Braindump sites are numerous and proliferating. CompTIA lists 130 Web sites that are unauthorized training sites for its exams. It warns test takers that they may be precluded from taking an exam or may have their certifications revoked if they are found to use materials from these sites.
Another reason for the rise in cheating on IT certification exams is the U.S. Defense Department's 8570 Directive, which requires military employees and contractors to pass security exams in order to continue working in information assurance roles. The Defense Department is one of the few employers in the United States that is demanding IT certifications as a condition of employment.
BACKGROUND: Hottest IT Security Certifications
"That's a high-stakes situation because if you don't get your certification you get fired or retired in DoD parlance," Northcutt says, pointing out that the 8570 Directive requires people to pass tests such as the Global Information Assurance Certificate (GIAC) exams offered by SANS. "We've had cases where the proctors let the people cheat by letting them use Internet resources. We're an open book exam, but not open Internet."
What happens to IT pros caught cheating? It depends on the egregiousness of the incident. A cheater's exam score will be invalidated and he may be suspended from taking exams from those training organizations for a year. Individuals caught selling braindump materials over the Internet are subject to lawsuits and hefty fines.
"We actually catch more adults than kids cheating," Burroughs says. "A lot of our information about cheating comes from the other students in the class. If you studied, and you know somebody else bought the test off the Internet, you'll tell us. We get a lot of anonymous calls."
SIIA sees rampant cheating in all sorts of exams, not just IT certifications. In 2010, SIIA won five-figure settlements in lawsuits against three individuals who were selling counterfeit or unauthorized Kaplan study materials for the U.S. Medical Licensing Exam. A fourth individual from a prior investigation ended up paying $400,000 in damages and getting kicked out of medical school after he was found guilty of illegally mass producing Kaplan materials and selling them on eBay.