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EQAO moves forward with online OSSLT despite cyberattack

A cyberattack compromised the online pilot of a province-wide standardized test in Ontario on October 20, 2016. Originally thought to be the result of rampant technical and server issues, many students were unable to access the assessment which was eventually cancelled later that day by the administering Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO).

Over 190,000 grade 10 students across 900 schools in Ontario volunteered to participate in the online trial for the Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test (OSSLT). Introduced as a paper-based assessment in 2002, the OSSLT measures students’ reading and writing abilities with successful completion a requirement for graduation. The $6.2-million decision to transition to online testing was made to provide a more logistically efficient and cost-effective platform for students, educators, and the province.

Unfortunately a distributed denial of service (DDoS) cyberattack early that morning blocked the majority of students, administrators, and school boards from accessing the pilot assessment. The EQAO reports that no private or personal student data was compromised. As of this date, those responsible for the cyberattack have not been identified.

On November 4, the EQAO reported they will be able to score and report the tests for an undisclosed number of students who completed the test, returning results to schools in mid-January, 2017. Students unable to access or complete the online OSSLT in October will retake the examination on March 30, 2017.

Despite the cyberattack, the EQAO is confident the test can be successfully administered online and will be offering both online and paper versions of the OSSLT in March 2017.

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About the Author: Dustin is a senior account manager with DesignedUX, providing communications and marketing strategy to organizations in education and technology. Dustin is also a part-time faculty member at Centennial College and serves on the board of the Canadian Public Relations Society.

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