LockDown Browser is a private web browser and software suite designed to ensure that online or remote tests are free of cheating. If you are a student writing exams online, there is a good chance that you will use LockDown Browser as part of your assessment.
What is LockDown Browser?
LockDown Browser is a software application created by Respondus Inc. The company does not sell it to individual users but licenses it to organizations that run remote tests.
LockDown Browser is expressly intended to prevent digital fraud. In other words, it shuts down the entire computer to ensure that students can’t see notes or use Google to find answers.
The browser can’t do anything about another person in the room, another device, or really just old cheat sheets. He can only secure the computer he is working on. This is the reason why you may encounter LockDown Browser in an official testing center. In face-to-face exams, a human monitor ensures students don’t cheat in ways that LockDown Browser can’t stop.
This doesn’t mean that LockDown Browser won’t work for students taking exams at home, just because it isn’t enough by itself for remote exams. To cover other forms of cheating, remote monitoring is also needed. This isn’t an essential part of LockDown Browser, but we’ll talk briefly about monitoring later in this article.
General Use of “Lockdown Browser”
Just as people refer to all vacuum cleaners as “Hoover,” it has become common practice to refer to all security browsers for testing as “secure browsers.” However, LockDown Browser is a trademark of Respondus Inc. This article is specifically about the Respondus product, but you may be working with another brand of browser that does something similar.
The explanation in this article applies to all security-type browsers and solutions in general; It is only important to know that you should search for information using the exact name of the program you will be using to get the most accurate answer.
Why do we need LockDown Browser?
Computer-based exams are becoming more and more popular every year, and there are many benefits that universities and other institutions cannot ignore. If a test or test is performed on a computer, the results can be finalized quickly. It requires much less management and offers many financial benefits to all involved, both students and institutions.
It is not unreasonable to expect that computer-based online testing will eventually become the norm. So there is a clear need to crack down on exam fraud. After all, an institute’s qualifications mean nothing if you don’t trust their exam results.
How does browser lock work?
Since it’s a closed source software solution, we don’t know exactly how LockDown Browser works under the hood. It’s better if security software like this be vague about how it works. After all, the less anyone knows about the inner workings of a browser, the less likely anyone is to get around it.
What we can do is describe the LockDown browser from the student’s point of view. When using LockDown Browser, the test is in full screen mode and cannot be minimized. Students cannot switch to other applications or do anything on the computer other than take the assessment.
Many standard browser functions are also deprecated. For example, you cannot right-click anything. All browser controls are turned off except for Back, Forward, Refresh, and Stop. Copying or pasting is not allowed, and buttons such as Print Screen will not work either. Also, all printing operations are stopped.
A rating designed for use with LockDown Browser also cannot be opened with any other browser. The evaluation site will detect that you are using the wrong browser and refuse to load.
Of course, everything you do or try to do will be noted down during the assessment. So any attempts to cheat or use prohibited functions could flag your test for further scrutiny.
Can LockDown Browser be circumvented?
First, it is important to say that there is no such thing as an unhackable and unbreakable security system. So the issue is not whether LockDown can be circumvented, but whether or not the effort required to do so is worth it. It may be easier to simply study and pass the test than to try a purported workaround you found somewhere and have no way to test until the day of the evaluation.
Regardless of suspicious third-party vulnerabilities, if you’re smart enough to come up with a way to hack LockDown browser on your own, you’ll probably also be smart enough to pass the test in a legitimate way.
Obviously we don’t support cheating in any way, but even if you don’t have an ethical issue with it, trying to get around LockDown Browser has serious risks and a low chance of success. Just don’t do it.
LockDown Browser Privacy Concerns
Usually, LockDown Browser will run on a computer that belongs to the institution you are studying or to a test center. However, in the era of remote work and study due to the pandemic, you may be required to install the software on your personal computer.
LockDown Browser with Online Monitoring
As mentioned earlier, a product like LockDown Browser is only part of the solution to prevent exam fraud. You also need an observer to monitor the test to make sure everyone adheres to the rules. In a computer lab, you can simply have people take the rounds and observe the actions. However, if you are performing a remote assessment, online monitoring will become necessary.
There are two ways for this. First, a human can monitor the test remotely using a webcam and microphone connected to the student’s computer. Alternatively, you can use software to automatically detect suspected fraud. The video and audio are then sent for review by humans for confirmation.
In the specific case of Respondus, they sell a service known as Respondus Monitor . They claim that it is fully automated and that the teacher can review the footage and audio after the exam is over. This aspect of remote testing makes it very difficult to cheat and should hold back any potential cheater.