Learn how to identify and prioritize the most relevant security threats to your testing program.
Dr. David Foster, CEO of Caveon
March Edition
Dr. David Foster
What are my Threats?
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In the area of test security, I have some good news and some bad news. The good news first: there is a very limited number of test security threats to worry about. Over the past few years, I’ve tried to categorize them as efficiently as possible. I have come up with a total of only 14. That’s not too many to get our minds around and to develop some effective counter-measures. These 14 threats are further subdivided into cheating threats and stealing threats, seven each.
Cheating threats
are those designed to inappropriately increase a score on a test.
Stealing threats
focus on the theft of test content, and will eventually lead to cheating.
Because each program’s circumstances are different, I haven’t ranked them in the table in terms of the amount of damage each threat can cause if a breach occurs. It is better that each testing program do so based on the importance of the tests, audience characteristics, risk aversion, and so on. To help you with this, we have created a free online
Risk Assessment Tool
. By using this tool, you can discover what the biggest threats to your program are. This will allow you to allocate your test security resources to where they will be the most useful. Now the bad news: Each of these threats may be comprised of a few or a large number of different methods. As an example, there may be hundreds of different types of cheating aids, such as cell phones, calculators, hidden cheat sheets, answers written on shoes, answers on labels of water bottles, and many, many more. As another example, collusion can happen between two test takers in the same room, between a proctor and a test taker, or by another person communicating with the test taker at a distance through hidden 2-way radios. In considering a threat, programs need to be aware of the many ways that threats may be manifested. But, there is more good news. Often the same or similar counter-measure for one of these specific methods will work for many of the others. For example, better authentication methods will work for professional proxy testing services as well as for the situation where a test taker asks a friend to take the test for him or her. Another advantage of considering the more general threat level is that test security policies and rules are probably best set at the threat level rather than targeting the specific method. That is, it is better to ban all cheating aids than to just ban a cell phone. So, while the number and variety of test security problems seem to be overwhelming, and while at times it probably appears that we are losing the battle, take heart in knowing that there are better ways to understand what we are up against, and better ways to organize our defense and counter-measures.

Here are a few resources to help you understand the variety of test security threats and rank which threats are the most relevant for you and your program.
Learn more about the
Test Security Threats:
Conduct a Risk Assessment
for your Program: