The fast-expanding world of online proctoring: What cybersecurity industry leaders must know

The blistering post-pandemic pace of digital transformation has put the urgent demand for cybersecurity professionals in the spotlight. Simultaneously, more testing taking place online has meant that certification providers are now under increased pressure to ensure the integrity of remote cybersecurity examinations. When candidates present credentials that they have been awarded online, recruiters want to trust their validity.

online proctoring

Artificial Intelligence (AI)-powered remote proctoring tools are the solution for the cybersecurity industry and certification providers, especially those that examine independent IT security professionals. Alongside active human monitoring, known as live proctoring, online proctoring can mean secure exams and an improvement in the experience of remote test-takers, too.

Let’s take a closer look.

Online proctoring has become a necessity

With cyber breaches at an all-time high across small and large enterprises, cybersecurity is one of the fastest-growing industries, and there’s a significant demand for talent from that sector.

For recruiters, there’s a pressure to hire cybersecurity professionals as almost every business has a growing cyber presence. But an ISSA/ESG report found that most organizations (three-quarters) said it was extremely or somewhat difficult to recruit and hire security professionals.

This is because there’s a cybersecurity skills shortage alongside growing issues with fake credentials and certifications. Since certifications signal the technical skills and knowledge of potential candidates, as well as demand higher salaries, some professionals are passing those certification tests dishonestly.

While online proctoring was seen as a nice-to-have two years ago, today it is essential. When designed well, online proctored exams inject confidence into the overall certification process, helping recruiters identify qualified talent, reduce cost, time, and money, and avoid the risk of hiring unqualified candidates.

Traditionally, many assessments were run by third-party providers who verified the ID of applicants and monitored them in person. However, this disadvantaged some candidates who lived in a different country, had to find childcare for their children, or faced high transportation fees.

However, since COVID-19, many testing centers have shut down or drastically reduced in-person test slots due to social distancing. This created a new opportunity for certification organizations to deliver exams online, with remote proctoring ensuring the integrity of these certifications. For example, (ISC)² is offering an online proctoring pilot test for cybersecurity certifications.

Furthermore, with certification providers mainly based in the US, certifications being granted online are becoming more and more relevant for the industry to meet the demand for cybersecurity professionals. For example, countries such as India and Canada have a higher density of IT professionals. Therefore, there is a need for online proctoring – with advanced video and audio analytics – to tap into these global candidate pools and overcome geographical limitations.

Proctoring offers hundreds of opportunities

The online exam proctoring market is projected to reach over $1.1 million by 2027, according to ResearchAndMarkets. A rise in demand for e-learning platforms and the elimination of the high costs of proctored assessment centers are likely to further drive this growth.

Ensuring the integrity of any online exam is key, but it’s even more critical when hiring cybersecurity professionals. Online proctoring solutions can flag any suspicious activity (e.g., copy and paste, multiple faces, and background noise), spot those who are not genuine, and reduce malpractice issues.

When tech certification providers come to us for solutions, they face several challenges. Sometimes they have their own proctors, but the testing centers are simply not available to be used. As part of their digitization efforts, the certification providers are searching for platforms to build up their operational capacity while using their human proctors to invigilate exams too.

Many certification providers also offer different types of certification exams. Some are very basic for certain industries needing cybersecurity awareness training for their general teams. This is low stakes, but many companies want every employee to do it. For a test like this, a human proctor isn’t needed. The process can be automated through object and face detection and securing the test browser to ensure the test takers follow the rules.

For higher stakes certifications for senior individuals who will handle sensitive cybersecurity matters, online proctoring platforms can provide AI-based tools, along with real-time proctors, to authenticate the test taker’s identity and monitor unsanctioned actions, such as copy and paste or opening a new browser window.

Online proctoring and certifications can solve the industry’s issue with the shortage of HR professionals with deep technical knowledge. Most recruiters find it hard to stay abreast with all HR technology updates. Unless you are a practitioner in the cybersecurity space, most recruiters are unable to conduct a basic screening of candidates. Rather, recruiters can rely on these more advanced certifications as a screening mechanism. And if the provider issuing the certification used AI-based proctoring, recruiters can further trust the certification’s authenticity while boosting their overall skill taxonomy.

The future of online proctoring

Blockchain is a buzzword in today’s technology world and is likely to disrupt the certification sector, too. Blockchain technology means continuous authentication, confidentiality, and robustness in any security framework. Paired with online proctoring, impersonations could be drastically reduced in certification examinations.

Blockchain technology can help institutions issue certificates in a digital format which can be stored in distributed blocks of a database. Each certificate issuing authority can act as a node, and any entity looking to validate those records can request to view that node.

The entire task of academic certificate issuance and verification is still often manual, and blockchain can solve this scenario by simplifying information exchange and offering a secure way of issuing digital academic credentials.

Additionally, we still have human proctors where AI checks may not be efficient, or the technology is not advanced enough. But automated AI-based tools like object detection and background voice monitoring are set to become more accurate than humans. Face-based authentication is popular in the cybersecurity industry to validate identity and avoid impersonation at assessments. However, there have been concerns and ethical issues around computer recognition and background checks due to skin-tone bias. Therefore, for assessments and certifications, voice authentication is set to lead the way forward.

Online, live proctoring can digitize cybersecurity certification operations, allowing remote candidates to take tests on any device, ensuring exam integrity, and providing accessibility to all test takers. For certification providers, this adds a layer of trust to the cybersecurity credentials they issue to IT professionals, enabling cybersecurity organizations to confidently hire candidates with those certifications.

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