On this episode of The Score, we look at cheating from a different angle than we have before. Our guest is Pete Van Dyke, the Certification Security Program Manager at Amazon Web Services, the office responsible for minimizing cheating among people taking professional certification exams.
Kathryn Baron (01:57): Would you describe what you and your office do?
Pete Van Dyke (02:00): We divide our time among three different activities. One is looking at people that steal our exam content and post that online or charge money for that online. Those are known as brain dump websites. You'll probably hear me talk about that a couple more times today. The second thing that we do is we look at what are known as proxy testers. So, individuals or organizations that take exams for candidates charge them a fee for that, and then through remote control of the computer screens take an exam for them. And then the third thing that our team works on are individuals who misbehave during their exams. So, whether that's accessing a cell phone or hidden notes or having a third-party present, people that misbehave on exams…
Kathryn Baron (07:16): If I'm taking one of these exams, what can I expect before I'm cleared to actually begin the test?
Pete Van Dyke (07:22): Well, we present our exams in two different formats. One is at an in-person test center. So, we have literally thousands of in-person test centers all across the globe. If you were to take an in-person exam, you would schedule that. You would go in and there's a live proctor who would observe you as you take your exam but once COVID hit, the second modality for us, which is online proctored exams became very popular. And an online proctor exam, you don't have to go to a test center. You can take that right in the confines of your own home, and you don't have to interact with people live. What happens for online proctoring is that there is an online proctor located somewhere else in the world who is observing up to 16 or 18 people taking in an exam at one time, and they make sure that they're not misbehaving.
So, if you were to take an online proctored exam, there's an entire formal check-in process. So, we verify that the government issue ID is the same person as the person taking the test. You don't want someone who looks like me taking the test under the name of someone who looks like you, Kathryn. There's a very detailed room scan by video to make sure that there aren't any learning materials, that there aren't any secondary computers or electronic devices, any note-taking materials, pens, paper et cetera in the area.
And then there's also a systems check. So, the test delivery provider looks at that and sees what kind of programs are running in the background to make sure that there's nothing that would allow a candidate to record the testing experience and then steal content from the actual exam.
Kathryn Baron (09:07): So, what have people done to try to trick the security measures? Are there any anecdotes that stand out for you?
Pete Van Dyke (09:15): It's really limited only by creativity. So, for online proctored exams, because you don't have a human being in the same room, people attempt to cheat that system in lots of different ways. They may try to record the session, either audio record or video record. They may surreptitiously have notes and access notes during the exam. It's not unusual for someone to try and have a third person, a third-party individual in the room with them to help with the exam and indicate which questions have which answers. And we've seen evidence in the past of people using things like recording devices built into eyeglass frames or even using earbud type communicators so that someone can communicate with them what the correct answer is for items.
Perhaps one of the more interesting things that we've had when someone takes an exam with a proxy tester, the proxy tester loads software on their machine that allows them to remote control, take