Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Homework Submissions: Beating Corrupted Files

Bruce Schneier recently wrote a blurb on the discussion of corrupted files for homework submission that has been making the rounds. Fortunately for professors and instructors, there are a number of ways to deal with corrupt files:

  1. For these specific files, MD5 checksums have already been created.
  2. For most Office documents, some data can be viewed by simply opening a file using Notepad or VI. This will help determine if the file has any actual relevant content - and will point to a fake file quite quickly.
  3. Simply checking files soon after they are submitted will result in students not getting much of a delay. This is also a good time to check the creator and other metadata on files.
While turning in a corrupted file may sound clever, it shouldn't work more than once for technically aware faculty members. Students will have to return to trying to get their email to be timestamped earlier than the submission date, or any of the other tricks that are often attempted when submitting electronically.

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