Review: Viper Anti-Plagiarism Scanner

Important Update: In addition to the issues below, Viper’s terms of service make it so that they take all essays submitted through it and post them on essay mill sites, often without authors knowing. See this article for more.

It is the time of year when term papers are coming due and students are worrying more than ever about being accused of plagiarism. It’s the busy season for plagiarism detection services both for teachers and for students and, as is typical, I get asked my opinions on them.

One email recently asked me my thoughts on the Viper Anti-Plagiarism Scanner, a free application and service provided by Scan My Essay. I’ve been familiar with the service for a while but never bothered to test it. However, since it was requested I decided to put the application through a few of my paces.

Unfortunately, the results were less than spectacular and, truth be told the application fell almost completely flat. The only question is whether the problems were glitches caused by a temporary problems or something more chronic with the program.

How it Works

The idea behind VIper is that you download the small application, less than 1MB, and register for an account with the service. Once you’ve done that, you simply select the file or files you want to check for plagiarism and send Viper on its way. Viper, after some processing, will come back with the results.

Though the process is simple, and familiar to anyone who has used a plagiarism checker in the past, it does have a few interesting features. One of the biggest being its ability to match against a local database, the Web or both. This means that, if you have a pool of content you want to test against, you can do that with or without also checking the broader Web.

Also, the results page also uses a very effective layout, showing the uploaded work side-by-side to the suspected matches. This is very convenient for analyzing the match and makes developing an opinion about whether an element is plagiarized or not very simple.

Beyond those two features, both of which can actually be found in other applications or services, the rest of the application is fairly straightforward. While that is not a bad thing in and of itself, the problem is that it doesn’t seem to do the job it set out to.

My Tests

Setting up the application proved difficult. It took several tries to get the application to install correctly and almost 15 minutes to figure out how to create an account (Hint: You have to click the link in the program itself.). Though it took a while, about 40 minutes, I was eventually able to get the application up and start testing.

As with any test of a plagiarism checker, I start out by having it search for a work where there is a known amount of plagiarism. In this case, I started with an article that I had submitted to Who Is Hosting This? but still had the old RTF for. The work has not have been widely plagiarized, but does appear on the site so Viper should have registered the RTF as a 100% plagiarism.

Unfortunately, after letting Viper chew on the file for some time, it came up with nothing but a few short quotes, each a few words long, that were coincidence or properly cited. Though the work is a perfect “plagiarism”, Viper found only minor and incidental matching, all if it less than a few percent.

I decided to wait a few days before trying again and did so this morning, starting with an article I had written for the European Journalism Centre. This article, much like the previous one, only exists on the one site. However, it should still come back as 100% plagiarized.

Unfortunately, I never got results from this article. After uploading it and letting it spin for over ten minutes, nothing happened. The analysis of the article simply froze.

I tried it again repeatedly with the same article but received the same result.

For my last test, I tried an old poem of mine that I knew was widely copied, both with and without permission. I uploaded this one to the service but the first time it completed it found nothing. I tried again and the process froze up, even crashing the application. I tried it one more time and, finally, got an affirmative result.

Viper, after nearly two hours of setup and failed searching, finally had detected a single case of “plagiarism” spotting the URL where the poem can be found on the Web.

Needless to say though, this small victory has me much less than impressed.

More Problems

In the two hours I had allotted to test Viper, I had only been able to search for three documents and only one of those searches, after many retries, was successful. In the same amount of time, I could have processed many dozens of documents using virtually any other means. In fact, my search engine showdown post was compiled in about the same time I spent testing Viper and it required some 45 searches.

But in addition to Viper being slow and unreliable, it also has me a bit creeped out. The application, on Windows 7 at least, requires special permission to modify content on the hard drive. Though I don’t believe it is a virus or has any malicious intent, reviewers at CNet have warned that it messed with their Word settings and suffered many crashes. Not the kind of program I want having broad access to my computer.

In short, I would not recommend installing this program on your computer at this time. Looking at the decidedly mixed reviews on CNet, it seems as if my experience was fairly typical though others have had even worse problems.

Bottom Line

From what I can tell, Viper is an application that feeds into a Web service. Why it needs a downloaded app when the real work takes place online is unclear, but it seems likely that the problems are with the server end, not the app itself (other than the installation issues).

If they can correct their server problems, Viper has a lot of potential for doing decent plagiarism checking.

However, for students seriously worried about their papers, would urge you to go ahead and spend the small amount of money and use WriteCheck. Not only does it use the same database as most colleges and high schools, the Turnitin one, it doesn’t index your paper and it has access to private libraries and collections Viper can’t see. Furthermore, the matching technology, while imperfect, seems to be better.

As an alternative, you can use Copyscape, Plagium or simple Google queries to check for accident plagiarism. All will work faster and better than Viper in its current form.

22 Responses to Review: Viper Anti-Plagiarism Scanner

  1. Expat48 says:

    I found my experience with Viper far different. As a secondary English teacher at an IBO school I've used it on over 50 papers in the last month with great success. I even checked some of my own published work and Viper sussed it out as 100% copied when the document existed on only one site and was published years ago.

  2. The issue seems to be moot though, I haven't been able to log in nor register for a new account for quite some time. Seems the service is effectively dead.

    • ~K says:

      I have a question. I used Viper to check my paper. I found out that Viper stores a copy of my paper in their database. Now, I am afraid that my university is going to run "their software (whatever that is)" and "find" the copy of my paper (uploaded by me) in Viper's database! Should I be afraid? I didn't plagiarize a bit. I used Viper to check if my quotes are cited correctly…. what now? I regret I used it!!!!! can you please help? Thanks

      • Omar Haneef says:

        You should be afraid this happened to a mate of mine and he got thrown out of uni!!!

      • Leigh says:

        Viper gives you a report on the work submitted to them. Just Include that in your document (if possible) that you submit. I did and I have never seen any copies of my work all over the net.

  3. ~K says:

    I have a question. I used Viper to check my paper. I found out that Viper stores a copy of my paper in their database. Now, I am afraid that my university is going to run "their software (whatever that is)" and "find" the copy of my paper (uploaded by me) in Viper's database! Should I be afraid? I didn't plagiarize a bit. I used Viper to check if my quotes are cited correctly…. what now? I regret I used it!!!!!

  4. kay says:

    The vipe software is a con. Its owned and marketed by a company called All answers ltd, who by "sheer conicidence" also happen to offer essay writing services for students under numerous trade names. More importantly, the software keeps a copy of your scanned essay and if you read the small print in detail, you`ll actually realize that by using the software actually give All answers ltd full ownership of your intellectual property to use as they see fit i.e. to sell to other unsuspecting clients.

    Is it just me or is there a direct conflict of interest here? It cant be a coincidence. Pls beware and dont use viper – pay for turnitin or a similar program.

  5. Leigh says:

    I had cause to find a free plagerism checker during my 2nd year of university when my lecturer accused me of plagerism. I eventually found viper and checked my work through it and found that it was quite helpful with finding certain quotes. I checked the information independently and found Viper to be quite accurate. It's possible that the rules must have changed since then but when I used it in my final year 2010 I saw no information concerning them keeping anything and I was never cited for plagerism by the uk university. Currently students are required to use turn it in to check their work and so far, viper is doing a better job . I will never regret using Viper.
    It has now been one year since I left university. Cheers

  6. Anonymous says:

    It requires a login, and once you get one, it says password incorrect. Immediately uninstalled.

  7. Simanta says:

    i want to integrate the viper plagiarism check with a web based application….is it possible.????

  8. Danny says:

    It does say password incorrect for the first 3-4 hours from what I can tell, it may not take that long. I tried to log in immediately also and it wouldnt let me. I didn't freak out, or uninstall the program, I just tried again when I got home from the store and waalaa, logged me right in. Im guessing it just takes a few minutes to get into the server and all. I mean c'mon folks, its FREE. Lets not expect too much. You don't get much for FREE these days, so take what you can get without complaints. lol I haven't tried it yet because like another user, I wanted to make sure it didn't store a copy of my work somewhere. I would hate to get accused of plagerizing my own work, lol. I am going to do a little more research, but from the sound of it I think I will be fine there. I guess we will just have to see if it really works unlike the author of this article said. Thanks for all the posts everyone! :)

  9. janice says:

    i love it very consistent and fast!

  10. cronosonline says:

    i get this error when i try to register: No connection could be made because the target machine actively refused it 178……. what should i do?

  11. Billi says:

    I used Viper, a few months ago, and realised after that they store my work. I have emailed them several times, asking to have my work removed from their database, and still have had no reply. Does anyone know if I can get this removed?

  12. Peggy says:

    I used Viper and was very pleased with the results.Having news articles, poems, etc published is it very important not to have any work plagiarized. Viper was right on the mark with me. Unfortunately, I was deleting some installed applications and I inadvertantly uninstalled Viper. Now, I can’t reinstall the older version I had because I can’t find it. I am not certain that I want the newer version so am at a loss as to what to do. Viper was perfect for me and I destroyed it.

  13. mhiar says:

    i tested viper with a published paper on IEEE and i surprised that the result is only 3% ,,,, my God it is published and should be 100% …..
    so how can i trust it and use it for my essay …. tell me how

  14. Viper - Danny says:

    Viper has recently been redeveloped with the launch of Viper 4.0, the software is much more stable and has introduced auto updating and bug reporting features. Development is now driven by the users and the development team is much more active in communicating what is being changed with its users through its social pages, primarily Facebook.

    Also to address a few users comments about making use of their essays, all of the essays are eventually published 9 months after scanning. This is very clear in the terms and conditions, here is how we make use of the essays:
    http://www.scanmyessay.com/viper-use-essay.php

    We do not own your essay by scanning Viper, you are providing us with a license to use the essay in a certain way. After all the development of Viper is a full time project and is quite expensive and all we ask in return is the use of your essay to help other students.

    • nad says:

      Why the hell do you have any rights to ask for using MY essay in any way?? You should delete it immediately, and for making money show us advertisements or something like this.

      • Viper - Danny says:

        These are the terms of the service we provide so we can share unique and interesting content with other students who may be interested. We understand that some people may not agree to these terms and we ask them not to use the service if they are not happy with other students seeing their work.

  15. [...] Because of this, there are many plagiarism checkers that pop up and turn out not to be worth anything. They either produce low-quality results, barely offer any useful functionality or barely work at all. [...]

  16. […] in 2010, I wrote a review of the Viper Anti-Plagiarism Scanner and, to put it modestly, I was not impressed. I found the service, which can be found at […]

  17. K says:

    Do you at least give credit to the writer? or do you publish it as yours? Cause I tend to reuse material from old papers and don’t want to lose marks from plagiarizing my own material. If you publish it under your company’s name there is no way in hell I’m downloading it. I’d rather pay for turnitin

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