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Cheating the home-proctor: YouTube whistleblower / amateur security researcher recants, claims Symbi’s SLAT is 100% foolproof (but the jury’s still out)

YouTuber busted by Symbi, says everything is fine, nothing to worry about...
YouTuber busted by Symbi, says everything is fine, nothing to worry about...

After our report on Monday (27 July) of how cheating was practically possible and/or attempted (though not necessarily successfully) by a number of candidates taking the home-proctored Symbiosis Law Admissions Test (SLAT) 2020, a very daring / foolhardy and/or public-minded candidate who uploaded his entire cheating attempt to YouTube, has now removed the video and disowned his cheating attempt.

We were not able to establish whether that was due to parental pressure, legal threats or both, but the YouTuber has now removed his previous 2-hour-long video that recorded his entire SLAT 2020 attempt with an iPad and other gadgetry accessible and in use (and it is very clear that he had made no attempt to hide his identity in the video, with his candidate name, number and other details clearly visible).

After removing the previous video, he has now posted a new video (see embed below) with the catchy title:

SLAT PUNE What happens when you CHEAT on online test? Fool proof SLAT EXAMINATION can’t be tampered.

Full confession

Wearing a face mask and recording himself before the same multi-screen set-up used in the earlier cheating demonstration, the YouTuber said:

I cheated on the exam to test the system and the proctored test and I concluded that the system is actually foolproof because the next day I got a mail from Symbiosis that my test is nullified and it is void because of the use of unfair means and this says that the system is very efficient and effective in capturing all the mischievous behaviours that a student can do in the exam.

His video then displayed the email he said he had received from the SLAT convenors on Monday, 27 July (also the day our story had been published).

That is not new information yet: an official associated with Symbiosis had told us on Monday that the convenors were aware of the YouTube video before the publication of our story (which had had nearly 4,000 views at that time), and had identified the test taker and disqualified him.

What Symbi sends you if they catch you cheating
What Symbi sends you if they catch you cheating

But what follows next in the video is a 100% endorsement of the SLAT by the YouTuber, with him noting:

So any parent or student who is concerned about the effectiveness of the system shall not worry. I cheated and got caught in one day. If anybody cheats, the test will be nullified.

While certainly and apparently true in his case, this is perhaps too ringing an endorsement at this point: the YouTuber made nearly no apparent effort to hide his identify in the two hour video.

And even if he had blurred out his name, watermarked the examinee number or other identifying details, it would easily have been possible to identify him purely from corroborating timestamps on each of his answers to the time in the video, or just to search for his long-form 20-point essay answer - which was visible and largely copied from another YouTube video playing on his iPad - in the database.

But that is not to say that an SLAT test taker who had been more careful in cheating could not have done so without being discovered, particularly (unlike our YouTuber) they had an actual intention to cheat the system to gain admission, rather than allow thousands of viewers to witness the attempt.

Besides the YouTuber, we have seen several photos of several candidates’ apparently ongoing SLAT exam, which had been taken from camera angles that would have been out of the field of view of any proctoring webcam.

Furthermore, according to the Symbiosis official quoted in our story from Monday, the brunt of artificial intelligence (AI) or other potential computer-magic-analysis of eye-ball-movements or other unspecified technology, would only start after all three exam-days had finished (i.e., after Monday).

Therefore, the YouTuber’s disqualification seems overwhelmingly likely to have been done via manual identification from the YouTube video itself, rather than automatically by any AI system.

Boilerplate

But to cover all bases after taking down the earlier video and endorsing the SLAT’s integrity (and possibly either because a legal notice had been received, or a parent who is a lawyer or who had consulted with a lawyer was keen to avoid a potential, if unlikely, defamation or other legal action), the YouTuber concludes the video with the following boilerplate semi-legal language:

I hereby want to say that if i caused any harm or defamation to any institute or any person or if I caused anything wrong, I had no mala fide intentions, I just wanted to check the system because the times have changed now and we are more dependent on AI and proctoring, and it’s 100% secure.

So don’t worry guys, give your test freely and everything will be fine.

To be fair, the jury is still out on that last claim and will depend on whether what looks like the TCS-administered technology will be able to catch all those who may have internet searched for answers on a hidden mobile phone while pretending they were taking notes on a piece of scrap paper (let alone any more advanced methods to game the system).

As for the YouTuber’s actions, a lot of evidence does point towards him having done this more as a demonstration of what was possible, much like a computer security researcher who might demonstrate that software is insecure by revealing how to hack it, rather than as an attempt to extract any advantage for himself from the admission test.

If nothing else, his demonstration of potential security flaws has already been vindicated by NLU Delhi, which after having long insisted that a home-proctored exam was the only way to do an admissions test in Covid-19 times, has today backtracked and announced that it would follow the Common Law Admission Test (CLAT) approach of an All India Law Entrance Test (AILET) held in physical centres.

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