[opensource] New Web Browser

Adam C. Champion champion at cse.ohio-state.edu
Thu Oct 25 00:32:37 EDT 2007

Great writeup, Brian! I wondered what this "Lockdown Browser" I saw on 
Carmen was. Since my research interests are computer and network 
security, I find the "'secure' testing" problem domain and this 
"lockdown" behavior intriguing. How do you provide students with Web 
access and form submission for an online test yet deny them most of the 
user-interface requirements of a Web browser (let alone "normal" use of 
Windows)? It seems Respondus is using IE components due to its ActiveX 
script requirement---but how does it "lock down" students' *entire* 
interaction with the OS (e.g., prevent them from closing or minimizing 
the browser)?

I share your concerns about DRM. Last year, I wrote an honors thesis on 
the proliferation of trusted computing, DRM, and the associated legal 
and social ramifications; it's online at my website 
(http://www.cse.ohio-state.edu/~champion). From what I read on your 
writeup, however, I don't think the browser uses DRM; it "merely" 
controls the user's interaction with the (proprietary) WebCT application 
and the Windows OS. I would normally associate DRM with copyright owners 
enforcing usage policies with legally-purchased digital works, like 
songs and movies. The only copyright issues I see are those associated 
with "who owns" the test and any images included therein (like the 
copyrighted Wikipedia image), as well as Blackboard, Inc., which holds 
the copyright to WebCT and its trade secrets. Certainly, OSU's 
contract/site license with WebCT and Respondus is another 
intellectual-property issue. But, of course, I am not a lawyer :).

I strongly believe that paper-and-pencil tests are one of *the* best 
ways to check that students have learned course material. Vigilant 
proctors/instructors should deter students from cheating; if students 
perceive they will be "caught in the act," they will be less likely to 
cheat than if they notice the TA engrossed in a paper and think they can 
get away with cheating. Besides, if you're taking an computer-based test 
that requires you to answer a set of questions before going on to the 
next set, you may not be able to go back and check/correct your previous 
answers within the test's time limit. (If you've taken the 
computer-based GRE, you know *exactly* what I'm talking about!)

Just my two cents.


P.S. When I tried to read your "Carmen response" links, my firewall 
logged attempted connections from the CSE department website on ports 
39728-9 and 50697-8. Any idea what's going on? Is it the spam filter?

Brian Swaney wrote:
> Ok, I tried sending this directly to the list, but it seems to trip all 
> of the spam alarms. I'll try linking to a web page this time. The same 
> general message is there. Basically, DRM meets OSU, and out pops this 
> new program.
> http://www.cse.ohio-state.edu/~swaneybr/lockdown-analysis.html
> Any comments are welcome.
> -Brian Swaney

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