2013 Security Review Update

As part of its focus on increasing security, National Academic Quiz Tournaments has been reviewing server logs covering the past several years; during that review NAQT has uncovered evidence that four of its writers frequently accessed pages on NAQT's administrative website that contained clearly marked, substantive information about questions on which they were intending to—and subsequently did—compete. The first of those cases has already been announced and dealt with; this announcement covers the three discovered later.

Unlike in the previous case, NAQT has neither direct nor statistical evidence that these writers took advantage of their prior access in game situations, but the mere possession of it goes against competitors' expectations of fair play.

Prior to the discovery of these violations, NAQT had already improved its online security measures to prevent players from being able to see any questions in sets they intended to play; these incidents predated that corrective action (which was taken in May 2012).

  • Andy Watkins

    According to NAQT's server logs, Andy accessed "questions-by-writer" and/or "category" pages for the 2009, 2010, and 2011 Division I ICTs in the periods immediately prior to those tournaments. These pages provided access to the first 40 characters of questions to be read at the ICTs.

    NAQT will vacate all of the wins for Harvard A at those championships. The following teams are now recognized as national champions:

    1. 2009: University of Minnesota (Undergraduate champion)

    2. 2010: University of Chicago (Division I champion)

    3. 2011: University of Minnesota (Division I champion)

    4. 2011: Virginia Commonwealth University (Undergraduate champion)

    NAQT will be contacting club representatives to make arrangements for the delivery of corrected nameplates for their trophies.

    Andy's case is especially serious in that, at the time of discovery, Andy was a member of NAQT. (Andy was not an NAQT member at the time of the inappropriate question access.) Andy's membership in NAQT has been suspended and his access to NAQT's administrative website (including all writing and editing roles) has been terminated. NAQT's bylaws prescribe a procedure for dealing with inappropriate behavior by members, and that process will unfold accordingly. UPDATE: Andy has resigned from NAQT. As a former writer with "permanently retired" status, Andy is already prohibited from competing in future NAQT tournaments.

    Andy did provide a statement to NAQT:

    I regret my breaches of question security. I am gratified that NAQT acknowledges that there is neither direct nor statistical evidence that I took advantage of my access; though I know everyone will make their own judgments, I did compete in good faith. My memories of my four ICTs in particular, and my time with the Harvard team in general, are my fondest memories of quiz bowl and some of the fondest of my time as an undergraduate. It is unfortunate, if understandable that, despite the aforementioned lack of direct or statistical evidence, NAQT finds it best to vacate Harvard's wins and championships. I hold my teammates from all three years to be champions today exactly as they were yesterday. I hope that they will consider themselves in the same light, even if my indiscretions mean that the record books cannot.

    My immaturity damaged my much-prized relationship with NAQT and cast undue doubt on three remarkable accomplishments by three Harvard teams. It will surprise no one that my mental health as an undergraduate was always on the wrong side of "unstable," but that does not excuse my actions, nor does it ameliorate the damage done. I apologize to my teammates, to NAQT, and to the community for how my actions sullied three amazing years of competition.

  • Joe Brosch

    According to NAQT's server logs, Joe repeatedly accessed "questions-by-writer" pages related to the 2010 HSNCT in the period immediately prior to that tournament. Joe responded to NAQT's initial inquiry with an explanation that NAQT did not deem sufficient to justify the recorded pattern of access.

    NAQT will vacate Wilmington Charter B's wins at the 2010 HSNCT and terminate Joe's position as a contract writer. In addition, NAQT has banned Joe from competing in future NAQT tournaments.

  • Scot Putzig

    According to NAQT's server logs, Scot repeatedly accessed "questions-by-writer" pages related to the 2010 Division I ICT in the period immediately prior to that tournament. Scot responded to NAQT's initial inquiry with an explanation that NAQT did not deem sufficient to justify the recorded pattern of access.

    NAQT will vacate Michigan's wins at the 2010 Division I ICT and terminate Scot's position as a contract writer. In addition, NAQT has banned Scot from competing in future NAQT tournaments. UPDATE: Scot's position as a contact writer had previously expired and no signed contract exists at the time of this announcement. He was a writer at the time the access occurred.

There is no evidence that any of these incidents were more than a single player acting independently; in particular, there is no evidence that accounts belonging to other NAQT writers were used or compromised or that any of these players' teammates were aware of (or benefited from) their actions. NAQT regrets that the teammates of these three players can no longer have their victories commemorated in its records.

NAQT is (again) sorry to have discovered that its trust was misplaced and deeply regrets that its administrative website could be exploited to allow unauthorized access to information for its championship tournaments. NAQT hopes its ongoing security review ensures that future tournaments cannot be compromised in this fashion; NAQT is reviewing its server logs on a weekly basis for suspicious access related to its upcoming 2013 championships and has detected no signs of similar behavior.