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Saturday 20 September 2014

Students access NUI Galway exam papers with simple web search

Security alert as college exam papers found on net

Brian McDonald

Published 28/03/2014 | 02:30

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THIRD level colleges across the country are on high alert after it emerged that students at one university managed to gain access to exam papers through the internet.

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The incident happened at NUI Galway in recent weeks and resulted in a significant number of students accessing their summer maths exams papers.

The IT security systems used by the Galway university are understood to be in widespread use across other Irish third level colleges

Summer exams at the Galway university begin on April 15 and the maths papers were prepared by the college academics as usual well in advance.

The papers were uploaded onto the university's server in keeping with normal practice. The storage facility on the server is security protected.

But it is understood that an internet search by a student seeking summer 2014 maths papers at NUI Galway yielded unexpected results. Next month's exam papers were found by the search engine used and word of their availability 'spread like wildfire', according to student sources.

The papers were accessible for a number of days before the university authorities became aware of the issue and immediately withdrew the papers. New papers have since been prepared in readiness for next month's exams.

In a statement yesterday NUI Galway confirmed that it had replaced the exam papers in order to protect the integrity of the exam process.

It said: "A number of weeks ago, well in advance of this summer's exams, NUI Galway replaced a number of exam papers as a precautionary measure.

"The decision was prompted by inappropriate access to some exam papers which could, potentially, have compromised the integrity of the exam process".

The NUIG authorities are understood to be satisfied that there was no question of 'hacking' into the university server. The manner in which access to the exam papers was achieved is believed to have been as a result of vastly improved searching capability over the internet.

But the incident has alerted the university to the need to upgrade its IT security. It is understood that NUIG is now in contact with the company providing the search engine used in order to copperfasten the secrecy surrounding future exam papers.

Other third-level colleges have also been alerted to the problem and are reviewing their own internal IT security arrangements.

Irish Independent

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