Security and Usability of Authentication by Challenge Questions in Online Examination
Online examinations are an integral component of many online learning environments and a high-stake process for students, teachers and educational institutions. They are the target of many security threats, including intrusion by hackers and collusion. Collu-sion happens when a student invites a third party to impersonate him/her in an online test, or to abet with the exam questions. This research proposed a profile-based chal-lenge question approach to create and consolidate a student’s profile during the learning process, to be used for authentication in the examination process. The pro-posed method was investigated in six research studies using a usability test method and a risk-based security assessment method, in order to investigate usability attributes and security threats. The findings of the studies revealed that text-based questions are prone to usability issues such as ambiguity, syntactic variation, and spelling mistakes. The results of a usability analysis suggested that image-based questions are more usable than text-based questions (p < 0.01). The findings identified that dynamic profile questions are more efficient and effective than text-based and image-based questions (p < 0.01). Since text-based questions are associated with an individual’s personal information, they are prone to being shared with impersonators. An increase in the numbers of chal-lenge questions being shared showed a significant linear trend (p < 0.01) and increased the success of an impersonation attack. An increase in the database size decreased the success of an impersonation attack with a significant linear trend (p < 0.01). The security analysis of dynamic profile questions revealed that an impersonation attack was not successful when a student shared credentials using email asynchronously. However, a similar attack was successful when a student and impersonator shared information in real time using mobile phones. The response time in this attack was significantly different when a genuine student responded to his challenge questions (p < 0.01). The security analysis revealed that the use of dynamic profile questions in a proctored exam can influence impersonation and abetting. This view was supported by online programme tutors in a focus group study.
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