Tuesday 20 February 2018

Gardai launch probe into CAO hackers

Breda Heffernan

GARDAI last night launched an investigation into a series of hacker attacks on the Central Applications Office (CAO) website, which have caused chaos for thousands of students this week.

Web logs and other evidence have been handed over to the gardai in an attempt to identify the hackers responsible for the two attacks, which caused the site to crash twice in recent days.

Joseph O'Grady, CAO operations manager, last night said the malicious "denial of service" attacks have been ongoing since Monday morning. Despite the disruption, the CAO said some 37,000 applicants have so far accepted third-level places.

The website was attacked within 10 minutes of the publication of first-round offers at 6am on Monday morning, when it was bombarded with thousands of bogus requests.

It experienced intermittent disruptions over the day.


It was targeted again on Wednesday, triggering the automatic issuing of 22,000 new passwords to applicants, and engineers were forced to shut it down for four hours that afternoon to determine the full extent of the problem.

Internet security experts have warned there is little the CAO can do to prevent repeat attacks, apart from establishing back-up servers around the country at a potential cost of millions of euro.

Mr O'Grady has conceded that it may not be possible to pinpoint exactly where the attacks are coming from, as false internet protocol addresses are routinely used by hackers.

The attacks have caused massive disruption for tens of thousands of students who have faced an increase in the points for many third-level courses.

Irish Independent

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