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NLS decries NLAT ‘lies, fabrication’, files criminal complaints against ‘some actors’, vows to find all cheaters (with only 7 data points)

The 7 data parameters listed on the NLAT vendor website
The 7 data parameters listed on the NLAT vendor website

NLSIU Bangalore has stated in a press release that “some cases of examination malpractice deserve criminal investigation and the University has already lodged a criminal complaint against some actors”, in relation to its controversial National Law Aptitude Test (NLAT) that saw more than 27,500 candidates.

Some candidates “have already been disqualified by proctors during the examination resulting in an auto-submission”, but it was the “post examination audit and scrutiny that ensures exam integrity”.

The full NLS press release is viewable below.

Criminal complaints made

The release also added:

We aim to eliminate any and every candidate who has indulged in any malpractice from further consideration in the admission process.

Some cases of examination malpractice deserve criminal investigation and the University has already lodged a criminal complaint against some actors.

The University had been “subjected to an orchestrated and malicious vilification campaign that rests on speculation, lies and outright fabrication”, noted NLS in its press release.

“We have been falsely accused of being exclusionary when there is no other national examination of similar scale that has delivered as many process and infrastructural accomodations as NLAT 2020”.

Audit with 7, potentially limited, data parameters

That post-examination audit was “now underway”, stated NLS:

University faculty and staff and third party technical experts will review the digital record, scrutinize and analyze candidate behaviour closely along the seven data parameters generated by our partner’s technological platform.

That specific mention of “seven data parameters” tallies up with the seven technical “features” of its remote proctoring examination software listed on the website of the NLAT vendor, AON-owned India-based company Cocubes.

Those features are (also see screenshot above):

  • Face detection
  • Impersonation Detection
  • Multiple Face Detection
  • Live Video Feed
  • Object Detection
  • Live Audio Feed
  • In platform candidates communication

Furthermore, the website of Cocubes claims the following “violation detected by tool” (“candidates are flagged under different tabs on malpractice detection”): “window switch, face recognition, face detection, answer behavior, object detection, type of device, multiple login, microphone muted/missing, high volume detection”.

What the vendor claims to be able to detect
What the vendor claims to be able to detect

However, as we had reported earlier, after NLS had made the decision to drop the forced download of a separate piece of software onto candidates’ computers several days before the exam, the data collection possibilities of software running in a computer browser are unfortunately limited and were unlikely to extend to even being able to detect screensharing programmes such as Zoom.

The dropping of this software - a so called ‘Safe Assessment Browser (SAB) Tool’ - had been announced via the FAQs on its website before the exam.

Anyone moderately versed in online exams, such as professional coaches or operators looking to give candidates unfair advantages in exams, would have been well aware of the implications of this.

Locked down browsers are apparently not market standard

A marketing presentation from online testing provider ExamSoft, which is available on their website, is entitled: “Why Locked Down Browsers Fail The Security Test & Why You Need Complete Device Control”.

There are four main takeaways mentioned in that presentation (see screenshot below), which include:

  • “Browser-based exam security comes with limited security features and internet requirements”, and
  • “Added resources and other security features can do more to minimize academic dishonesty”.

While ExamSoft is clearly trying to market its own services over competitors’, the reality is that vendors of online proctored-exams abroad and also in India - e.g., the LSAT-India and also Symbiosis’ SLAT - follow similar industry practices.

Why online browsers are apparently not good enough for online exams (via ExamSoft marketing presentation)
Why online browsers are apparently not good enough for online exams (via ExamSoft marketing presentation)

The ExamSoft presentation goes on to describe in detail some ways of circumventing security via a so-called “locked down browser”:

Browser-based exam security (i.e. locked down browser) is online software that is limited in protecting the integrity of exams. While exam takers are prevented from performing certain actions like copying or printing webpages or visiting other websites, there is nothing that prevents them from employing tactics that effectively bypass the exam browser’s security measures altogether.

Using virtual machine software, or “VMware”, is just one of the many tactics in which the security of locked down exam browsers can be compromised. Virtual machine software allows computers to run multiple operating systems over a single physical host computer [1], which is what most exam browser software is intended to prevent. This method can be made all the easier for exam takers with websites like YouTube and Reddit that can offer step-by- step instructions on how to bypass an exam locked down browser’s security with VMware.

There are also documented instances of exam takers typing a URL into a text-only answer box within the exam locked down browser itself, that is then automatically hyperlinked. Exam Takers are able to click on the hyperlink to open a separate browser tab, opening another door for cheating [2].

Criminal complaints by NLS (PDF)

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