Pirates, Proxies and Perfidies, Oh My!

We’re all familiar with the classic ways to cheat on tests. Whether it’s by writing the answers on palms or making a secret code with friends, students have always found ways to get around studying. But the cheating process isn’t quite as simple as it was before mass digital technology–and it’s not so innocuous. These days, the cheating industry is much more complex and well organized than one might expect. There are underground careers for people who make a living off of the cheating industry. And business is booming.

The testing industry is multi-leveled and complex. There are individual pirates and there are entire organizations devoted to online piracy. These organizations consist of various pirates with specialized responsibilities. There are proxy test-takers, item harvesters, computer hackers, brain dump operators and even content salespeople.pirate

Proxy Test Takers
The job of the proxy is to physically go to the testing center, register as another individual and take the test for that student. This problem has been around long before the Internet, but proxy test takers now have more tools to cover their identity digitally.  And, these proxy organizations blatantly advertise online.

Item Harvesters
Item Harvesters are people who take exams under their real name, but their whole purpose is to gather test questions and answers and record them for the purpose of cheating. Pirate organizations can then sell those answers and questions for top dollar to black market test vendors or other organizations that can profit from that stolen intellectual property. Individual Item Harvesters may also give this information back to brain dump websites in order to help other students pass the tests.

Computer Hackers
Computer Hackers are always valuable assets to pirate organizations, as they know how to access insecure private information. Hackers dig into online material and use that material for the good of the pirate organization.

Brain Dump Operators
Brain Dump Operators play the important role of managing the brain dump websites. Whether these sites are disguised as legal testing aid sites or they are self-avowedly designed for cheating, Brain Dump Operators provide an open outlet to regular students.

Content Salespeople
An essential part of the pirate business, of course, is sales. There are pirates who focus specifically on the sales aspect of digital piracy. These are the people who know how to find willing clients and take care of the business transactions.

Most people are baffled to learn that cheating is such a complex and well-organized industry. Like tapeworms, pirates work to stay out of the spotlight as much as possible while silently freeloading and destroying the system. But the more we know about them and what they do, the easier it is for us to find them and keep our testing pure and healthy.


Christie Zervos

Director of Operations, Caveon Test Security

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