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NHS contact tracing app carries risks of vulnerabilities (Includes interview)

The issues relating to the contact tracing app include growing security concerns and doubts stemming from registration issues and the use of unencrypted data within the app which can be exploited by cybercriminals. The app is designed to let people know if they have been in close contact with someone who later reports positive for COVID-19.

Youngjin Yoo Project lead of Sharetrace and Faculty Director of xLab, Case Western Reserve University and WBS Distinguished Professor for Research Environment Warwick Business School, UK explains to Digital Journal: “Researchers have identified wide-ranging flaws in the NHS contact-tracing app, stating it could pose a risk to users’ privacy and even be abused to prevent contagion alerts from ever reaching users.”

Yoo adds: “Many of the risks are enhanced due to the data being stored on a central server, leaving users data in the hands of the NHS and government. While it is unlikely that these parties would abuse this data, just asking the public to trust them with it is not a solution.”

Expanding on the points further, Yoo says: “Trust and privacy are not the same thing. By using the proper data infrastructure to construct an app like this it is possible to create privacy and lower the risk to users. We have to avoid using a single database for criminals to target, and give users a way to control their own data. This would eliminate the risk that organisations might abuse our personal data, and it would help ensure anonymisation.”

As a concluding comment, Yoo notes: “The current pandemic is unlike anything that we have ever seen before, and the routes back to normality are also extraordinary. We should not be relying on the infrastructure and policies of the past to see us through.”

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Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, business, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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