Let’s start by explaining the “Russian Hack” and how this massive breach was able to occur.
A Texas-based company called SolarWinds was compromised when a cyberattack inserted malicious code within its software, which they in-turn unknowingly transferred to their 33,000 client systems though their software updates. This malicious code created the ability for hackers to access data and install further malware that made the spying of their customers possible.
The effect of this ‘update’ affected organizations such as the Pentagon, the Department of Homeland Security, the State Department, the Department of Energy, the National Nuclear Security Administration, and the US Treasury. Private organizations including Microsoft, Cisco, Intel, and Deloitte, as well as Hospitals, and Kent State University were also violated.
So how does this information affect most students that are now being proctored online globally? Well, it is because most of the proctoring services utilized by schools and universities require students to install plugins, extensions and/or programs that all can be updated remotely without the knowledge of the students and devoid of any possible oversight by the schools/universities due to a lack of code visibility. Oversight is not even possible as plug-ins and extensions can be changed by their developers at any time and pushed onto user devices through updates. Scary right?
In a recent article published by Consumer Reports entitled “Google, Firefox Browser Extensions Expose Data of 4 Million People” the co-founder of the data security firm Disconnect says. “If you have any extensions or apps that you don’t use and aren’t getting real value out of,uninstall them immediately.”
With all of this being said, it is important not to lump all proctoring entities together. Integrity Advocate stands alone in this category because its proctoring service does not require an installation and ceases to operate completely when the student has done their online event. Integrity Advocate fulfills a specific need in the proctoring world by providing a service that balances an institutions academic integrity requirement with the accessibility and privacy needs of students.
“Although we have grown as a result of the rapid move to online testing, our competitors have grown exponentially as not all organizations prioritize student privacy the same” says Integrity Advocate’s CTO Scott Dellinger. “It’s because we embrace Privacy by Design that our technology and services need to be more sophisticated, so that the privacy impact is never placed on our end-users”
With all the efforts parents take to keep their children safe both in the real world andonline, it is very concerning that for many students, it is their participation in school exams that exposes them to “malware” with the ability to turn on their camera/microphone at-will and view their computer activities.
So why have organizations placed students at risk? Although it has been alleged that it is because the students merely do not have a choice, it is only fair to note that many organizations were just trying to respond, and this security vulnerability was just an oversight.
Institutions should take the advice of the security consultants and instruct students to remove proctoring plug-ins and extensions immediately after use, or ideally require the proctoring providers to make uninstallation of their code part of the process.
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