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Online 'attack' helped bring down MN student testing system

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An overloaded processor and a "malicious denial-of-service attack" led to the shutdown Tuesday of Minnesota's statewide student testing system, the state's testing contractor said Wednesday.

Pearson, the testing company, apologized for the problems and said the system had been repaired. By late morning, though, Minnesota Department of Education officials were not yet ready to give the all-clear.

"We still need to hear from Pearson exactly what the issue is, how they have resolved it, and receive an assurance that testing can resume smoothly," department spokesman Josh Collins said.

The department hopes to restart testing on Thursday if it gets those assurances, he added.

Students across the state faced delays up to an hour Tuesday morning when they tried to take their Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments. More problems popped up in the afternoon. 

A similar problem last week was caused by a server malfunction at Pearson.

The technical problems have not affected the 400,000 tests that have already been completed, the department added. 

The problems, however, have triggered widespread unhappiness among local school district officials who have barely two weeks left before the student testing window closes for the school year.

On Wednesday, Pearson said Minnesota and other states suffered technical testing problems that the company traced to an overloaded processor and said it's been reconfigured.

"The second interruption involved a malicious denial-of-service attack that was terminated after 30 minutes," the company added. "Pearson has implemented additional protections to reduce the likelihood of any additional service interruptions due to DDoS attacks."