Fake cheat sites pose the latest risk for remote students

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Remote testing service Honorlock uses fake answer sites to entice and catch students trying to cheat on online exams, according to a report by the layout† When a student visits one of these “honeypot” sites during an online test, the site automatically sends data back to the student’s third-party testing software, indicating that the student is trying to cheat.

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As stated on Honorlock’s site, the service is used by more than 300 educational institutions, including the University of Maryland, University of Florida, Arizona State University, and the University of Massachusetts Boston. At its core, Honorlock uses student webcams during tests and uses AI to notify remote human invigilators of suspicious activity, such as if a student picks up their phone during an exam.

But, like the layout notes, it also uses what it calls “seed sites” (PDF), where it hosts “seeded test questions to help detect secondary device use or other behavior prohibited by testing organizations.”

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Fake cheat sites pose the latest risk for remote students

If you click on “Show Answer”, nothing is actually revealed.
Screenshot: Exam Equipment

Kurt Wilson, the student interviewed in the layout‘s report, compiled a list of addresses of honeypot sites used by Honorlock. There are currently five active domains: examequip.com, buzzfolder.com, gradepack.com, quizlookup.com, and wikicram.com. Each site looks pretty basic and they all have a homepage with a generic list of tips for students. Under their “Blog” tabs you will find a collection of random test questions, with each question offering two options: “Show answer” and “Hide answer”. Click either option and you’ll hear a strange chime from your speakers – no answer is ever revealed or hidden.

Honorlock even has a patent on the technology behind its honeypot sites, which takes a closer look at what kind of information these sites collect. When a student visits one of these sites, it sends their IP address, device information, mouse movements, clicks, and anything they type to the Honorlock server. the layout confirmed this when digging into the sites’ source code and network activity. The honeypot sites also claim that they can detect whether a student is using a secondary phone, tablet, or other device to access answers by comparing IP addresses between devices.

Other test proctoring tools have also been criticized, especially as schools and instructors struggled to implement home testing amid the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2020, a technology specialist from the University of British Columbia criticized his school’s use of Proctorio, his school’s exam control service, and was sued by the company for exposing the ways it tracks students’ “abnormal” eye movements and enters the rooms of students register during exams. Another service, Examity, uses live human invigilators to watch students take tests via Zoom.

While cheating is a problem, I don’t think this level of counterintelligence surveillance tactics is the best approach to preventing it. Remote testing services can already compromise student privacy and fuel unnecessary fear, as students are just as concerned with not appearing suspicious as they are with getting the right answers.

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