Fighting Dr. Not-So-Evil

July 25, 2017

Written by Christie Zervos, Director of Operations and Cary Straw, Senior Web Patrol Analyst

When we think of individuals who operate web sites where live exam items are disclosed we envision scheming, professional evil-doers from some dark corner of the cyber world–and often we are right. But, there are times when distributors of stolen, copyrighted test content are not professional cheaters at all. In fact, some may not fully realize what they’re doing.

Last week, the Rio Grande Sun reported that a high school English teacher, in what may have been an earnest effort to help his students succeed in the standardized history exam, offered specific answers to the upcoming test so that students would be prepared. The teacher had reportedly taken the test earlier and included a review of the answers in his ‘end of course’ review. As a result, the test answers circulated throughout the school district and to nearly two hundred 10th grader’s cell phones, calling into question the validity of all student test scores.

This case is an interesting one because it highlights a dynamic in test security that is often over-looked: nefarious leakers are not the only persons to infringe the copyright of secure test content. Although this high school teacher’s actions clearly violated test security policies, it is not clear that he intended to encourage cheating by students. This kind of thing happens frequently in the test security world. Test questions are leaked by those inside and outside the establishment, both cunningly and haphazardly.

These examples illustrate the need to educate every single individual who handles your materials proper procedures for protecting exams. They also illustrate why consistent monitoring for leaked exam content is so important — to stop both malicious evil-doers and negligent troublemakers.

Protection of exam content and test score validity requires constant vigilance. The above example demonstrates how easily and quickly test content can be stolen, leaked, distributed, and used. Because there are many ways that secure test items can be lost, it is vital that every testing program assess vulnerabilities, threats, and risks. Protection only results after these are fully understood and appropriate controls have been implemented. Patrolling the internet for leaked test content is one of the critical controls that every program needs. Caveon’s experts can provide additional guidance to help you protect the integrity of your testing program. If you have questions concerning how to protect your program, why don’t you give us a call? We can help.

Christie Zervos

Director of Operations, Caveon Test Security