FDLE closes testing cyber attack investigation


TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The Florida Department of Law Enforcement's investigation into a cyber-attack that disrupted the administration of the Florida Standards Assessments in March did not identify a suspect or a motive for the attacks.

The cyber-attack was launched against a Department of Education subcontractor, and the FDLE investigation did not indicate that any items associated with the test administration, including the testing instrument, test results or student information, had been compromised.

The security procedures used by private entities assisted in the mitigation of these attacks, the FDLE said.

FDLE found that the case was a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) investigation, which means that more than 29,000 IP addresses were used to launch numerous attacks against the subcontractor.

The flood of the incoming messages and connections blocked test takers from accessing the test or slowed connections to the point of impacting test delivery, the FDLE said.

In attacks like this, the owners of compromised computers or users on the compromised networks often have no idea that their technology has been used in a cyber attack. FDLE said that while some of the IP addresses used in this attack were based in the United States, most were believed to be in foreign countries.  

"I am incredibly grateful to Commissioner Swearingen and his team of investigators at the Florida Department of Law Enforcement for their prompt response to the cyber-attack that affected so many of our state's students during statewide testing this spring," Education Commissioner Pam Stewart said in a statement. "Most importantly, I want to reassure our state's students, parents and educators that, because of the nature of the cyber-attack, no student information was accessed and the content of the assessment was not compromised. I am pleased that the additional safeguards were effective, and we will continue working with AIR to ensure they have all of the necessary protections to provide for a smooth testing experience this year."