COVID-19 contact tracing app would attract cybercriminals: expert
A Canadian smartphone app released Friday July 31, 2020 meant to warn users if they've been in close contact with someone who tests positive for COVID-19 is seen Friday, July 31, 2020 in Montreal.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
MONTREAL -- For a third day in a row, experts took turns speaking at a Quebec legislative committee on Friday, where they shared their reservations about COVID-19 notification apps.
Cybersecurity specialist Claude A. Sarazin got the ball rolling by warning MNAs about the ‘vulnerabilities’ of Bluetooth technology that would be used in a possible Quebec-based tracing app.
The Legault government plans to launch an application in September that would allow users to be notified of possible exposure to a person infected with COVID-19.
The app would be free, downloadable on a voluntary basis, and would apparently work without storing data or geolocation.
In July, the federal government launched "Covid Alert," a similar tracing app which is currently only used in Ontario.
A high concentration of data -- however insignificant it may seem -- is sure to attract cybercriminals, Sarazin said.
The use of Bluetooth technology all day long is a "gateway for attacks on the computer systems of people" and the companies they work for, he said.
There is always a risk that people will be identified, he added, recalling that data theft is “extremely profitable” for criminals and very harmful “in the long term” for victims.
“Would you say that the risk of attacking or hacking applications that work over Bluetooth is real (...) and significant?” Quebec Solidaire co-spokesperson Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois asked him.
“Absolutely,'' Sarazin replied.
He said the Quebec government should not launch a COVID-19 tracing app and recommends the province invest more money into public health instead, as British Columbia has done.
British Columbia Premier John Horgan recently announced the province would recruit 500 healthcare professionals to help track people who have been exposed to the virus.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 14, 2020.