By LUKE BARR, ABC News
(NEW YORK) — Law school graduates in Florida were required to download software to take the bar exam virtually amid coronavirus — and a number of them now say they encountered significant data breaches, including, in some cases, attempted hacks on bank accounts because of the software.
A number of Florida students who planned to take the online bar exam in August 2020 claim there were attempts originating from Russia to gain access to sensitive accounts after they downloaded test software from ILG Technologies, and in some cases, they say their entire computers were wiped out after downloading the test administering software.
“There are now accounts emerging of examinees receiving emails from websites claiming that their information was used to log in or that a login attempt was detected from another country,” a number of students wrote in a letter.
The letter, obtained by ABC News does not specify how many students signed on.
Many of the Florida students who were set to take the bar said in an Aug. 10 letter sent to the Florida Board of Bar Examiners.
Two days before the Florida bar exam was supposed to take place, on Aug. 20, the Florida Board of Bar Examiners cancelled it altogether, saying in a video that taking the exam online was not “technically feasible,” but not going into details.
“Our inability to offer the Bar examination in August was a failure. We apologize for that failure,” Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Charles Canady said in video released last week. “We acknowledge and accept the criticism that has been directed at the court and the Board of Bar Examiners.”
ILG Technologies is a Missouri-based company that specializes in administering both the online and in-person bar exam, with Illinois, Alabama and Texas among the states that use the software, according to the company’s website. Their development office is based in Turkey, according to the website.
“There is no evidence linking any security breach with ILG Software,” a representative for ILG told ABC News. “We actually have had our software audited via third party software security firm, based in Miami, Florida and the report came back negative for any virus or malware.”
The Florida State Supreme Court has not responded to ABC News’ request for comment.
Students were required to download the software four days before the exam, and quickly, their letter states, issues started to occur.
“Some have experienced a sudden influx of messages from foreign telephone numbers seeking Bitcoin, and many cannot access email accounts after their passwords were changed without their permission,” the letter, which includes 28 pages detailing reported problems students faced, says.
Shortly after signing up and downloading the software, one student, whose name was redacted for privacy, said they received a Gmail login attempt emanating from Russia.The letter also asserts that multiple students reported there were attempts to gain access to their Robinhood accounts, a platform for online investing. Some students said their bank accounts were accessed shortly after the software was downloaded.
“Examinees understand that their information could have been accessed from anywhere, but the co-occurrence of the ILG software download and these login attempts is disturbing when coupled with the lack of accountability from ILG,” the students continued.
ILG’s user agreement says they’re not responsible for any lost data or software.
Screenshots obtained by ABC News show apparent failures in the system’s artificial intelligence verification program, which is supposed to use photos to verify an ID or other form of identification. Students said the system was accepting any photo as a form of identification: In one instance, a user submitted an image of a dog, and another, a glass of what appears to be orange juice. The system approved both of those images, according to the letter.
Fourteen states and jurisdictions are set to take the bar in October, according to the National Conference of Bar Examiners, and students ABC News spoke with worry they will not be able to adequately and fairly take that October exam due to technical difficulties.
Issues have been plaguing law graduates attempting to take the bar across the nation. In Michigan and Nevada, for instance, software programs — not run by ILG — crashed mid-exam.
“I don’t want to overly dramatize what happened but it caused a period of strong anxiety in the middle of a test day for myself and, I’m sure, for many other people,” Kerry Martin, a University of Michigan law school graduate, told the Detroit News.
“I can’t guarantee you that the path forward will be flawless, but I can guarantee you that we have learned from this mistake and that it will not be repeated,” Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Canady said in last week’s video.
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