Physical Authentication to Increase Exam Security

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Cisco is requiring that all test centers distributing its certification exams collect digital photos and digital signatures from students during the admissions process, beginning in 2008.


Jeanne Beliveau-Dunn, Cisco senior director of product and technology marketing, feels this is a positive step toward guaranteeing a candidate’s identity and increasing assurance within the industry at large that individuals are presenting accurate certification records. Dunn wanted to make sure the new security procedures wouldn’t go too far, however, and require test takers to put too much of themselves out there.


“We did a pilot study that allowed us to test various methodologies and gauge test center and candidate reaction to the changes,” Beliveau-Dunn said. “Ultimately, we decided on a course of action that would give us the greatest benefit without unduly violating our candidates’ privacy.”


Another benefit Cisco sees in the new exam security requirements is automatically weeding out those interested in pirating the exam or taking it for someone else. Even if at first that might lower the number of candidates taking the exam, Dunn sees the forest for the trees.


“We may see a drop-off in tests by those who would perpetuate exam fraud, but at the end of the day, this is the right move for IT certification,” she said. “Employers and candidates will have greater assurance in Cisco certifications as a result of these changes, and that will ultimately improve our bottom line.”


More importantly, from the normal exam taker’s standpoint, Cisco assures the new security requirements won’t take any more time than the previous ones. This means no showing up earlier and waiting in long lines. According to Dunn, the new procedures alone take under a minute, just a fraction more of the whole admissions process.


“The new admissions process shouldn’t burden candidates at all,” she said. “Even with normal variances in how quickly candidates are admitted from one center to another, we’re still expecting the entire admissions process to take less than five minutes total.”

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