Technician’s guide for implementing safeguards to protect test integrity

Table of Contents

Introduction

The Public Service Commission (PSC) has testing rooms dedicated to On-line Testing Facility (OLTF), with a highly customized, highly "locked down" image. However, we realize that having a dedicated room or personal computer (PC) is not a practical solution for every organization. Therefore, the PSC authorizes organizational use of stand-alone PCs for OLTF testing if the organization commits to putting in place the safeguards necessary to protect test integrity.

This guide has been created to assist Information Technology (IT) specialists in appropriately securing computers using OLTF. Please consult your organizational IT specialists for assistance in implementing the suggestions in this guide.

This guide contains the following:

  • Section A – Mandatory safeguards required by the PSC;
  • Section B – Suggestions to assist the implementation of required safeguards; and
  • Appendix 1 A checklist to confirm that the safeguards are in place.

Section A – Mandatory safeguards required by the Public Service Commission

In order to guarantee the security of PSC test content, you must ensure that computers being used for OLTF testing respect the following security standards:

  1. Ensure that the candidate does not have administrator rights on the computer;
  2. Ensure that the user has limited access to the C: drive:
    • Grant “Read and write” access to %TEMP%, and
    • Grant only “Read” access to the rest of the C: drive;
  3. Disable USB ports, floppy drives and CD-ROM drives;
  4. Disable intranet and Internet access (except to OLTF);
  5. Disable access to all shared drives (F:, G:, H:, etc.);
  6. Prevent other applications from running (MS Office, WordPerfect, Notepad, WordPad, MS Paint, etc.);
  7. Disable access to e-mail (Outlook, GroupWise, Hotmail, Gmail, etc.);
  8. Ensure that the print screen and “copy/paste” functions cannot be used to copy exam questions; and
  9. The computer is not linked to any printer.

Section B – Suggestions to assist the implementation of required safeguards

The safeguards enumerated in Section A are required by the PSC. The purpose of this section is to assist you in implementing these measures. To this end, we would like to offer a few suggestions to facilitate the task.

Most of the suggestions below leverage Windows Group Policies. The other suggestions refer to third-party software and other mechanisms. Using a combination of these, as well as a dedicated account, you should be able to implement the safeguards while still being able to perform other tasks on the PC using a different account.

If you do not have the ability to implement these suggestions, it will be up to you to find a suitable (and equally secure) workaround. The goal to always keep in mind is to protect the integrity of PSC test content. Please note that the PSC is not responsible for any problems that may occur as a result of following any of these suggestions.

How to proceed

Disable USB ports, floppy drives and CD-ROM drives

Method 1: In Windows XP, it may be possible to use built-in group policies to disable the floppy and CD drives. For the USB port, however, you must use custom group policies, as the built-in policies do not offer this option. There are numerous articles on this that can be found through Google. For instance, www.petri.co.il/disable_usb_disks_with_gpo.htm describes how to use a custom group policy to disable the USB, CD-ROM and floppy drive all at once.

Method 2: Windows 7 offers the option for disabling these three devices through built-in group policies.

Method 3: You could also physically unplug these or disable them in the basic input/output system (BIOS), but this isn't practical if you want to use them for other things. Additionally, this option does not exist in all BIOS.

Disable intranet and Internet access (except to OLTF)

Sites to allow: www5.psc-cfp.gc.ca and oit.psc-cfp.gc.ca
Sites to block: Everything else, including intranet sites

To confirm that you have allowed the correct site, see whether you can access www5.psc-cfp.gc.ca/oltf/.

Method 1:
Go to Internet Explorer Options -> Connections -> LAN settings, then do the following:

  • Add a checkmark next to “Use a proxy server for your LAN”;
  • Enter 127.0.0.1 for the address and 80 for the port;
  • Uncheck "Bypass proxy server for local addresses";
  • Go to “Advanced” and, in the “Do not use proxy server” section, add the two sites listed above; and
  • Once this is done, ensure that the user does not have the administrative rights to undo these changes.

Method 2:
Use a third-party Internet access management product, such as Websense, to block everything for that user except the two sites mentioned above. There are also free versions that are equal to this type of software.

Method 3:
Block everything except the two sites at the corporate firewall. This is the most secure method; however, it is not practical if you want the stations to have Internet access under other circumstances.

Disable access to all shared drives

Ensure that the candidate cannot access any of the shared drives located on the computer (F:, G:, H:, etc.). The method you use to accomplish this will depend on the way you have created the connections to the drives in your environment. You can either stop the connection from being created or, if it is easier for you, erase them immediately after they have been created.

Prevent other applications from running (MS Office, WordPerfect, Notepad, WordPad, MS Paint, etc.)

This can be done using various means and products. For example, you can use a Windows strategy to modify the following: User Configuration -> Administrative Templates -> System -> Don't run specified Windows applications. You then only have to add the name of the run to be blocked (e.g. winword.exe, excel.exe, powerpnt.exe, wordpad.exe, notepad.exe, mspaint.exe).

You will also have to disable the Windows Command invitation (cmd.exe) to avoid running this application from this location.

In the Start menu, hide “Run.” This is also possible using group strategies, thanks to the following item: User configuration -> Administrative Templates -> Taskbar and Start Menu -> Remove Run from Start Menu.

Make sure that users can't rename program files; otherwise, even if you block wordpad.exe, the user may still be able to rename the application wordpad2.exe and run it.

Disable access to e-mail (Outlook, GroupWise, Hotmail, Gmail, etc.)

If, by following the instructions above, you have correctly deactivated Internet access, e-mail sites such as Hotmail and Gmail will no longer be accessible.

For access to local mail clients, use the same method you used for blocking access to Office, WordPad, etc. (see previous item).

Ensure that the print screen and “copy/paste” functions cannot be used to copy exam questions

Print screen can be disabled through group policies. However, for copy/paste, there doesn't seem to be a secure way to do this without completely locking down the station (which takes a considerable effort).

We must remember that the goal is to make sure that test content cannot be "exported" in any way. Therefore, if you have properly implemented all of the other safeguards mentioned above, the candidate should not be able to use these functions to copy exam questions. After all, if the candidate does not have access to the floppy drive, USB port, CD drive, shared drives or e-mail applications, there will be nowhere for them to “paste” the image or text.

Other notes

The user should not have administrator rights; otherwise, they could undo some of the configuration changes you have made.

The user’s write access should be as limited as possible on the C: drive; however, they do need access to %TEMP%.

If Web browsers other than Internet Explorer are available (e.g., Chrome or Firefox), you must ensure that the Web site access safeguards apply to them as well, or that they are simply deactivated.

The “revert” feature offered by products such as virtual machines and DeepFreeze should not be used. In the event of a server crash, PC crash or other interruption, the candidate’s progress can be recovered thanks to an encrypted file on the C: drive; however, if the machine is reverted, this file would be lost and the candidate would have to restart the test from the beginning.

Conclusion

All of the safeguards mentioned above must be put into place, and we have made suggestions on how you can implement them. However, you have some leeway in this implementation: local group policies, AD group policies, scripts, third-party products, etc.

It is your responsibility to implement these safeguards and to verify that they work correctly so that the integrity of PSC test content is ensured. No further support will be provided in implementing and supporting these requirements, as each organization’s environment and policies are different.

Appendix 1

Checklist for Technicians
Security requirements for on-line test administration (OLTF) Conform
1 Candidate does not have administrator rights on the computer.
2 User has “Read and write” access to %TEMP%.
3 User has “Read” access to the rest of the C: drive.
4 USB ports are disabled.
5 Floppy disk drives are disabled.
6 CD-ROM drives are disabled.
7 CD-ROM burners are disabled.
8 Intranet access is disabled.
9 Internet access is disabled
(except for sites starting with www5.psc-cfp.gc.ca and oit.psc-cfp.gc.ca).
10 User does not have access to shared drives (F:, G:, H:, etc.).
11 Other applications cannot be run (MS Office, WordPad, Notepad, MS Paint, etc.).
12 Access to e-mail is disabled (Outlook, GroupWise, Hotmail, Gmail, etc.).
13 User cannot use the print screen and “copy/paste” functions in order to copy exam questions.
14 The computer is not linked to any printer.

Your organization, located at ________________________________________________________, meets all of the PSC security requirements regarding on-line testing.

YES:

NO:

REASONS:

COMMENTS:

The organization has 60 days to meet the PSC security requirements regarding the on-line test administration for its on-line testing facilities. After 60 days, a follow-up will be completed. If the organization has not met the security requirements after 60 days, the PSC reserves the right to deactivate this centre’s Test Administrators’ Certifications.

_________________________

PSC Test Security Analyst

_________________________

Test Administrator

_________________________

Organization IT Technician

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