ProctorU is dystopian spyware

by @edent | , , , | 22 comments | Read ~9,990 times.

As part of my MSc, I have to take an online exam. Obviously, this means I am highly likely to cheat by looking up things on Wikipedia or by having a bit of paper with notes on it. EVIL!

So, the exam body requires me to install ProctorU. It's a service which lets someone watch you through your laptop camera while you do the exam. Creepy, but I get it. They also want to see your screen to make sure you're not alt-tabbing. A bit grim, but I get it. They also want complete control over your laptop, including the ability to silently transfer files and run arbitrary programs. LOL WAT?!?

Here's the "helpful" video showing what's involved. It is a 6 minute long privacy invasion.

But, OK, there's no way my employer (the Government) is going to let me install this malware on their machine. No worries, I'll use one of my Linux laptops. After all, I am doing an exam all about Linux security! Let's check their system requirements.

Unsupported Devices At this time we do not support the following; however, we are working on solutions to accommodate every platform. Chromebooks are not supported unless you are utilizing a proctoring service without a Live Proctored launch Mobile Devices Tablets/iPads Linux/Unix operating systems Microsoft Surface RT Virtual Machines: If you are running within a virtual machine when you connect with us, you will be asked to exit your virtual machine and reconnect using your host operating system to take your test.

Soooo… No Linux, no Chromebook, no Android tablet. I can't even spin up a Windows VM?

The thing is, the training provider - which sells these courses to businesses - know that most business laptops won't allow ProctorU's spyware on them. It's just too risky. Their solution?

Unfortunately Chromebooks are not supported by ProctorU and work based laptops are not recommended due to additional security restrictions that'll block remote connection and screen sharing. You'll need to use a personally owned Mac or Windows laptop." section "Unfortunately Chromebooks are not supported by ProctorU and work based laptops are not recommended due to additional security restrictions that'll block remote connection and screen sharing. You'll need to use a personally owned Mac or Windows laptop.

And if you don't have a personal Mac or Windows machine?

To take this exam online you will need to borrow a friend or family member's laptop.

Any of you want to lend me a laptop so I can install invasive spyware on it? No? Didn't think so!

I asked the course provider what options they had for me - and I'm waiting to hear back. It looks like I can go to one of their regulated test centres and take the exam there.

Hmmm - spyware on my computer, or catch COVID from a shared PC? Choices… Choices…


22 thoughts on “ProctorU is dystopian spyware

  1. Neil Brown says:

    “They also want complete control over your laptop, including the ability to silently transfer files and run arbitrary programs.“

    I feel sorry for the poor sods who feel forced to run this stuff on their personal computer.

  2. Surely one solution to this would be simply a video stream from an Android/iOS phone that has both you and the screen you're taking the test on visible - achieves the same, no software install required.

  3. Nick Drage says:

    Personally I have issues with proctored exams anyway* but beyond the creepiness of the whole thing, this appears to be especially awful software... a quick read too...

    ( in 2021, testing memory, rather than the ability to manipulate information, is underwhelming )

  4. it's a stopgap until 5G-intrumented flying bugs will watch over your literal shoulder...

    washington.edu/news/2020/07/1… etc


  5. I keep meaning to have a proper look at some of these programs - installing what is basically a C2 agent to allow you to take a (usually) badly thought exam is just dangerous.


  6. I can imagine many people who need accessibility aids will have problems.

    E.g. In my GCP I was asked to remove my glasses and then look at something on the screen which I could no longer see.

    How do these products work with screen readers?


  7. netsharc says:

    This is almost off-topic, but surface contamination of COVID is (apparently) very unlikely, but somehow this news hasn't been spread around (sorry for the pun) and people are still mindlessly pouring bleach everywhere:

    https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-021-00251-4

    Going to the exam center and spending a lot of time in one room breathing the same air as others is a higher risk factor.

  8. Friend Computer says:

    Your request for special treatment has been classified as treason. Please report to the nearest suicide booth with clearance orange or lower for further processing. Using yellow suicide booths or higher will result in increased clone mortality.

  9. Obviously everyone should have a burner laptop for this kind of thing!

    (Such a dystopian mess)


  10. The normalisation of having to install what is essentially a rootkit I'm order to take an exam, play competitive online games, etc, is exceptionally worrying.

  11. Sounds very much like they don't give a shit because you're not the paying customer. How unsurprising.


  12. Terry, it is starting to look suspiciously like the only reason you're doing a masters is to expose all the terrible software used in higher education/academia and get blog clicks 😉


  13. Sam Machin says:

    Boot your work Mac from an external disk with a fresh copy of OSX on it, then burn the disk when you’re done! Assuming the work disk is encrypted and you don’t give the other OS the key then it never accesses that system.



    1. Stephen P. Schaefer says:

      My employer has installed software/firmware to disable all external storage, to defend against information exfiltration. I doubt they'd cooperate with this vendor.

  14. A burner laptop for your exam on cybersecurity ..... makes sense in some way



  15. The irony here is it's all theater really. Super easy to stick a capture device on the video and dump the exam with a bit of OCR... Not like they've mandated HDCP or banned VGA. And that's why my company insist on in-person exams at the risk of COVID. Not sure which is better...


  16. Jon says:

    So I work in #edtech.

    I can say without a doubt it is also much worse than just this.

    The software often doesn't work. If it is macos/Win it is just tested on Win on top end machines. It is made as cheaply as possible.

    It is as inaccessible as you imagine. It probably breaks privacy law and accessibility legislation

    And I have seen demonstrations of them and they have never worked.


  17. @Edent I took a few tests that way. They wouldn't let me take it near any windows (I guess they thought I might put signs with the answers to the questions outside).

  18. This is how it begins...you (or in my case my son) needs technology to get an accreditation. 10 years later you find yourself advising the United Nations.

    It is the norm...Still 🤷‍♀️


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