BOCES: Cyber attack to blame for more ELA testing problems

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A cyber attack is to blame for additional issues with electronic English Language Arts testing that specifically impacted students in Central New York on Thursday.

Districts statewide experienced delays with ELA assessments on Wednesday due to problems with Questar, the vendor administering the exams. 

Some school districts, like North Syracuse and Liverpool, resumed testing on Thursday and ran into similar issues. 

OCM BOCES, which oversees the Central New York Regional Information Center that provides internet to many area school districts, identified the “well-crafted denial of service (DOS) attack” this morning. 

The attack was intermittent, lasting 20 minutes each time, BOCES said. 

There was no breach of systems, data or student information, but the attack consumed all internet bandwidth resources that were available to the districts.

“I hope you will understand that, as with any brand-new initiative, we do expect issues to arise that ultimately will allow us to learn, grow and greatly improve the process in the future. I thank you again for demonstrating the leadership skills that have allowed us to handle these computer difficulties with grace and poise, which ultimately served to benefit our students,” said Jody Manning, OCM BOCES district superintendent and CEO.  

Read the full letter from BOCES sent to schools below:

Contact: Jackie Wiegand

Date: April 12, 2018

To all Chief School Administrators and Technology Directors:I would like to extend my heartfelt appreciation to you and everyone in your district for the time, effort

and preparation you invested as a participant in this month’s rollout of computer

-based testing for the New York State English Language Arts and math assessments. I also want to express how much I appreciate and understand the difficulty of the situation you faced this week in light of the connectivity issues that affected many of our districts both yesterday and today. I truly appreciate everything you and your leadership team have done — and are still doing —to cope with these difficulties and alleviate the extra stress on our students, staff and parents.Although the connectivity issues on Wednesday occurred statewide and were addressed by the New York State Education Department’s assessment vendor,

Questar Assessment Inc., the Central New York Regional Information Center also encountered an internet-related issue this morning that affected your district’s efforts to administer the state assessments.

Here is what occurred: On Thursday morning, we identified a well-crafted denial of service (DOS) attack on our link to the internet. This attack was intermittent, lasting 20 minutes each time. While it did not penetrate our internal network, it consumed all internet bandwidth resources that were available to our districts. Working with our internet service provider, we were able to block the incoming malicious traffic, allowing normal access to resume. To be clear, there was no breach of our systems or our data,including student data. We have also established protocols with our vendors to both continuously monitor and respond immediately should there be a repeat occurrence.Please be assured that all of our staff worked tirelessly this morning to address this problem as quickly and effectively as possible. Our top priority, as always, is to provide you and all of our districts with technology services that are safe, secure and operating efficiently.I hope you will understand that, as with any brand-new initiative, we do expect issues to arise that ultimately will allow us to learn, grow and greatly improve the process in the future. I thank you again for demonstrating the leadership skills that have allowed us to handle these computer difficulties with grace and poise, which ultimately served to benefit our students.Moving forward, I promise to keep you updated with more information as the need arises. Please feel free to reach out to me with any questions or concerns.

Sincerely,

Jody Manning, Ed.D.

District Superintendent & CEO, OCM BOCES

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