Software used by universities to prevent cheating suffers security breach, closes down during exams

LONDON, ONT. —
The program Proctortrack has been used this year Universities across North America, including Western. It is one of several programs designed to prevent cheating during online exams.

“It records your screen, it records your camera, and it records your microphone, it also checks what other programs are running on the computer” says second year student Eduardo Leon.

From the start, Western’s student council has taken issue with the pervasive measures the program uses, and cautioned the university of the potential for privacy breaches.

“We’re hoping to see from the university is increased transparency on this. I think there’s really been a lack of communication from the institution to the students,” says Victoria Barroso Student Council VP of University Affairs.

In a statement to CTV, Western officials say they received notice on Oct. 14t from Verificient Technologies informing them they had detected a security incident and have suspended operations for seven to ten days.

Leon was in the middle of an exam when this happened.

“All of us who were there, who took the exam, when we finished with the exam, when we were waiting for the software to upload what happened it got stuck at zero percent, for everyone.”

Western says they will not be proceeding with the use of Proctortrack until they are confident that it is safe to do so, saying via statement ‘we know this situation will cause difficulty for some of our students and faculty and are working to find suitable alternative solutions, as appropriate.”

Carmi Levy, a director at Infotech Research group says there should have been better planning and communication.

“Schools like western need to show more leadership, in terms of what tools are being selected, why, how are they being rolled out, how they are being supported, and what the plan B is when something happens. That’s not happening now, that needs to change.”

Western says Proctortrack is just one of the tools available to instructors and will fully support them in their efforts to find suitable alternative solutions.

Barroso says The student council supporst making the online exam process secure to preserve the integrity of the education, but says the security of students information should be paramount.

“Especially as we move forward in the digital age of online education, we want to see the University prioritize these security issues as they arise.”

Western says any students with questions or concerns can contact an office of the Registrar representative by video chat or phone for support.

Full Western Statement:

On October 14, Western University received notice from Verificient Technologies informing us that they had detected a security incident and have suspended operations for 7 to 10 days. Verificient Technologies has confirmed to us that no bio-metric data, videos, images or any recorded data have been affected or exposed.

Western will not be proceeding with the use of Proctortrack until we are confident that it is safe to do so. As such, Student assessments via Proctortrack will not be able to proceed at this time.

We know this situation will cause difficulty for some of our students and faculty and we are working to find suitable alternative solutions, as appropriate.

Course instructors with scheduled Proctortrack assessments will contact their students to provide them with information about how their assessments will proceed in these circumstances. Proctortrack is just one of the tools available to instructors and we will fully support them in their efforts to find suitable alternative solutions. Western has communicated with students to let them know where they can access support.

Additional information is available here.

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