A stunning Chronicle of Higher Education article on the new cheating economy in the September 2016 issue exposes the dark underbelly of online education. In a comprehensive investigation, the Chronicle outlines the extraordinary criminal exploitation of online learning today. 
 
From academic imposters who will literally take classes for hire, to writing boiler rooms that churn out theses and even dissertations, to scams that steal billions of dollars in loan funds a year…how much longer can this crazy denial last? It’s a criminal takeover and clear threat to online education’s continued existence. 
 
It’s not that they aren’t solutions. But mostly, Higher Ed refuses to act. What is really going on? Inertia. Diffused responsibilities. Most of all, missing the financial imperative. By ensuring academic integrity by upgrading LMS security, you can potentially recover a significant sum in lost loans. But this message is clearly not getting through.
 
The burgeoning underground has exploded in the last few years, siphoning hundreds of millions of dollars into a shadow academic buy-and-sell marketplace. We’re not talking about just paying for term papers. Now term papers are commissioned. They’re original – and pricey - so you can’t find plagiarized text anymore. 
 
Or consider the promotion-hungry professional who hires someone else to complete his degree. This extremely sophisticated penetration of online learning systems exists to scam grades, degrees and money from your school. The logical end is the destruction of your reputation. 
 
The problem is driven by very poor data management, security and controls, and the illogical use of antiquated tools to identify students.  For an industry that evolved rapidly with technology, it is striking that so few have become early security adopters.
And you should know that  Laws in at least 17 states prohibit students from using cheating services to complete their assignments? This means fines and jail time-it is serious and as awareness and use of companies for hire grows don’t be surprised if your Attorney General comes knocking to enforce unlawful preparation of academic assignments at your school. Hope that does not go viral.  
 
But here’s the thing. All online systems have a learning management system. Your LMS. It logs in students with a user name/ID and password and allows them into your environment. You may add proctoring on site or virtually but other than confirming you have a carbon unit in the seat for one hour, user name and password is the only credential used to provide access to all other gradable assignments.  
Hold it right there!
 
You’re ripe for a scam. 
 
1) You can’t prevent criminals from logging in with those credentials as your student. 
 
People share log-ins all the time. And a fraudulent student will with their accomplice. Unless you are literally maintaining a live human checkpoint review with photo ID, you won’t know.
 
2) You can’t prevent criminals from taking tests, classes or scamming degrees. You can’t prevent them from registering, taking loan money and disappearing.
 
Unless your system can categorically identify that the intended individual is logging in, you have no credible reporting. You can’t estimate your potential risk by using pattern recognition or sophisticated techniques to flag possible impending fraud.
 
 
In effect, you can’t assure businesses or any other entities that the student actually completed the degree. Its inherent value is diminished. 
 
What do you do in a world where kids ship their textbooks to criminals so they can pass the course?  When they have payment plans now??
 
If you think you’re not at risk, the Chronicle notes one company claims to have scammed courses in colleges from Duke to Harvard. Are you really sure that your systems are so superior?
 
In a gig economy such as the criminal marketplace, how long is it before the online university itself is disrupted?
 
The answer is so obvious. Batten down the hatches and plug your holes. But do it smart. The Chronicle says one school spends $60,000 a year merely implementing challenge questions at LMS entries periodically. Is that supposed to stop someone who can check with the student themselves for the answer to the city they were born in? The latest IRS hack security questions were only 50% effective (Read the latest on IRS hacking and the 50% failure of security questions). 
 
Come on! I don’t know…maybe you might want something that is not an expensive so-called deterrent and fixes the problem for good. Yes? Or maybe you think:
 
But that’s so easy. I’d have nothing to do with my day, especially as I’d be promoted for my brilliance at spotting this issue and resolving it and have an unlimited future. 
 
 
What You Gain by Authentication
 
Logging in random people into your LMS under Swiss cheese username/pass combos is for non-visionary, non-technical bureaucrats and the equivalent of applying leeches to malaria.
 
It’s old school, easily penetrated, hackable and makes your online enterprise look archaic. What if you could look…cool?  What if you were futuristic in your security? What if you looked like the institution at the bleeding edge of technology you aspire to be? Would your degree be worth more than others because you could assure its authenticity? 
 
True authentication solves 99% of these criminally-induced problems. Student multi-factor authentication gives you rock solid assurance that the student is who they say they are, using multiple data points.
 
• Biometric authentication (at BioSig-ID, it’s a drawing gesture)
• Geo data that sifts for atypical login locations
• Behavioral alerts that advise that a fraud pattern has been enacted
• Ongoing data analysis that continues to refine your system security year after year
 
The twin benefits from this high standard of security are increased academic integrity, but also financial rewards. Because state of the art authentication software can warn you about potential financial fraud….ahead of time.
 
What’s that…? 
 
There’s a software biometric available that does not ask for a copy of your body parts? 
 
I can have it installed within a week, fully supported, with an annual low price per user, not per use?
 
I will look like a genius for proposing it?
 
 
Yes. Yes. And Yes. 
 
Read on about learner authentication problems and solutions: