Contact Tracing: An Overview of Technologies and Cyber Risks

The 2020 COVID-19 pandemic has led to a global lockdown with severe health and economical consequences. As a result, authorities around the globe have expressed their needs for better tools to monitor the spread of the virus and to support human labor. Researchers and technology companies such as Google and Apple have offered to develop such tools in the form of contact tracing applications. The goal of these applications is to continuously track people’s proximity and to make the smartphone users aware if they have ever been in contact with positively diagnosed people, so that they could self-quarantine and possibly have an infection test.

A fundamental challenge with these smartphone-based contact tracing technologies is to ensure the security and privacy of their users. Moving from manual to smartphone-based contact tracing creates new cyber risks that could suddenly affect the entire population. Major risks include for example the abuse of the people’s private data by companies and/or authorities, or the spreading of wrong alerts by malicious users in order to force individuals to go into quarantine. In April 2020, the Pan-European Privacy-Preserving Proximity Tracing (PEPP-PT) was announced with the goal to develop and evaluate secure solutions for European countries. However, after a while, several team members left this consortium and created DP-3T which has led to an international debate among the experts.

At this time, it is confusing for the non-expert to follow this debate; this report aims to shed light on the various proposed technologies by providing an objective assessment of the cybersecurity and privacy risks. We first review the state-of-the-art in digital contact tracing technologies and then explore the risk-utility trade-offs of the techniques proposed for COVID-19. We focus specifically on the technologies that are already adopted by certain countries.

Source : ArXiv

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