EQAO confirms cyber attack


The Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO) confirms that the cause of the technical issues that resulted in the cancellation of the Oct. 20 province-wide trial of the online Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test (OSSLT) was an intentional, malicious and sustained Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack—a type of cyberattack.

In a media statement issued Monday, EQAO officials said they share the disappointment experienced by thousands of students, families and educators across the province. The agency recognizes the considerable time and energy spent, by all stakeholders, preparing for the trial assessment, and it sincerely apologizes for the considerable inconvenience that resulted.

An extremely large volume of traffic from a vast set of IP addresses around the globe was targeted at the network hosting the assessment application. The impact of this DDoS, initiated by an unknown entity or entities, was to block legitimate users' (i.e., school boards', schools' and students') access to the EQAO test application.

An in-depth and ongoing investigation will lead to recommendations on how to prevent similar incidents in the future.

EQAO reported that it undertook several successful field and load tests to gauge the system's readiness in the lead-up to the Oct. 20 trial. This final trial was meant to test the system's readiness on a larger scale and, notwithstanding the DDoS attack, EQAO’s director Richard Jones said he remains confident that assessments can be administered online successfully. EQAO's shift to online assessments mirrors classroom trends that see a greater emphasis on the use of digital technology.