Malware Messes up India's Online Test for Business Schools

The move by India's top business schools to take their CAT entrance test online turned embarrassing after malware-infected computers left a number of students unable to take the test.

Prometric, a Baltimore, Maryland, testing company hired to conduct the CAT (Common Admission Test), said this week that the testing labs faced technical difficulties mainly due to malware and viruses. It said on the CAT Web site that it has decided to reschedule the tests for the affected students.

Over 240,000 candidates registered for the CAT 2009, which was scheduled to run from Nov. 28 to Dec. 7. While the written test was held on a single day in previous years, the online test this year was spread over 10 days, giving candidates the option to choose a date and center for the test.

Prometric was to conduct the tests across labs in 32 cities in the country. The tests are continuing after the initial disruption.

But on the first day of the test, computer viruses and malware prevented 47 testing labs from delivering the test to candidates as scheduled.

The Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) are the top management training schools in the country, and some of their alumni occupy key positions in companies both in India and abroad. The IIMs have been set up by the government, but the institutes run as autonomous organizations.

The CAT is conducted to select students for the seven IIMs, and some other affiliated institutions.

The disruption of the test now throws open the possibility of legal action by candidates, said Vijay Mukhi, a Mumbai-based expert on cybersecurity. If there were viruses and malware in the system, candidates can now question their test results in court, he added.

It is also not clear what the IIMs have done to ensure data integrity, Mukhi said. There could be doubts that the system did not register correctly the entry made by the candidates in their answers, he added.

Candidates for the CAT faced problems with connectivity as well, as the speeds were sluggish, Mukhi said. Having local servers at the test centers linked up to the main servers would have prevented that problem, he added.

India's Minister for Human Resource Development, Kapil Sibal, has criticized the problems with the tests. About 8,000 of the 45,000 candidates for the first three days of the test had difficulties, he told reporters in Delhi this week.

The opposition Bharatiya Janata Party described the computer failures as a shame for a country that calls itself an IT superpower.

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