A Dynamic Profile Questions Approach to Mitigate Impersonation in Online Examinations

Abrar Ullah, Hannan Xiao, Trevor Barker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)
111 Downloads (Pure)


Online examinations are an integral component of many online learning environments, which face many security challenges. Collusion is seen as a major security threat to such examinations, when a student invites a third party to impersonate or abet in a test. This work aims to strengthen the authentication of students via the use of dynamic profile questions. The study reported in this paper involved 31 online participants from five countries over a five-week period. The results of usability and security analysis are reported. The dynamic profile questions were more usable than both the text-based and image-based questions (p < 0.01). An impersonation abuse scenario was simulated using email and mobile phone. The impersonation attack via email was not successful, however, students were able to share answers to dynamic profile questions with a third party impersonator in real time, which resulted in 93% correct answers. The sharing of information via phone took place in real time during an online test and the response time of an impersonator was significantly different (p < 0.01) than a student. The study also revealed that a response time factor may be implemented to identify and report impersonation attacks.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-15
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Grid Computing
Early online date31 May 2018
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 31 May 2018


  • Authentication
  • Online examinations
  • Security
  • Usability


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