New security initiatives being taken by Cisco and VUE

In an article recently published by Rick Gregory, Cisco and Pearson VUE announced a strengthening of their partnership that will be taking the certification industry by the ears. After identifying and profiling the three categories of miscreants that continue to devalue your hard earned certifications, Cisco and VUE listed the measures used to deter cheating, detailed the ramifications of cheating, and provided information on what Cisco certified professionals can expect to happen in the near future. 

So, who are the people devaluing your certifications?

They are the three type of people that we have identified numerous times in our articles; proxy-test takers (aka Hired Gunmen), item harvesters (the people that steal the questions and answers), and cheaters (the people that use the questions and answers). Randy Trask, Vice President of Market Development for Pearson VUE states "When we began to devise counter measures, we developed techniques directed to each of the three groups."

In their research, Cisco and VUE have not only classified the three major types of exam criminals, they have sub-classed item harvesters into individuals "in the employ of black market test vendors or other organizations who believe they can profit from stealing test questions" and "a less sinister item harvester is someone who used a brain dump site to prepare for the exam and returns to the site to post several items that he remembers to "give back" to the group".

What Cisco and VUE didn't do, however, was sub-class the cheaters. To help define the cheater sub-class, CertGuard has [seemingly] coined the phrase "inadvertent cheater" which identifies a group of cheaters that don't know that they're cheating. These individuals are often duped into believing the study materials they have acquired are legitimate and are frequently willing to immediately stop the use of the illegal materials once they know of their true nature. Unfortunately for them, ignorance of the law is no defense in a United States court and they are still subject to lose all current and future certification rights.

What are Cisco and Pearson VUE doing to increase the value of your certifications?

There are three main focal points to their recent campaign; the Candidate Authentication Program, Exam Data Forensics, and Program Data Forensics. You may have already seen or even been a part of the Candidate Authentication Program. If you've taken a Cisco Exam recently then you may have been required to have your picture taken and/or had to provide a digital signature prior to taking the exam. If you haven't been required to do either, then you soon will be. According to Rick, "All Pearson VUE testing centers worldwide are being equipped to implement the program and hundreds have already been outfitted with the technology," and from the looks of it, if a test center refuses to participate in the program, they will lose their Cisco testing privileges.

Exam Data Forensics; these are the measures taken to not only improve your future testing experiences, they're metrics put in place to keep track of your keystrokes, your mouse clicks, the way you answer the questions, whether you change answers to specific questions, and the time it takes to do all of that. In addition to all the data collected while you're taking the exam, everything is combined with your non-personal data and given to psychometricians for analysis.

Where Exam Data Forensics peered into your personal testing experience, Program Data Forensics look at all aspects of the certification process to find patterns and inconsistencies. Comparisons between regions, testing facilities, and even test proctors are now being measured in order to bring more value to your certifications.

What will happen if you're caught cheating now?

Cheating in the industry has become a very serious issue and neither Cisco nor Pearson VUE are taking it sitting down. Both companies are sincerely interested in protecting the value and integrity of your certifications, and have moved past the fact that it's their Intellectual Property being compromised. According to Trask, "Our evidence collection is now done for evidentiary purposes. We intend to pursue civil and criminal remedies against people who choose to profit from violating or infringing on our intellectual property." That means no matter which end of the braindump you're on, you're going to be taken care of when you're caught. Experience tells me that the next step is making an example out of someone in order to get the point across to everyone. Don't let that someone be you.

So, just what can you Cisco Certified professionals expect in the weeks and months to come?

Emails! Certified professionals can expect emails outlining many different issues that effect your certifications. Primarily, the emails will focus on the methods used to study and they will be educating individuals about the laws and regulations in place. Cisco and Pearson VUE are working on soliciting the help of the certified professionals in the industry by asking you to notify program representatives within your company of individuals that have cheated on or for their exams.

Have you got thoughts or experiences regarding the new security measures being taken? Representatives of the companies mentioned are watching and listening, so if you have something to say, this would be the perfect opportunity to let them know.

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Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.