Fake Messaging Affects Australian Virus Tracing App

Users of the newly released  COVIDSafe app coronavirus tracing app developed by the Australian Health Service are being  affected by fake messaging. The message is reportedly being sent to random recipients via text message. Screenshots of the notification are also being shared on social media. 

The text of the notification claims that the COVIDSafe App has detected users are now +20km from your nominated home address. It instructs users to call a phone number to register their reason for traveling within 15 mins of receiving the SMS. 

The message is fake and was not sent by the COVIDSafe app or the Australian Government.

The Australian Government’s COVIDSafe app has raised concerns among privacy advocates, although the app is not designed to track the movements of people in the way implied in the fake message and there is no evidence to indicate that it is doing so. When installing the app, users are asked to provide a postcode but  not a specific home address.

The Australian Government Department of Health website explains: ‘The COVIDSafe app helps find close contacts of COVID-19 cases. The app helps state and territory health officials to quickly contact people who may have been exposed to COVID-19.....The COVIDSafe app speeds up the current manual process of finding people who have been in close contact with someone with COVID-19. This means you’ll be contacted more quickly if you are at risk. This reduces the chances of you passing on the virus to your family, friends and other people in the community.’

The app has been the subject of intense scrutiny from security experts. If the app was really sending out messages and thereby violating its stated purpose and breaking its own privacy policy, there would already be considerable public outcry both from privacy experts and affected members of the public.

The fake message includes a genuine government phone number.  It does not appear to be a scam designed to steal personal information. This suggests that the message’s purpose is simply to raise fear and alarm about the new app.

Other emails claim to be from authorities such as the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention or the World Health Organisation. The emails offer information about the spread of the virus and ask you to click on a link to find out more. Users are strongly advised not to click on the link and for the most up-to-date information about the coronavirus but visit the Department of Health and the World Health Organization websites.

MyGC:        KnowB4:         HoaxSlayer:        The Sun

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