Questionmark Secure patent granted

Copy of patent grant imageJohn Kleeman HeadshotPosted by John Kleeman

I’m pleased to let you know that Questionmark has been granted a US patent for one of our innovations in our secure browser, Questionmark Secure.

Questionmark was one of the pioneers in secure browsers. A secure or lock-down browser is designed to help organizations provide a secure environment in which to deliver higher stakes assessments such as tests and exams. It helps prevent cheating in an assessment by disabling functions that participants could use to print or copy exam material, “accidentally” exiting a test, or gaining access to materials on their computers or the Internet that could give an unfair advantage.

Here’s a little history on how we got here:

Our first secure browser called Perception Secure Browser was produced in 1999 – you can see the press release here.

This browser, like many current secure browsers, was started up to run a specific test. But many of our customers requested something slightly different – they wanted a participant to be able to use an ordinary web browser to participate in learning courses, navigate through registration screens and/or use a learning management system, and have the secure browser launched automatically once the assessment starts. This would allow the participant to use standard browser capabilities whilst learning or registering – but when security becomes important, have the secure browser take over. Then when the assessment is over, the participant can revert to the normal browser.

Questionmark Secure splash screenThis required some clever technical work to make happen, but in 2003, we introduced  a new secure browser called Questionmark Secure which did exactly this (you can see the press release here). A participant can use a normal browser to navigate through learning or registration screens, and when they reach the secure assessment, Questionmark Secure takes over to make the assessment process secure. Our current Questionmark Secure product, though hugely improved over the 2003 version (!) uses the same concept – originally invented by Eric Shepherd, Paul Roberts and myself.

Because Questionmark Secure used innovatory technology, we filed for a patent on some of the methods and technology used and related to it . It took over 10 years to be granted but Questionmark is proud to have received U,S. Patent Number 9,055,048 recently for this unique invention.  The abstract for the patent reads:

A method for interacting with a user, comprising communicating with at least one cooperative server through a normal browser; automatically receiving encrypted data having an associated received type code indicative of a requirement for a secure browser having restricted functionality with respect to a functionality of the normal browser; selectively and automatically invoking the secure browser for handling of the received encrypted data based on the received type code associated with the received encrypted data; receiving the encrypted data with the invoked secure browser for handling thereof, wherein the received encrypted data is not available for use by the user in the normal browser and the invoked secure browser imposes restrictions on availability outside of the secure browser of decrypted data derived from the encrypted data; and communicating an input from the user, through the secure browser, to the at least one cooperative server.

For Questionmark customers, this patent helps reinforce Questionmark’s role as a leader in computerized assessment.

For more information on Questionmark Secure, see https://www.questionmark.com/content/questionmark-secure.

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