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Students fear new website sabotage

THE CAO has not yet complained to gardai about the hacker who caused panic for tens of thousands of college applicants.

Helplines were flooded with calls from worried students yesterday after the Central Applications Office website was effectively shutdown by a malicious hacker.

However, the CAO wants to carry out an internal investigation before deciding whether to involve gardai.

At this stage, it appears unlikely that the hacker will be identified as it is understood that false internet provider (IP) addresses were used.

There was chaos yesterday morning as more than 48,000 college offers were released online.

Within ten minutes of the 6am publication, the CAO website was hit with a so-called 'denial of services attack', which makes a system unavailable to legitimate users by overloading it with a massive number of bogus requests.

The problem caused panic for tens of thousands of students, many of whom flooded helplines looking for reassurance.

The National Parents Council said its helpline dealt with a significant number of calls in relation to CAO website.

Students who did succeed in using the website yesterday are now being urged to double check that their acceptance of a college place was actually registered by checking the "My Application" facility.



Worry

The motive behind yesterday's attack is not known, but CAO operations manager has described it as "malicious".

According to the CAO the site was being closely monitored today. By 5.15pm yesterday more than 23,000 online acceptances were recorded -- a figure ahead of the 2009 level.

The Irish Second-Level Students' Union (ISSU) said: "It is imperative that technical difficulties of this scale cannot be allowed to happen in future as they cause unnecessary worry for students at an already stressful time."

kdoyle@herald.ie