CYBER hackers launched another attack on the CAO website, sparking fresh fears for students.
The Central Applications Office (CAO) is trying to reassure college applicants that they have plenty of time to accept their courses.
The website, which crashed on Monday due to a similar assault, automatically issued 22,000 new passwords by email to applicants yesterday when it came under attack for the second time in three days.
However, the operators are still no closer to finding the source of the malicious attacks.
CAO operations manager Joseph O'Grady said that part of the system had to be shut down to examine the attack.
"Again, we apologise sincerely to anyone who was inconvenienced and thank them for their patience and understanding as we manage these malicious attacks," he said.
"The system was closed for four hours until 3pm while our IT team assessed the site."
Mr O'Grady reassured students that their data should be safe and that their accounts had not been accessed.
The CAO has yet to find who instigated the incident, the third in less than two months.
"We closed down the interactive part of the website to investigate what happened, and at this stage we do not believe that applicant accounts have been accessed or that any data has been changed," Mr O'Grady confirmed.
"It may not be possible to tell exactly where the attack or attacks are coming from, as false internet protocol addresses are routinely used in such attacks."
Despite the frequency of the attacks, the CAO has not decided to call in gardai.
Last Monday, the CAO was bombarded with bogus page requests to deliberately throw the system into chaos, and cause confusion among college hopefuls, especially those on holiday abroad.
While the CAO is trying to understand what exactly happened over the last week, it is now focusing on getting the second round of college offers ready to send out next week.
Mr O'Grady insisted that the newly issued passwords were safe to use until further notice, and that the website would email all applicants new passwords and news of the attack today.
The CAO representative encouraged students to accept their college offers by post should they feel too anxious to do so online.
"There is plenty of time for applicants to accept their offer: the deadline for acceptances is Monday, August 30 at 5.15pm.
"Those concerned should call our information line on 091-509800 or email us from www.cao.ie," he added.