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New tools identify security and privacy risks associated with the COVID-19 contact tracing app


Researchers have developed tools to identify security and privacy risks associated with the COVID-19 contact tracing app.

COVID Guardian, the first automated security and privacy assessment tool, tests contact tracing apps for potential threats such as malware, embedded trackers, and personal information breaches.

Using the COVIDGuardian tool, cybersecurity experts have evaluated 40 COVID-19 contact tracing apps that have been adopted worldwide for potential privacy and security threats. The results of their survey are as follows.

  • 72.5% of apps use at least one insecure encryption algorithm.
  • Three-quarters of the app contained at least one tracker that reported information to third parties such as Facebook Analytics and Google Firebase.
  • Most apps did not contain malware, but the Kyrgyzstan app Stop COVID-19KG was found to contain malware.

Following their analysis, the researchers published the results to the vendor. Subsequent further testing revealed that the privacy and security weaknesses of four apps were fixed and one vulnerable app became unavailable.

Dr. Gareth Tyson, Senior Lecturer at Queen Mary University of London, said: Some of the relatively mainstream security bugs introduced around the world. Some of the most common risks associated with the use of older cryptographic algorithms and the storage of sensitive information in plain text format that a potential attacker could read. “

“Our job is to help developers address these issues. Through COVID Guardian, developers can discover and fix potential weaknesses in their apps to help maintain user privacy and security. We have created a tool that you can use to share useful guidelines. “

To support this task, researchers conducted a survey of more than 370 individuals, understood the potential for using contact tracing apps, and highlighted concerns about their use. The results suggested that the privacy and accuracy of contact tracing apps had the greatest impact on whether individuals used the app.

As part of the survey, volunteers were also asked about their preferences for decentralized and centralized apps.

Security and privacy concerns have become a major issue affecting the popularity of these apps. The discussion about distributed and centralized apps didn’t seem to be that important, and instead I was surprised that users were focusing on the exact details of the personal information collected. This will give developers a stronger privacy guarantee for their apps. “

Dr. Gareth Tyson, Senior Lecturer, Queen Mary University of London


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