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A virus ate my exam results

Indian Minister blames mix up on malicious code

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The West Bengal Education Minister, Kanti Biswas, has blamed a computer virus after students received incorrect marks in Higher Secondary examinations this week.

Biswas told the State Assembly in Calcutta that an unnamed virus attacked computer systems earlier this year, resulting in a number of errors on mark sheets. Nineteen separate cases of irregularities in marking were discovered, and blamed on the mystery infection.

Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant for Sophos Anti-Virus, agreed with us that the problem could just as easily be explained by someone pressing the wrong button on a computer or some other form of human error. Even if a virus was responsible for the latest problem it still doesn't excuse the minister of responsibility for the problem.

"Saying 'a virus ate my exam results' is no excuse. No computer is immune from virus attack, so all users should take steps to ensure their PCs are protected against the latest viruses," Cluley added.

According to local reports, opposition politicians have called for resignations because the latest incident is far from the first time Higher Secondary examination results in the Indian state have been found to be in error.

Biswas told the State Assembly that he regretted the faults in the examination system and announced that there would be a full review of the marking process next year to avoid similar problems in the future.

It's far from the first time in recent months that mystery virus infections have reared their head in government.

In April, a virus was held accountable for disrupting the counting of votes in a US district council election in Will County, Illinois. A central server responsible for tallying votes in the election was flooded with bogus requests as a result of a virus infection.

And back in January, the Norwegian Data Inspectorate, Datatilsynet, was forced to apologise to subscribers to its computer security email newsletter after it accidentally sent them the FunLove virus. According to Datatilsynet, FunLove infected its external email server and sent itself out to 1700 subscribers of the agency's newsletter on 20 January.

FunLove, which first appeared in 1999, is a particularly nasty virus whose previous victims include Dell and Microsoft.

But our favourite such cock-up ocurred in 2001, when the FBI's elite Net-security National Infrastructure Protection Center (NIPC) squad managed to infect themselves with the infamous SirCam virus.

D'oh. ®

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