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Criticism of the publication How safe is the Corona warning app?

Status: 16.06.2020 3:01 a.m..

The official German Corona warning app can be downloaded as of today. It gets off well with privacy advocates. Nevertheless, there is criticism of their safety.

The hotline in particular could be a possible point of attack.

By Dennis Horn, WDR.

Data protection activists and experts had a lot of praise for the German Corona warning app even before it started. You make “overall a solid impression,” says the Federal Data Protection Commissioner Ulrich Kelber in the “Saarbrücker Zeitung”. “In Germany it took a little longer. But that was also correct,” said the computer scientist Henning Tillmann, chairman of the digital-political association D64, of the tagesschau .

Nevertheless: After the source code was published, SAP and Deutsche Telekom also recently had to deal with a series of headlines that questioned the security of the app.

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Telephone hotline as a possible security gap.

The hotline for infection reports is a particularly sensitive point. Together with a positive test result, users should also receive a QR code that they can scan with the app. This is how you can confirm that you are indeed infected.

But many laboratories are not prepared to generate these QR codes securely enough – a sign of the omissions in digitization.

This is how the warning app works.

At the beginning, users are therefore asked to call a hotline in the event of an infection, which also comes into play if users lose QR codes or have other problems with scanning them. The hotline staff then ask a series of questions to ensure that the callers actually tested positive.

Exactly this hotline could also become a possible – human – security gap: If trolls were able to cheat their way through the questions and trigger false alarms, the users’ trust in the app could be permanently damaged.

TÜV subsidiary would have liked more time for tests.

A safety notice came from the TÜV-Nord subsidiary TÜV-IT. Its experts checked the app on behalf of the Federal Office for Information Security and discovered serious deficiencies in the TAN codes that users can enter in the event of an infection. The algorithm with which these codes were generated was initially too easy to crack.

This error has been fixed. His testers are “pretty enthusiastic about how quickly and with what quality the developers reacted to weak points that were still discovered,” praised TÜV IT boss Dirk Kretzschmar. He also told the specialist portal “heise online” that he would have liked more time for tests and later publication.

Large parts of the app are still unchecked.

Can infected users be identified?

A paper by scientists from the Technical University of Darmstadt and the Universities of Marburg and Würzburg recently caused a stir. They had shown that attackers can identify infected users and create movement profiles about them.

Everything you need to know about the virus.

However, this option does not affect the German Corona warning app itself, but the interfaces in the Google and Apple operating systems, which official official Corona apps can access.

It has long been known that there are also security risks at this point. In order to be able to exploit them, however, attackers would have to put in such an enormous effort that the discussion would be more of an academic one.

Good grades from experts – but not a sure-fire success.

In the end, it stays that way: the Corona warning app is mostly getting good grades from experts for the moment. But it will probably not be a sure-fire success. The Bluetooth technology that the app relies on is being misused – it was never intended for tracking contacts.

And the possibility of even greater security risks occurring cannot be ruled out – after all, no software is one hundred percent secure.

Corona Warn App: Federal Minister Lambrecht warns to be careful Alfred Schmit, ARD Berlin June 16, 2020 6:34 a.m..

The Tagesschau reported on this topic on June 16, 2020 at 9:00 a.m..