First of all, I'd like to apologize beforehand if the questions I am about to ask are not really suitable for this site. I could not think of any other category to post under. Right, here goes.
We're building an offline assessment exam center as part of our internship. That's the company's lingo for a "test-taking application". Now we've been told to do some R&D as an addition to the coding, on the topic of candidate authentication in large exam centers. As per our project heads, the life-cycle of an assessment process involves the following four "touch-points" where candidate authentication is required -:
Touch-points of Assessment Life-cycle
- Online registration for the exam.
- Appearing for the exam.
- The interviewing process.
- Reporting to the job.
We've been told to focus on the "preventing impersonation" purpose of authentication (the other being verification of user eligibility, which is not part of the R&D topic).
In my country, during the online registration process the candidate is conventionally asked to quote a reference to the bank payment receipt which was deposited at the time of fee payment. They are also asked to upload a photograph. These details are then used to automatically generate an exam roll number, which is displayed on their admit card with their personal details and photograph. On exam-day, the candidate produces this admit card along with some form of government authorized ID proof, such as a driving license or passport. A signed counterfoil of the admit card is retained during the exam.
Now this process is seemingly foolproof, but it is not so in real-time. Impostors have been known to take exams at the behest of the applicant. We have been provided with some impersonation patterns or trends that have been noticed over the years in exam centers.
- Photograph Ambiguities: The candidate knowingly uploads a photograph of when they were younger. It does not completely match with the face of the applicant, and can be perceived as a photographic distortion of the impersonator's face. Casual verifications would miss the fraud.
- Signature Ambiguities: The candidate could provide a shorter version of their signature, which could easily be reproduced by the impersonator with some practice.
- Deeper Scrutiny of Photograph is Protested: Invigilators tend to ignore minor variations in the candidate's photograph partly due to the sheer number of applicants to be handled and partly to avoid protests from the candidate, which leads to a wastage of time. Other candidates could be part of the fraud, and support this protest. The invigilator tends to avoid conflict.
A few points to be noted -:
- The demographics in such a recruitment exam is broad, with candidates of diverse gentility.
- Invigilators are not trained in professional photograph and signature verification (not practical).
- There is very little time available to verify all candidates with proper scrutiny.
- Our company operates with external invigilators, and not all may be equally conscious or proficient.
- Invigilators keep changing regularly.
Keeping these points in mind, we're looking for alternative mechanisms for authentication, which could exploit the latest digital technologies and adhere to these criteria-:
- The solution should be logistically simple.
- It should be accessible to the general masses.
- It should have a very short transaction/verification time.
- It should allow for easy data storage and retrieval.
- It should be reliable.
We have already suggested biometric verification, retina scans, and the like to them. However these do not fit all the criteria at hand. What would you all suggest? Resources and citations would be very helpful too, if you suggest any technology that could be used.
PS: Not asking to be spoonfed. Just looking for ideas we can build on.
I had a long chat with my project head/in-charge. We discussed the role of the invigilator thoroughly. We decided to take a different approach to the problem.
The role of the invigilator in verification is minimal. The candidate detail verification process, or impersonation detection, is done not by an invigilator or interviewer, but by a system at the end of a pair of touch-points. This eliminates or atleast reduces the impact of the time factor in authentication, and also significantly reduces the possibility that the invigilator may take part in the fraud.
Next, we thought of a two-factor authentication process at each touch-point. Let me explain accordingly.
- Candidate Registers: The candidate may apply for registration online or at an authorized test center. The first factor of authentication will be a photograph submitted by them, not more than 3 months old, and a government authorized ID-proof. The second factor of authentication will be, for example, some form of biometrics - retina scans, voice recognition, fingerprinting. The first factor will be used in generating the admit card. The second factor will be stored in a database. I am taking speech or voice recognition along as an example, and leaving the rest to further imagination.
The candidate will be asked to utter some standard phrase in the language of their choice, and upload it along with the online form/provide it at the test center.
- Candidate Appears for Exam: The candidate brings their first factor details along with their admit card for the exam. The invigilator performs a casual verification, as much scrutiny is possible by the naked eye, of the photograph the candidate submitted during registration. If there is a huge difference between the photograph and the person, the person is barred from taking the exam. If the difference is too small to perceive or there is not much time to scrutinize, the invigilator lets the candidate take the exam.
Once again, the second factor details are collected and stored by the invigilator. After the exam is done with, or at the end of this touch-point, the second factor details are compared. If the error rate is beyond the permissible limit (depending on the technology being used, its success rate, etc), the candidate is disqualified and their result is deemed null and void. If not, and their result is good enough, they go through to the next round.
Candidate is Interviewed: In a similar vein to the previous touch-point, the candidate's first factor details are checked by the interviewer and if there is a huge difference to the naked eye, the candidate may be barred from the interview. The second factor details are collected freshly at this touch-point. The reason for this is that bodily changes must be accounted for if techniques such as speech recognition are used. The interview is usually held at a later stage, so I think that a comparison of the first two and the last two touch-points, as separate pairs, is in order. If the candidate is selected, they get the job.
Candidate Reports for Duty: The two-factor authentication is done once again. The photograph and government authorized ID proof are checked (a new photograph may be taken during the interview stage for this purpose, as I am assuming that some time will have passed between the recruitment exam and the interview) together by whoever is in charge. If the candidate passes this stage of authentication, their biometrics are then checked.
Now what I need is ideas on the following -:
- How, if possible, can this approach be improved?
- What different technologies can be used as part of second factor verification? Please cite your resources. I'd love a justification if possible.
- If there is a technology that radically solves this problem, do mention it.