'Dark web' threats: Amid exam fiascos, NTA reportedly powerless against cyberattacks

The NTA's IT and administrative staff reportedly fear that the re-conducting of the exams won't be possible due to 'terrorist organisations' hacking into the NTA's security protocols, using the dark web, 'to expose the chinks this year'.
Last Updated : 24 June 2024, 07:21 IST

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With its staff unsure about the safe conduct of any exam due to reports claiming that the National Testing Agency (NTA) website has been hacked, the agency is experiencing a major crisis.

After the UGC-NET was cancelled owing to alleged cyberthreats, now an NTA official has come forward citing further threats to the conduct of examinations.

According to a report by The Times of India, a senior NTA official said that the testing organisation's IT and administrative staff fear that the re-conducting of the exams won't be possible due to "terrorist organisations" hacking into the NTA's security protocols, using the dark web. "to expose the chinks this year".

"A national level think tank needs to work on such threats," ToI further quoted a government official as saying.

According to the publication, hinting that the NTA has no capacity to oppose or obstruct these "organised attacks", the official said, "They are not going to stop. The dark web is used by terrorist organisations. We are not sure how safe even our back box (placed where question papers are kept) is."

"Two days ago, the Bihar Police asked for details of six candidates, sharing their roll numbers. Two of the roll number don't exist, and for another two, the names of the candidates and their roll numbers don't match. There are so many contradictions, including the timing of the seizures, which was post-exam when all the question papers are already in the public domain," the official said, according to TOI.

According to TOI, a senior official also said, "A big shakeup in technology and capacity building is needed."

He also mentioned that looking at only the exam models would not be enough, citing that the computer-based ITEP exam also had to be cancelled as each file of the examination was 5 GB and when it was downloaded at the assigned centres, and that the had candidates also received false question papers.

While these officials told ToI that they were confident about the CUET-UG 2024 results being declared on June 30, they were less sure about the rescheduling of cancelled and postponed tests.

What has happened so far?

Earlier, the NTA issued a clarification, claiming that the NTA website and all of its other web portals are fully secure and that the reports claiming that they had been hacked were wrong and misleading.

The clarification came amid a row over alleged irregularities in exams including NEET-UG and UGC-NET.

Another issue leading to the meltdown of the testing agency is the rumour about the NTA officials looking forward to leaving the organisation.

The NTA had to cancel and postpone three national level competitive exams—National Common Entrance Test (NCET), University Grants Commission National Eligibility Test (UGC-NET) and the CSIR-UGC-NET.

With the government under enormous pressure over the irregularities in NEET, the Centre sacked Subodh Kumar Singh, chief of the NTA, and put him on 'compulsory wait' in the Department of Personnel and Training.

The probe into the irregularities in the medical entrance exam NEET-UG has also been handed over to CBI, followed by the assigning of the India Trade Promotion Organisation (ITPO) Chairman and Managing Director Pradeep Singh Kharola as the additional charge of the NTA.

Headed by former ISRO chairman Dr K Radhakrishnan, a high-level seven-member panel has been formed to look into the functioning and fair conduction of exams by the NTA, which will be submitting its report in 2 months, the Centre had said on June 22.

Published 24 June 2024, 07:21 IST

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