didn’t get points for that we registered before they added the CAPTCHAS,” Wilber said. “It was just accounts I didn’t run through the virtual machines yet. I stopped the virtual machines about a day ago since we were so far ahead already. We were saving them in case MIT would try to beat us.”
By midnight, BU had slipped to 93rd in the contest, but by 2 a.m. was back up to 45th in the country and 2nd in the America East conference.
“Well Dropbox definitely caught on since they added the CAPTCHAs, I think we can still win,” Wilber said.