Investigations Into Cyberattack Against EQAO Conclude

Both Deloitte and Toronto Police Service confirm targeted cyberattack

TORONTO, March 17, 2017 /CNW/ - The investigations into the cyberattack that disrupted the Education Quality and Accountability Office's (EQAO) online Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test (OSSLT) on October 20, 2016, have concluded.

Both Deloitte and the Toronto Police Service confirm EQAO's original conclusion that a targeted Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) cyberattack was the cause of the technical issues that led to the cancellation of the OSSLT in October 2016.

As part of its effort to move assessments online, EQAO attempted to conduct the first province-wide administration of the OSSLT in October 2016. The assessment was cancelled within a few hours, due to widespread technical issues with the system caused by the DDoS cyberattack. 

EQAO is discussing the implications of the investigations' findings with its business partners and stakeholders, and has welcomed feedback from the education community about any aspect of its move to online assessments. These considerations will help determine next steps and timelines regarding the return to online assessments.

EQAO is also working with its business partners to strengthen its IT security infrastructure, in order to better protect it against cyberattacks.

Quick Facts

  • The day of the cyberattack, an independent third-party forensic firm, Deloitte, was retained by EQAO to conduct an investigation into the incident. The Toronto Police Service was also notified shortly thereafter and began a separate investigation.
  • The Toronto Police Service has been unable to identify the perpetrators of the cyberattack.
  • The attack appeared to commence just after 8 a.m. on October 20, which coincides with the start of the school day in Ontario. The attack appeared to stop at around 12 p.m., which is within one hour of EQAO's announcement that the test was cancelled. These observations lead to the conclusion that the cyberattack specifically targeted the OSSLT.
  • The reports from Deloitte and the Toronto Police Service contain useful recommendations on ways to enhance cybersecurity protection within EQAO's system. EQAO accepts these recommendations and will incorporate them into its system moving forward.
  • EQAO remains confident that assessments can be successfully administered online in partnership with schools and school boards.

Quotes

"I thank Deloitte and the Toronto Police Service for their diligent work during these investigations. Their findings confirm that Ontario students and EQAO were the victims of a targeted cyberattack, but we cannot let this stop us from continuing our move toward online assessments. The cancellation of the online trial in October was a disappointment to the entire education community. The educators involved and the students who participated, in particular, felt considerable frustration. EQAO has apologized for the outcome of the online trial in October and we will address security issues moving forward."— Dave Cooke, EQAO Board Chair

"The reports from Deloitte and the Toronto Police Service are critical to planning next steps for our online assessment program. We are also considering feedback from Ontario's education community as we seek to improve our system design. As the move toward online assessments proceeds, EQAO will continue to provide accurate and reliable data to Ontario's education community, in order to help schools and school boards improve student achievement." — Dr. Richard Jones, Interim Chief Executive Officer, EQAO

"The Computer Cyber Crimes Section of the Toronto Police Service has followed a number of leads regarding the cyberattack that impacted EQAO. All necessary steps will continue to be taken to identify any potential persons of interest should new information become available." — Detective Constable Nathan Dayler, Toronto Police Service

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SOURCE Education Quality and Accountability Office

For further information: Mark Ruban, Manager, Communications and Public Affairs, 416-325-2230, mark.ruban@eqao.com

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