A friend of mine recently signed up for an online class that requires software called Proctortrack. This software purports to be able to make sure a student isn’t cheating on an exam, using various methods like peering out of your web cam.
The problem? First, the whole thing is a ridiculous waste of money. From top to bottom, none of it really makes sense – it’s incredibly invasive: it tracks your eye motion through your webcam, it scans your knuckles as some weird form of identification, it uses facial recognition to make sure that you’re not someone else – and above all, it can be bypassed rather easily. I’m not saying I have a better solution to make sure that students don’t cheat on online exams – but this solution is intrusive, and the “Big Brother”-ness of it is so crazy it sounds like it must be a joke (like knuckle scanning, for instance).
The second issue is that despite the obvious flaws in this system (in fact, in any system at all that says it can do something like this, like Examity), the company that makes this software will undoubtedly rake in the millions for their “solution”. From student fees to huge bills for colleges (and, if they’re state schools, for the taxpayers), these companies that guarantee no one using their software is cheating on exams seem like easy solutions to the fears of academics, who say that moving exams to the internet will cause rampant cheating. In some ways, they’re correct – but the issue is their definition of cheating, not the internet itself.
In real life, you’ll run into plenty of issues on a tight deadline, where you’ll be looked to for answers. There is absolutely no shame in reaching out to a trusted expert for advice in these situations, or even just Googling an answer and seeing if it works. It’s like in middle school when your teacher made you write out math by hand, claiming that you won’t have a calculator with you at all times in the real world – I do, it’s my phone. Now, that being said, there are certainly cases where students need to be tested in such a way as to ensure that they actually have the knowledge in their brains – and in those cases, test in person, or come up with a solution better than this awful software. But for all other cases, searching online should not only be allowed, it should be encouraged. Teachers should be giving students problems that mimic those they would find in real life, and whose solutions are complex and have multiple viewpoints. Memorization is worthless in the 21st century, unless you’re preparing for a situation so dire that you need the answer faster than you’d be able to type the question.
The third and most pressing issue is the unrealistic claims of these companies. The idea that they can prevent someone from cheating by using only their webcam (or in the case of Proctortrack, even an executable file that has some kind of computer scanner) is absolutely ridiculous. It’s like saying that a human proctor can prevent a room full of students from cheating because they’re looking at them. Even in the case of computers, where there is “individualized attention” on the part of the software, there are plenty of workarounds. What’s to stop a student (either in person or behind a webcam) from tapping out an answer on their desk in Morse code? The software might be analyzing the audio specifically for Morse code, but covering up the computer’s microphone solves that pretty quickly. Similarly, the teacher would have to pick up on the pattern (and actually know Morse code) to have enough evidence to accuse a student of cheating.
I’m posting a list of workarounds here for multiple reasons:
So, below are a number of ways of getting around the system – in truth, it’s difficult to enumerate all of the distinct methods of bypassing the systems, and in fact, many of them can (and should) be used simultaneously. All of the technological methods to get around the system are based around the idea that you have total control of the hardware and software of your computer, allowing you to make changes that benefit you when taking exams, even when using this kind of anti-cheating system.
As a disclaimer, I don’t have any connection to the ProctorTrack company, nor to any other similar company. My purpose is not to insult a particular piece of software, or the company itself – the reason I chose ProctorTrack is, as previously stated, a friend of mine had to use it, so I began investigating. Also, I don’t have a lab environment in which to test all of the possibilities listed below – they’re here in a theoretical nature, so that you can see the various pitfalls of this kind of software. YMMV – Your Mileage May Vary.
I won’t provide actual tutorials on getting these systems set up – I leave that up to the “cheaters”. In addition, I would like to thank my friend Samaikya for help coming up with this list.
This group of methods involves basically putting some software between your webcam and the anti-cheating system, so that when the system attempts to get the feed from your webcam, it’s actually pulling the feed from a “virtual” webcam. The benefit of this is that the virtual webcam can be controlled through software in order to modify or even replace the actual video from your webcam.
There are a number of software solutions available – I personally use ManyCam, which has a free version and a paid version (one of the issues with the free version is that it has a watermark – though technically that’s not an issue, since you could be using ManyCam while legitimately taking the exam). I’d recommend it only because it has a very convenient interface, which allows you to switch between video streams quickly. It served its purpose for me – if you know of different or better software, feel free to leave your recommendation in the comments.
Easily pull from different media files, as opposed to only from your webcam’s feed
The software clearly watches you through your webcam – their demonstration video shows their software running facial recognition through your video feed.
So, here’s what you do – using your webcam, record a video of yourself using your computer, just surfing the internet or something. Be sure that you don’t do anything that you wouldn’t do on your exam – like move your eyes or head so that it looks like you’re looking off screen, and don’t have someone else come into the frame. The purpose is to have a video file (whose length is slightly longer than the maximum time that you can take an exam), which contains only “legal” footage of you.
Then, simply set your webcam software to play the video file and send that as your video feed, instead of having it send the output of your webcam. The benefit? Now they can’t actually see out of your webcam. You can be doing anything you want behind the webcam – they’ll only see the feed you send them. They can run facial recognition and whatever other video tools they have at their disposal, but the only data you’ll be sending them is a “legal” feed of you typing, clicking, and looking at the screen.
Their software claims to tell if there’s multiple people in the webcam feed – but what if they were seeing an older webcam video? (Also note the “Online Aid” infraction – I’ll discuss that later)
Now, there are two worries when it comes to this method. The first is that they may notice software like ManyCam installed, or they may notice that you have multiple webcams (the real one and the virtual one) available. For this, we use the Virtual Machine method, detailed below.
The second worry is one I came up with while watching their introductory video – they require a “knuckle scan” as a form of identification. This alone is cause for thought – why are they scanning your knuckles? Who thought that would be a good idea? If it was a legitimate form of identification, why isn’t it more widespread?
Though I’m not actually sure because I haven’t had my knuckles scanned personally, the only way I can think of that they’d use this insane identifier is if they require you to raise your knuckles every once in a while to prove that you’re still really there. Easy enough to get around – make another video with your webcam of you surfing the internet for a few seconds, then raise your knuckles to the screen like they do in the introductory video, then put your hand back down to the keyboard or mouse. When you get some kind of pop up asking you to raise your knuckle, switch the video feed from the long file of you surfing the internet to this new file of you raising your knuckles. Because of the low quality of webcams, the slight jumps when going back and forth between video files probably won’t seem any worse than normal webcam footage.
Knuckle scans – totally fool proof! We should use this form of identification everywhere!
Here’s an extremely simple idea – you’re sitting there, in front of your laptop, with your keyboard and mouse, with a webcam trained on you as you take the exam. There’s another person in the room, but if the webcam sees them, you’ll be in trouble – so, sit them behind your laptop. But then they can’t see anything, so hook up an external monitor that mirrors your screen, and put it behind your laptop. Now they can see exactly what you see.
But the real goal of the situation is to let them help you with the exam – so plug in a USB keyboard and mouse, and now they can type for you, completely out of the view of the webcam.
The system does appear to say that it does some kind of “system check”, which appears to check for a keyboard and mouse. Theoretically, it would flag you for having more than one. But that seems like a pretty questionable check – I personally use a Bluetooth mouse (and not my laptop’s built-in mouse) because I prefer it. How would they know if I handed that mouse to a friend? Furthermore, using the Virtual Machine solution, they could be completely unaware that a second mouse and keyboard were hooked up to the same computer.
You have to run an executable file at some point (the “Download” step above), so why do they need to know that you have Adobe Flash? What are they using it for? Flash is extremely insecure (Apple famously refused to let it run on their iOS devices), so that opens a whole new attack vector that I won’t even get into.
This idea builds off of the previous idea – instead of using an external monitor, use an external projector, and project your screen onto a wall out of site of the webcam. Then gather everyone in the class in that room, and discuss the questions. You’ll still be sitting in front of your laptop – and you probably shouldn’t participate in the discussion, since your mouth moving might trigger something. As for the microphone, just cover it with something – it will still send audio, but the audio will be ambient white noise. Once the group comes to a conclusion about the answer, they can tell you, and you’ll click the correct answer. When you’re done, you move over and let the next classmate take the exam (just watch for digital leftovers, like the fact that you’re using the same IP address or already have a browser cookie for the previous user).
This is the icing on the cake, and the option that should probably be used in conjunction with all the other options. Without going into too much technical detail, a Virtual Machine (VM) is effectively a computer inside your computer. For instance, if you’re running Windows 8, you could make a virtual machine for Windows XP, and you effectively run it like a program, with the ability to minimize it. You give it a certain amount of hard drive space, CPU limitations, and an amount of RAM, and you’re off to the races.
In this case, the big benefit to work with a VM is the fact that you can pass it specific hardware. So, say your computer has two keyboards and two mice plugged in – you can pass only one to the virtual machine. From its point of view, it has one keyboard and one mouse plugged in. It doesn’t know that it’s not a laptop’s built-in keyboard and mouse. You can also then pass it your webcam feed. The goal there is that you can be sitting in front of your computer, where your webcam can see, but the person behind the computer can be typing away, viewing your screen on an external monitor, which shows the output of the VM. The VM also would not know that there are two monitors plugged in to the host computer.
A further benefit is that if you’ve intercepted the webcam feed in some way, you just pass that to the VM. In other words, from the VM’s point of view, it has a single keyboard, a single mouse, a single monitor, and is presenting a single webcam, and there is no software installed besides Proctortrack.
In this screenshot, a Windows 8 host machine is running two programs – one, Google Chrome, which has focus. Two, VMWare Workstation, inside of which is a Windows XP VM. The Windows XP machine also has Chrome open, and it’s in focus as well. The Windows XP machine (which could be running the exam software) has no idea that it’s actually sitting inside a Windows 8 machine (which might be Googling answers).
Virtual Machines are extremely powerful, and if this is the first you’ve heard of them, you’re probably fairly confused. There’s a lot of reading to be done on your part, and experimenting, in order to discover the intricacies of running two operating systems on a computer simultaneously. But, suffice it to say, Proctortrack (and any other proctoring software) can be tricked, one way or another.
This group of approaches is so simple, they’re hardly worth mentioning – and yet, it’s the very fact that they’re both so simple and so efficient at breaking a system like Proctortrack that proves that the system itself is hilariously bad. A webcam has pretty huge blind spots – they’re not actually designed to have the total spatial awareness you’d need to make sure there’s nothing fishy going on anywhere near an exam taker.
Ok, so none of the other options are working for you – you just want a simple, non-technical way to get through your exam. You must be sitting at your computer, with your regular webcam on, using your only keyboard and mouse – and, because they track your eyes, you must be looking directly at your screen.
Or do you?
On a regular laptop, the webcam and the screen are on the same plane, meaning that the webcam is tracking your eye movement, and your eyes have to be looking in the direction of your screen. But it’s not really tracking what your eyes are looking at – in other words, there could be something between your eyes and the screen, and it would have no idea. So, put your textbook or notes between your eyes and the screen, but not in a way that the webcam can see.
The points of view of both of these webcams (at the top-center of the laptop) are the same.
Just make sure that the book doesn’t appear in the webcam feed, and that you don’t accidentally hit any keys on your keyboard with your book. When you’re done, maintain “eye contact” with your laptop screen, and slide your book left or right off of your laptop.
A more digital idea based on the one above – put a second, smaller laptop on top of your existing laptop. This also works with a phone or tablet. If it’s out of the view of the webcam, they won’t be able to tell. Just make sure that neither overheat!
And now for the really fun ones. Here are some ways you can take the exam “legally” (it may break their Terms of Service or something, you’ll have to read it to find out – then again, any form of cheating is against your college’s academic integrity policy or whatever they call it).
They track your eyes to make sure you don’t look away from your monitor. So, easy solution – wear sunglasses. Maybe their Terms of Service require you to have your eyes visible – but your “doctor” says you’re sensitive to light and need to wear them. In many states (you’ll have to check the laws for your own), once you have a doctor’s note for something (and it’d be pretty easy to get a note for wearing sunglasses because they’re non-prescription items), they can’t ask further questions about the state of your health.
You could also potentially claim that it’s a religious garment, but YMMV (your mileage may vary). Just a fun thought.
And there’s always a solution like this:
Note that this is actually the exact opposite of what you want, because the eyes look away…but if it’s good enough for gorillas, it’s good enough for me.
The software they run does facial recognition and tries to figure out where your eyes are. You can’t have another person in the camera’s view with you. But what if the quietest place for you to work is in your room, and your room is covered in life-sized Jonas Brothers posters? I use the Jonas Brothers as an example because I have a friend who got a poster of them as a joke for her birthday, and when she took a picture with it, Facebook tried to tag the Jonas Brothers poster as if they were real people.
We see the world in 3D objects – the camera would only see it in 2D. Therefore, there wouldn’t be too much difference between you holding your head still for the camera, and a similarly-sized printed picture of a head, especially through the obfuscating lens of a poor quality webcam. It would be obvious to any human looking at the feed that one head is the students’ and one head is Nick Jonas, but the software would have to process both, even after the professor marks the “Multiple People” violation as passed. This just costs the company money in CPU/RAM usage, it doesn’t help you get the answers. But they apparently charge $30 for a student license for the software (and I assume they charge the colleges as well, I doubt a classroom full of kids can pay for that amount of server CPU cycles for facial recognition), so you might as well get your money’s worth.
Similarly, it might just so happen that your wallpaper is covered in gigantic faces, maybe you decorated it with pictures of your friends. I’d like to see a software administrator tell you to leave your room because your wallpaper isn’t conducive to their Big Brother webcam spying.
This actually points to a larger issue – working in a library setting, which you would think would be one of the best non-proctored places to take an exam, would be a problem because people might walk behind you, innocently. Sure, the professor doesn’t have to mark that as failing, but who’s to say they didn’t slip you a note with answers on it as they passed by?
This is a fun idea I had – a little ridiculous, but it would be really fun to see how it would turn out. It’s simple: put up a big green screen behind you, and then chroma key the green screen in your webcam software so it looks like you’re in an office setting, or maybe just in your bedroom. You then have a live feed of yourself, in any location you want, taking the exam.
Then you take it a step further – dress someone up in a green screen suit. Now two people can be on the camera at once, whispering to each other (so that the microphone doesn’t pick up the sound of your voices).
The issue with this method is basically that webcams are awful cameras, and green screens require pretty nice cameras that can accurately capture the color green without artifacting and that sort of a thing. Green screens also require proper lighting so that the screen itself is a solid color green (if a shadow goes across the green screen, then the areas with and without shadows are different hues of green, which makes it more difficult to get right). In all, this idea probably wouldn’t work – but would be wildly entertaining to try.
Whether every single solution works or not, I hope my point was clear – at least one method will work, and that method won’t be incredibly taxing. In addition, each piece of software works differently, so tools to circumvent Proctortrack may or may not work to bypass Examity. Schools use software like this as a CYA (cover your ass) approach – if anyone mentions rampant cheating on online exams, the school can point to their implementation of software like Proctortrack and claim that they’re doing the best they can with what’s available on the market. But it doesn’t address the real issue – teachers are still teaching (and writing examinations) like we don’t live in a world where Google and Wikipedia are at our fingertips. The more they ignore it, the more they risk making themselves obsolete – I personally am far less interested in whether or not a person got an A in a computer course than if they can actually program or design something when asked. Slowly but surely, employers everywhere will begin to feel the same way, especially given the widespread knowledge that the prices of colleges are ridiculous for the average person.
Note that the comments section below was originally in Disqus, which started putting ads in their free tier.
Ha ha. I went straight to the Mess With Them section because that’s always the most fun!
Schools aren’t doing this because they’re feeling Big Brotherish. They’re doing it because accreditation groups (moved by government regulators) are demanding that schools Do Something to verify the identity of online students, and make some attempt to prevent cheating. This is one of the first impacts for higher education of the pervasive test-oriented environment that has gone much further in K-12 education. (It’s not *the* first, because accreditors have already started asking for programs to be assessed.) I’m going to avoid making editorial comments one way or another, but in today’s regulatory climate you can expect to see more action like this.
I agree with you completely – unfortunately, it’s a stopgap solution. Accreditation groups demand that something be done, so something is done – but that something costs quite a bit of money, and doesn’t necessarily work as described.
Without reading too far into your comment (so as to not make it more editorial than it already is), I agree that there are two main issues – the regulatory climate, and the test-oriented nature of education. Regarding the former, there are plenty of technological “solutions” implemented because someone higher up demanded it, not because it solves anything at all.
And the latter is something I alluded to in my post – an examination-centric education is not one that will help you in real life, at least not to the degree of a class that simulates a real-world job environment, or at least gives you a project worth doing. Turning a statement from a textbook into a question on an exam is easy, making a project that tests a student’s ability to analyze a complex situation and come up with a creative and technical solution is very difficult. I’d like to see a software industry based around that!
Who knows, maybe I should get into the anti-cheating software business and get my cut of the pie.
I should note that exams using Proctortrack are not required. There are ways of assessing student progress than these kinds of exams. But a look at what has been happening in K-12 education can give us a sense of one possible future for higher education. The same concerns are present for both among government regulators.
The solution is to tell the accreditation groups to go to hell.
This may be difficult for Small Fourth Tier Community College… but for an Ivy League, or even Rutgers, they don’t *need* accreditation, everyone knows their name is worth more than that of the accreditation board.
Outsourced biometric data of students https://twitter.com/shrihekale/status/567693685983559680, anyone remember this? http://www.itworld.com/article/2728144/security/forget-hackers–indian-call-center-workers-may-be-stealing-your-financial-data.html
Entertaining, but absurd. Not one of them would work with our solution.
While I agree that some of the methods were meant more for entertainment than actual use, there are a number of methods that are pretty much impossible to prevent technologically. Specifically, how would the Examity software prevent the following:
1. A sticky note with information placed on a laptop screen
2. A student looking directly at the laptop screen, but tapping answers out in Morse code, for the benefit of a student sitting directly next to them
3. A student looking at their laptop screen but with an external keyboard and mouse being used by another student sitting outside the view of the webcam
And just as a point of comparison, does Examity scan knuckles like Proctortrack does?
If you’d be willing, we’d be happy to do an interview with you and/or a member of your technical team who could answer the question.
The only thing that’s absurd here is your pompous and so-sure-of-yourself attitude. I bet there’s people flipping your system the bird every day of the school year, and at the end of each one, you’re none the “wiser”. The hacker community absolutely loves CEOs with arrogant attitudes and complacent mentalities like yours. Cheers >D
I will say that from what Examity has done in my classes it does address a fair few of these by requiring an external webcam and a full 360 sweep of the room with it. Tucking away notes or the book as proposed would take some Rube Goldberg efforts.
They also required me to be the only one in the room.
Having a live human monitoring that you have to interact with a few times also complicates attempts at cheating.
Not saying it is a perfect solution by any stretch, but they at least seem to be more aware of the sort of basic factors that’ll raise the effort needed to cheat effectively.
First – oh boy is that invasive. Hope Examity likes all of the “F**k Examity” posters I have covering every inch of my room!
But second, there are still a pretty big number of ways to get around it. Most of my list actually does allow you to sit in front of your computer while taking the test, just with some extra help. So for instance, you could run the software in a virtual machine and pass it your actual webcam feed, but be able to minize the VM in order to use a browser on the host machine. The Exacmity software won’t realize it’s been minimized, since it’s still actually in focus, but within the VM.
Third, regarding the Rube Goldberg effort, it’s actually pretty easy – your webcam can only see out of the front of your laptop, even if you spin around in a circle. So just have your buddy stand behind the laptop and rotate as you rotate, so that he’s always behind the laptop. Easy peasy.
And third, I can’t rotate the computers in my school’s libraries 360 degrees. I guess that would mean that Examity can’t be used in school computer labs – wonder if they advertise that fact before they have schools sign contracts?
There’s one method you did not discuss which I have personally seen be successful. This one is very easy but requires two people. Get a desktop computer, make sure it has an HDMI out on it. Go and obtain an HDMI distribution amplifier that’s HDCP complaint (most are). Distribution amplifiers are used in bars to split the signal of a sports game to multiple TVs while only using one cable signal. Anyhow, the signal leaving the computer will then go into the distribution amplifier which will split that signal twice. Plug one signal into the computer you will test with, plug the other signal into another monitor in another room or where ever. Since this signal is split by a distribution amplifier the computer will only think it’s plugged the monitor signal is going to one monitor so when examity or proctoru looks to see if there are any external monitors they will see one monitor. However, the signal from the distribution amplifier will be split one to the monitor you’re testing with and the other to a secondary monitor your friend can look at. Your friend would see everything on your screen that you see. If he/she could look up the answers, and whisper them to you. S/He could lightly knock on floor or wall to signal which letter is the right one is the right choice after he/she looks up the answer using another computer while looking at what’s mirrored on the monitor from the secondary signal using a separate monitor.
You could also put that secondary signal into another computer with a capture card connected to it. This would allow you to record the entire exam attempt and allow you to look up the answers later on if you are awarded a second attempt at it. I’ve seen this method work time and time again and there’s almost no way to catch someone doing this since the signal is being split via an eternal hardware device and not two monitors plugged directly into the video card. Finally it can destroy the integrity of a test as the test taker can post this recording, sell it to other students, show it to other students so they could prep for the test if he/she records it. I don’t condone cheating but a distribution amplifier is like $20 on eBay if that. And most TVs accept HDMI inputs these days so someone is bound to have a second monitor around.
Very funny stuff. But when I got to the bottom I was expecting the author to be a teenager with pimples and no 5-o’clock shadow. Maybe the real Jake is hiding his identity…
You are treating two separate issues here – the nature of anti-cheating solutions, and the nature of exams. You are correct that no anti-cheating system is foolproof. Most schools just want to say they are “doing something” even if they know it doesn’t work. But your assertion that all exams should take into account that we live in a Google world is absurd. Perhaps in your IT field it is true that creative problem solving is most important, and fact recall almost irrelevant because of the internet. But don’t extrapolate that to all fields. Just one counterexample of many – do you really want a doctor who is good at creative solutions but does not know basic facts about anatomy? In a natural disaster, it is likely that there will be both severe injuries and no internet access (or power of any kind for that matter). If you ever find yourself in such a situation, you better hope there is a doctor nearby whose teachers believed in closed-book exams!
Actually, I purposely conflated the issues – a technological solution to the problem of cheating in exams is ridiculous both because the technology is not actually a solution, and because the work on the exam is not actually cheating.
In the fields I studied in college, which extended beyond IT, very few of the classes benefitted from straight memorization. A chemistry class? Sure, a quick recall of the periodic table can be useful. But in many of the analysis classes, from History to English literature, the analysis is based on your understanding of the book, but it’s still a closed-book exam – even though no student would have quotes or citations memorized.
In terms of medicine, I covered that particular situation in the following line: “This, as opposed to the highly unlikely scenario of running into an exam-like situation in real life, where they have to recall information immediately without the use of the internet.” – in the case of being a doctor, surely helping in a natural disaster is more likely than for the average population, so they should definitely memorize. Even being a surgeon in a sterile operating room will bring emergencies that require quick recall of facts, far faster than one could Google them. But that’s also why doctors do rotations, and medical students work on cadavers – they, too, don’t limit themselves to just straight memorization. For most other professions, true emergency preparedness will come with experience and not from pre-exam cramming.
Will the proctor be able to recognize if I have a separate screen connected? And if I want to cut and paste the answers to that other screen to search for the answers on the internet?
It’s not entirely clear what they are and aren’t able to tell, but it’s safest to assume they can. They do some kind of scan for drivers, which will likely be able to discover that you have two monitors plugged in. In addition, they can definitely tell that you’ve pasted something into their program. The safest bet is to use a separate computer (keeping in mind that they’re tracking your eyes, because they’re super creepy), and retype anything you need rather than paste.
Well, that is just terrible news for me. *insert sarcasm… but I better get to reading then.
By the way, they definitely can tell if there is an application open. Weird thing is that it gives you a warning if you have an HDMI cable hooked up to it, warns you still have text hooked up to it and makes you shut those applications down before you move forward. But it doesn’t warn you if you have a side by side screen, or windows, or something of the like open. But it will lock you out and report you to your school. So now that that’s settled, I’d recommend to any future people, if they’re going to do this, just study.
Yes, you should probably only have ProctorTrack open on the computer you’re using to take the exam, no other applications. However, you can open ProctorTrack inside a virtual machine, which would be unaware of any other program being run on the host machine.
As for the HDMI cable, currently my desktop has an HDMI cable running to the monitor. That cable would be there whether I was taking the exam “legally” or not – so I’m not concerned that ProctorTrack knows about it. If I plugged in a splitter, however, my computer would be unaware. Therefore, I could have my monitor here, and another monitor in an entirely different room (or a projector, etc.) showing the questions to others. Then we need some message-passing system to get me the answers, but again – you can get get as complicated as you want with your methods of counteracting ProctorTrack, the real question is: is it really worth the millions that your school is paying for it?
All I know is that the on-line programs I’ve taken are very labor intensive, with a lot of reading and writing involved. To add the little extra pressure to do an honest exam is fine. But I can tell you the system sucks. The first time I went to take the exam, it took almost five hours with IT to get into it. Some with ReMote Proctor, our school IT, and even Apple support. I’m taking a third exam now, and I’m having IT issues again. To me it’s not worth the headache for the student. And no, not worth the money the schools are paying for them.
Oh, and to all the nay-sayers, clearly they don’t understand your sarcasm. Nor see the difference between sarcasm and legitimate ways to work around it, if you wanted to.
Hah thanks! And I completely agree, the IT headaches are crazy. I understand the concern – professors want their online classes to be “watched” in the same way that they could watch an in-person class – but online classes are inherently different and need to be treated as such. Otherwise, you’re just causing headaches like the ones you described, but you’re not stopping anyone from cheating.
Hey Jacob, so I have had a little more experience with the remote proctor thing. A couple things it definitely can tell. 1. If you have a HDMI cable hooked up to it. 2. If you have messenger of any kind running. But it warns you before you move forward. Now here’s where it gets tricky, right when you log onto the remote proctor, before you sign anything for terms and agreement, you can minimize the proctor. and even if I have google open on a separate screen, it doesn’t say anything about that. Nor does it say anything that I have word open. Ok, so fast forward, you agree to the terms and conditions. It says it’ll listen in on the microphone, check. It says to do the room scan. check. They now have access to your microphone and video. But here’s what I don’t think they have access to and that is the ability to look at your screen. My conclusion? Anytime I needed apple support, any time I even needed remote proctor support, they send me a specific link so that they can get onto your computer and drive, or see what you’re seeing. But of course I don’t know for sure, so I’m scared to try. It does say in the disclosure that it’ll have access to your screen, but I think it’s bullshit. What are your thoughts?
They 100% can see what is on your screen. The software they use can highjack control. In my proctorU sessions, I usually needed them to input a password so that I could access the test – so I had to provide them access (done at the beginning) and they would then input the password.
Bottomline is that they see you and they see what you’re doing.
Fortunately for most students, that’s not the bottom line. Though they can see what’s on your screen, they can’t see if you have a second screen facing the opposite direction, with a friend reading the questions and holding up some fingers to indicate A, B, C, or D on a multiple choice test.
how are you suppose to do algebra if you cant look away from your screen to your pencil and paper?
Even beyond algebra, I tend to do a lot of my work with scrap paper – I like to write down the section headers for essays before I write it. For some reason, writing that down on paper gives me a better view of the essay than typing it into the (inevitably awful) text editor in the course software.
Not only does anti-cheating software not work, it can actually harm the productivity of the students. And we pay a ridiculous amount in tax money for it. Who’s really benefiting here?
Examity is like a condom. It makes everyone feel great, but it’s not really preventing anything. Until exams are proctored with a camera setup like this (https://www.youtube.com/embed/JkaPUbB-Be8), Examity will continue to be a joke. You don’t need high tech solutions to defeat examity. People do it every day by putting notes on a laptop screen, mixing notes with scratch paper, etc.
You said something in this article that I have been saying all semester since learning about this invasive web-cam proctoring…You can utilize resources in the real world! I too disagree with the definition of cheating as schools use it. How is it cheating to be resourceful? Isn’t that really one of the most important things to learn in life, is how to utilize what you know (whether it is strict knowledge or the knowledge on how to find it)? Aside from the fact that much of school is a waste of time (says a student attempting to obtain a second Bachelor’s–society made me do it, believe me), and the “well-rounded” education touted by our society is one of the many flaws in the US education system, cheating only hurts you, so who really cares.
People are conflating some issues here. Of course you can still cheat with any system given the wherewithal, but I hate to tell you but yes, there is someplace for some basic proctoring of online exams. The ability to call over your friend that aced the course last semester shouldn’t be all that’s needed to pass the exam. Heck you could just have them take the whole thing for you without you even in the room. As to google, no, expecting some level of internalization of a classes materials isn’t really an issue. A student who can actually demonstrate that they understand how calculus works will be much more able to notice when their calculator is giving them an absurd answer later.
As to the ways to cheat, every system I’ve looked at looks for extraneous clicks, so even if the system can’t see the virtual machine, they will be able to see you typing or moving your mouse while your test goes un-changed, so most of the technical solutions fail. You could probably get away with one or two post its on the latptop since rotating it around the room it’s the only hidden space, but anything more overt than that (like knocking on a wall after secretly splitting off the video) is dangerous in itself as the sessions are recorded, and can be checked later if a teacher is suspicious.
Yes no system is perfect, and I wish all of these worked better and felt less invasive, but the idea that you should be able to take a test with your best friend sitting next you helping out crazy.
I’m thinking I can cheat by showing them one of my old phones &I then using my current phone to put up against the screen and type in the questions to my test. I will make the webcam where they can only see my shoulders up. What do u think?
I’ve passed classes using Respondus and ProctorU doing exactly this.
Speaking from someone on the other side (professor), I can tell you that the usage of services such as these are not necessarily to prevent cheating, but to slow it down. As a community college professor, I can tell you that large universities will not always accept classes from smaller colleges without having some sort of proctoring solution in place. If you don’t like it, that is understandable. You can always take an on campus class.
Couldn’t a student just use a fake ID to have someone else take the proctored online exam?
What about having a small earpiece and having a friend on the line. Read the questions and possible answers out loud like we are encouraged by the instructor to better understand what we
Are asked, so the friend can help? Has anyone done this with proctor track?
What if i used a program which can remotely access my pc and i let a tutor take the exam instead of me ? Are they gonna know? Specially with “Honorlock” which is it an extension on google browser not a program you install it on ur laptop or pc ?!
And honorlock just record ur screen and your face and the mic is open that’s it
I’m on the other side too (professor). We found Honorlock to be a bit of a joke. They claim to have technology that will catch students searching the internet with a second device. The first problem is that professors need to submit their test questions weeks in advance (not going to happen). Second, it requires students to search for the identical question wording (which isn’t the only way to search for an answer). Third, it requires a student to select one of the bogus honorlock websites that has the question that was submitted by the professor (students learn to select websites they know, like Quizlet or Studyblue). And, finally, students found out that if the second device they use is on a different IP address (eg cellular) you won’t get caught. Honorlock’s “technology” is a simple matching of IP addresses.
So if my computer is on Wifi and my phone is one LTE it cant detect the use of my phone
Correct, they would be completely separate so your computer (and the program) wouldn’t be able to tell that you’re on your phone. However, be careful of the webcam being able to see your phone (or its reflection in glasses!)
Do you know if macbooks can run VM’s? I’m using Proctorio, I don’t know if you know anything about that one in particular. I was going to install some VMware onto my mac, run proctorio within the vm, then have my browser up on the host to look up the answers. Do you think this will work?
Macbooks can definitely run VM’s, but just beware – the newest proctoring software can check if it’s being run in a VM!
Does this apply to ProctorTrack too?
Also wondering if ProctorTrack can detect programs that are not actually open as applications, but rather processes (like application Duet on macbook which allows mirroring onto iOS device)
So to be clear, Respondus Monitor can detect if I have an external HDMI cable hooked to my laptop to an external monitor? If so, what do I need to get in order to block this?
Ok, so my professors all activated the “Scrap paper/calculator allowed” in the ProctorTrack program. Doesn’t this mean that i can simply say I’m doing scrap paper work off camera when really I’m just typing the questions on my phone…
Hey Jacob, you mentioned that the newest proctoring software can check if it’s being run in a VM. In this case, is it possible to instead have the proctor system run on your normal OS and then have your notes opened in VM without raising any alarms?
Unfortunately it’s not – when you minimize the proctor system’s browser in order to to have the VM with your notes come to the forefront, the proctor system will be aware of that. That is, if they even allow the VM system running in the first place – some of the lockdown browsers shut off every non-essential system running on your computer.
So lets say I have Respondus Lockdown browser with with webcam and environment check. Can I paste notes on my screen so I am still looking? Or prop my phone up against my screen and google stuff (because technically my line of vision is still on the screen).
Like will Lockdown browser be able to tell that my phone is up against my screen? I read the questions out loud to myself last test and didn’t get flagged. So I am thinking of muting Siri, reading the question, then just scrolling through google but keeping only my head on the webcam. Think this will work?
I can’t speak to the effectiveness of using Siri for something like this, but the basics are there – if you have notes pasted to your screen, the webcam inherently can’t see the screen itself.
What if i use micro earpiece which uses radio frequency and a friend talking answers? Is it possible to catch by proctor?
Highly unlikely to be caught – assuming the camera can’t see the ear piece, the video itself shouldn’t show any difference as long as you’re not talking to your friend!
Hey, if I have my phone placed on my laptop screen, is it possible they can catch a reflection of my phone through my eyes? That’s if I’m not wearing any glasses? Also, this an app called exammonitor by ExamSoft
The truth is that anything is possible. However, you have to figure out what’s probable, and what you’re willing to take a chance on. The resolution that the program sees is no better than the resolution of your webcam – take a video of yourself with the phone there, blow it up – can you see anything suspicious? The programs don’t have any CSI-like “zoom and enhance” functionality, they’re just looking for obvious signs of cheating and alerting the professor.
The professor doesn’t want to start a formal investigation if they’re not sure, it’s way too much paperwork and would look terrible for them if you were found innocent. Does the little reflection in your eyes really amount to enough for a formal accusation? That’s up to you to determine, but I would bet not!
So is there any new way to beat Proctortrack or PSI Bridge type systems ?
Will the system see if i connect hdmi distribution amplifier?
I have an exam coming up shortly, definitely going to study, but definitely going to need a backup method as well. It requires Respondus Lockdown browser WITH the webcam. I’m not tech savvy and have just only learned what a VM was today. My friend is planning to use an HDMI along with a splitter to transmit my screen onto the laptop in a separate room while I wear an earpiece microphone. Do you think this method is fullproof? Or should I look into how to do the VM method? Not sure if you are familiar with exactly what respondus can detect. Thanks so much for the helpful article.
Hi guys and Jake. Have anyone tried to use HDMI cable to run trough another screen? Does it work?
Is there a way for the proctoring system (proctorU) to see the splitter connection ? or once you have the splitter in the system looks like its just one signal even though there would be two?
If you use a hardware splitter, theoretically the computer wouldn’t know that there are two monitors on the other side – all it would “see” is the splitter itself. It may depend on the type of cable as well
Ok, what type of cable do you recommend? Thank you so much honestly.
What about the proctor system Honorlock? I have an exam coming up that would use it and I did some research. Supposedly it prompts you to have only one monitor active, can detect external devices, asks for facial recognition and an ID scan. It also prompts you to do a 360 degree scan of the room you are in and locks external browsers within your computer.
I have a second keyboard, if I connect it to my phone and use cellular then they will not be able to track me right?
Can the new proctor systems detect it is inside Virtual machine? Is there any way to bypass that system…like changing the name of the process etc ?
[…] and Cheating – How to Bypass Proctortrack, Examity, and the Rest. Online verfügbar unter https://jakebinstein.com/blog/on-knuckle-scanners-and-cheating-how-to-by…, zuletzt abgerufen am […]
Can someone to sit beside me out of the view of the webcam and just read the questions and hold up fingers like 1 finger for A, 2 for B and so on?
How much can my MacBook Air webcam see on the sides. I’ll be testing with Respondus lockdown browser and webcam
Hey, can you cheat on Examity using a VM machine in 2020?
What if u just have your phone or a mini camera sitting right under the mousepad? The cam can only see chest up so they wouldn’t see it. Then you have a friend behind you checking with an ipad(no noise) and tapping a finger on your hand representing the letter?
[…] 2015, software engineer Jake Binstein wrote an exhaustive array of workarounds, including virtual webcam software, projecting tests to conspirators in another room, and putting […]
Hi all. A pretty simple workaround as used by some students in Thailand. Get a micro earpiece radio receiver (cheap and readily available online). Get a set of spy-cam glasses (or any micro hidden camera tech) and live stream the feed to a friend in the next room. Your friend can search the internet for the answers and tell you each one directly into the ear piece. Obviously practice the technique and don’t score 100%!!!
In most countries, signal jamming is illegal, so they won’t be able to stop you broadcasting a feed. You could even setup a hidden camera in the room that is hard-wired to provide an HD feed to the support guy in the next room. That gives me an idea for a business – although it’s probably already been done in India!
While we focus on the tech, let’s also consider the fact that the customer service by the proctors from call centres in Asia is crap. It’s so impersonal and so offensively invasive. Have a look at Monica Chin’s article on Examity for an examity-example of how one student’s credit card details flashed up on screen during a exam… Weakness in the system anyone???
Exams are not perfect as a means of assessing competence, but they are helpful and obviously aren’t going away any time soon. They are complex. Complex systems are impossible to control, predict and monitor. Great tech solutions are not the ones that try to emulate complex human services – they are tools that help experts do their jobs. All of these remote proctoring tools with their hundreds of millions of dollars of investment – all in the name of creating a tech unicorn to make VC’s richer – they are all part of the failing tech startup culture which promotes automation over augmentation of human service delivery. The same culture that leads to Uber drivers committing suicide and that seeks to control our actions through mass data harvesting for the purposes of psychological and emotional manipulation.
Sometimes it’s prudent to recognise that humans do things better…
Good article 🙂
and quote “if you’ve intercepted the webcam feed in any way “just pass that thru to VM”.”
– run manycam on host
– set recorded videofeed as host manycam source (“virtual webcam”)
– set webcam device in guest (VM) as “manycam virtual webcam”?
Can you switch back to live webcam, like by change source within host manycam, to satisfy requests by proctor for specific action or do room scan etc?
Simply speaking, wouldn’t it be easiest to somehow make your webcam quality so odiously bad, like worse than 180p, like some of the security cam footage from China, so the computer can’t even pick apart your eyes from the rest of the blur of your face? same thing with the mic, just sit next to fan that sounds like a tornado. If the professors raise a fuss just say that “oh i can’t afford a better computer are you going to penalize me for being poor”
[…] and two monitors connected to the same computer. “There is a pretty funny website, of a type which gives you tricks in English to violate these types of measures of security. The list is very long, and they are all feasible, from a computer point of view. ” […]
[…] services are not perfect, and it’s easy to find online tips and tricks for duping remote proctoring services. Some suggest hiding notes underneath the view of the camera […]
Proctortrack states that it does not support VM. I have checked its latest docs & confirmed. But surprisingly, I still able to take the test using VMWare Workstation with Win 10. Still confused what the hell is going on?!
I have an upcoming proctor exam and I’m nervous as hell. The testing software is Mettl. Would it run in VMWARE? And would it somehow detect it?
Your speach is as dangeorous as a populist speaking to a mass of idiot voters. SURE, as every evil lie, it is half true. Many bad professor ask students to memorize info or process but good professors present their students simplified pieces of real problems (can not ask begginers to solve real complex problems). Professors try to avoid mostly communication between students, not so much access to info. That is because cheaters borrow intelligence and solutions from other students. So, the software is sometimes aimed to detect the lazy idiot that does not want to/can’t think. The education system has a lot to improve but anarchy is not constructive. You, digital boy, would not live a minute in real anarchy. Digital people lives in a system, the biggest one of all…
Uhh, I guess I appreciate being called “digital boy”, but this comment is ridiculous. We’re already in digital anarchy, that’s the entire point of this post. Students are already easily able to cheat, use the internet, and communicate with each other – the software changes nothing.
I’ve thought of a good one
Play some hardcore porn on a television in the background with the volume turned up. I guarantee you the professor won’t ask you to turn on your camera again. Or they will be to distracted to care what you’re doing
You’re in your own private room and are not bound to campus decency policies.
Bigger problem, reasonable accommodations for students with documented disabilities aren’t given their accommodations. For example, my social anxiety and panic disorders allows me to leave a room, take a walk and return for up to 15 minutes if I need it. Rarely I do but when One person is given access to my webcam, and programs are monitoring my eye and face movements I’m going to be focused on being accused of cheating not taking the test.
A proctor is one thing. But what about us returning adult students? I did all of this before and it’s in my transcripts.
No talking? What about those of us with kids and puppies and babies? And abusive boyfriends?
Examity gives you 3 hours to take their exam. How about they give you 20 so cheating isn’t so simple either you know you’re content or your not going to finish.
I signed up for this evening but after reading the insane disregard to individual situations, both living environments and disabled adults how is this a solution? As many have said you cheat and think you’ll survive real college math and you’re in for a fun semester.
You’ll fail or you’ll regret it. Im going to reschedule this thing now and file a grievance with the school. I’d rather lay out of pocket to take the exam in a proctored room that’s not my personal living space then feel like I’m going to be some creeps home video to enjoy later on.
That said I never read anything about being clothed. My room after all and I’ll play dirty too. Figure out something I can do to make my webcam act up too.
I have a new much better comp on its way right now
I tried to have several layers of clear tape over my camera to lower the quality so that they can’t see my eyes clearly (admittedly I have smaller eyes as well) and I am just going to have my phone against the laptop screen.
School is using respondus lockdown browser + webcam.
Would setting up another laptop (Laptop 2) across from you (Laptop 1) and attaching an external webcam to Laptop 2 where you can face it against laptop 1 but out of laptop 1’s webcam field of view work? Plan is to video skype to a friend and have them see my laptop screen and then the friend can message me on my phone (a,b,c,d) to whatsapp (on cellular network) which is propped against the screen.
Think this will work?
Hi, I just figured out that the hdmi splitter method doesnt work in laptop, well thats make sense because Windows cant bypass the already built in screen in laps, I suppose its the same case with all-in one desktop computers. Windows detects two screens always because the maik screen is already attached internally and physically to the mainboard, Tried the splitter method in an old desktop with hdmi output, connected another monitor, and Windows detects only one screen via hdmi splitter.
Question is :do you think proctoring software can detect the splitter and the 2 screens even if Windows detects just one?
Wait so, A HDMI splitter does work on a computer? I have a computer and a monitor and want to cheat with a friend helping me using another monitor. Should I just buy a HDMI splitter?
I am wondering if the windows 10 windows key+PrtSrc could be detected. That way you could take a screenshot that is automatically saved of every question. Just wondering, but too much of a coward to try it.
It would for sure be detected! Capturing all keystrokes while the software is running is one of the features of the products.
Anyone know anything about this IRIS invigilation software and how to overcome it.
Can a virtual machine be used when taking a test through IRIS invigilation.
[…] defeated—plagiarism-checking software by essays on demand, digital proctoring software by a whole host of different methods—and that the big names in the industry are plenty savvy when it comes to […]
VM idea works, I am still working on the webcam. I am not doing this to cheat, rather because I don’t like the precedent these programs set – making a massive invasion of privacy a regular occasion for students. In no previous generation was this ever a thing and it shouldn’t be in ours either.
A smart student will always find a way to cheat or at the very least get an unfair advantage. i’m not suggetsing it shouldn’t tried to be stopped, but one should never assume anything in tech is totally secure.
For the VM idea, do you run the exam on the VM or the main computer browser?
[…] of course that people can beat the system, as it’s not perfect. Just look online for the tips and tricks for duping remote proctoring services. People go to great lengths to cheat from hiding notes to […]
Anyone actually successfully used a virtual environment for Examity without issues?
Can I be caught if someone using a fake ID an taking the test for me in another country on examity?
Kvm people, kvm. Ex-pz. I’m so glad I went to college during the Golden Age of cheating where college textbooks included this newfangled “compact disc” with all of the book encoded on it digitally, and TI calculators with enough memory to hold the whole thing and search it during the tests. I downloaded somebody else’s research paper and turned it in as my own. (Got an A!) And by the time I graduated, the Proctors had Advanced to the point of making you clear your calculators and memory before taking the test. I guess they just didn’t think that senior electronics engineers would be able to write a program on their calculator that would simply ask them if they wanted to erase the memory and then display screen that said yes I just erased your memory while actually doing nothing. I also didn’t see anybody mention just using tactile vibrations or pokes of some sort to communicate the answers back to the test taker. But yeah if I had to take a test today and I really just felt like I had to cheat on it I’d be using two computers on the same monitor with a KVM switch. The only way London is going to figure out how to catch that is to require an additional second computer or USB webcam to have the webcam behind you seeing what you are looking at which is going to be a very hard sell since most webcams are stuck inside of the screen of the laptop. I still don’t understand how they think they can require you to look at the screen at all times when *people need to look at the keyboard to type.* mouse only tests? Got to love that multiple choice means answers looking you directly in the face and you don’t even have to come up with that you just have to eliminate the other stupid answers. Anti cheat methods designed to stop the person who doesn’t even want to learn the stuff but wants the credential is stupid because those people don’t exist. Cheaters are people who are actually actively trying to learn the material and simply using every tool available to increase their potential score. Eventually you’re trying to sell yourself & those credentials to someone else is going to pay you money to perform the work that requires that knowledge. If you didn’t actually learn the material to a functional level you may be very successful at cheating test but you’re still just cheating yourself. Cheating that doesn’t cheat yourself is when you evade “busy work” that has absolutely no later effect on selling those credentials like I did with that research paper.
Wouldn’t they see the screen flicker from the KVM though, because it is recording the main monitor?
They use something like you say now for some real basic exams. Friend did a security guards exam online, real easy exam a smart 10 year old could pass and I was gobsmacked at the level of proctering. They wanted the computer setup in the corner with webcam on, mic check and the monitoring software installed and tested in advance in case of any failures to address. Also plan a location where you may place phone so it is facing you from behind. On exam day, scan a QR code from computer screen with smartphone and it activated 2nd camera on that with another app. Show all round the room, show desk, round computer, both ears then place phone. Walk directly to desk, sit, start exam conditions.
Also wondering this:
Tester125 on March 23rd, 2020, 3:24 pm
Ok, so my professors all activated the “Scrap paper/calculator allowed” in the ProctorTrack program. Doesn’t this mean that i can simply say I’m doing scrap paper work off camera when really I’m just typing the questions on my phone…
[…] – https://jakebinstein.com/blog/on-knuckle-scanners-and-cheating-how-to-bypass-proctortrack/ […]
[…] Fernüberwachung mit Audio- und Videosignalen durch Online-Proctoring wird durch viele mögliche Angriffsvektoren nicht viel dagegen helfen und eher das Vertrauen und die Transparenz im Umgang mit den Studierenden […]
One ingredient that this fails to mention which is critical to defeating these systems is sandboxing. These programs act like a virus and detect things like virtual machines and vpn connections. Simply put them in a sandbox, which prevents them from detecting what you are running and go from there. This, in combination with the above methods defeats virtually all known systems.
If the arrogant CEO above would like to offer me a reward I could demonstrate the hack.
Hi, if you are on the same wifi googling exam answers with your phone… can proctortrack detect it?
Also, can you cover up your notes with scrap paper and then pretend to write stuff down, if scrap paper is allowed.
I’ve cheated while using proctortrack helping some people to pass the APTIS test, using a webcam in front ot their monitor conected to my laptop and a wireless keyboard and mouse conected to their computer.
Now I’m looking for a way to cheat doing tests remotely using Any Desk. I know that Proctortrack can detect the programs running on the student’s computer, but what if there is a way to hide the process running in the computer using some code or program. In that way the proctotrack couldn’t detect the unautorized application and I could do test remotely. What do you guys think? Is it possible?
[…] On Knuckle Scanners and Cheating – How to Bypass Proctortrack, Examity, and the Rest […]
Can a browser only proctored test detect any running application ? I don’t have to install any desktop application , just have to go to a link and start the test via browser . I’ve searched many places and have been told that browser cannot detect the running applications, so just wanted to confirm that . In this scenario VM would work easily , right ?
How could I get away with using manycam if they look at my task manager prior to the test?
Can you just give a friend remote access to your computer then let them complete the test for you?
[…] 2015, software engineer Jake Binstein wrote an exhaustive array of workarounds, including virtual webcam software, projecting tests to conspirators in another room, and putting […]
Is it true that writing on your screen or above your lab top can be seen ?
I wonder if you had any success with giving a friend remote access to your computer. Would something like pcanywhere would work.
Is there any way that we can bypass the security of the Examity, Examplify, and Honourlock?
Good Blog Post
Hi! Love your site. So I have a few questions. You said that the new software can detect virtual machines. I have a Mac with M1 chip and I downloaded parallels and I I had to change the name of a couple things but my Protorio check worked. I’m wondering if you have any feedback for me. So if I minimize the VM or parallels … Will the web cam capture the whole screen with proctor or just what’s inside parallels? And should I have a separate mouse /keyboard set up inside parallels? And then a separate one for the host ? Do you have any feedback or no of anybody that’s tried it with parallels, this just seems too easy. I mean as I said the Prock Torio check went through and it was really quite simple and it just feels too simple