How to beat bots: free software released to help returnees secure MIQ spaces
Free software gives people a better chance of securing a place in Managed Isolation and Quarantine (MIQ), but returnees are cautioned to use the technology at their own risk.
The software is available for download on the online development platform Github and was published with an article saying that it was designed to make it easier to reserve a place in MIQ by automatically updating, checking and completing the forms on the MIQ website to find a place.
“This should mainly help you save precious time and not have to manually refresh the website until you find one of the few places,” the post said.
The MIQ reservation system, administered by the Department of Business Innovation and Employment, has been widely criticized in recent weeks as New Zealanders desperate to return home struggle to secure the limited spaces that become available.
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Users say that as soon as the dates are available they are retrieved faster than a human is able to click on the required steps, indicating that bots are being used to bypass the system.
Some services took advantage of the MIQ reservation system, such as MIQ Helpers, which charged some users over $ 2,000 to reserve a room.
The GitHub post says the tools give users an advantage in reserving a spot on the New Zealand MIQ over others not using similar tools.
“Please keep in mind that your advantage in using this tool will make it more difficult for others, not using an assistive tool, to secure a place. Please help others get started with these tools, so that everyone has an equal chance.
By making the tools public, it made the system fairer for everyone, according to the post.
It was hoped that MIQ would change their website and set up a queuing system, he said.
“Then these scripts would become obsolete, and no one would have to worry about them.”
“And please be aware that you use this software at your own risk.”
Once downloaded, the software opens a browser window and continuously refreshes the MIQ “Secure Your Allocation” page and beeps when new dates are available. He then pre-fills out a form “to save precious seconds” when he tries to reserve a place.
A different approach, which requires no coding skills, involves a browser extension that constantly refreshes the MIQ portal home page and beeps when new dates are available.
“These tools are just a quick attempt to create a cure. They are by far, not finished or perfect. Moreover, in case MIQ changes their website, they could also go down at any time.
MIQ Joint Director Megan Main said last Wednesday that at any time thousands of people could try to secure the spaces that have become available.
“Then they will go fast,” Main said.
“It’s not so much a system issue as it is a demand versus supply issue. “
On Friday, information about bots and scripts had been added to the MIQ website. He said some people were using date checkers or automatic page refreshes on MIQ’s main website calendar, before the booking process, to identify an available date.
“But that’s no different from repeatedly refreshing the calendar page by hand,” the page said.
It states that bots are unable to automatically book rooms in MIQ, and anyone using or attempting to use a bot to shorten the system is violating their terms of service and may be suspended from the system.
“If the page refreshes too frequently, the user is automatically blocked by our security system, which is no more beneficial than clicking Refresh.”
A spokesperson for MIQ said it would take a week to find out how many users have been suspended so far.
Telecommunications Users Association chief executive Craig Young said developers who posted to GitHub used common open source software to create a script that could work on the MIQ site.
“In some ways it’s not a bot, it’s just a piece of code that refreshes your website. You always have to book, ”Young said.
Users should be aware that the software requires technical skills, potentially exposes them to security risks, and may violate MIQ’s terms and conditions, he said.
“People are desperate to secure MIQ spaces, so they will take risks like this to do so. “