Health authorities slam COVID app message hoax

Hoax message circulates as Australians signing up in force for the new COVIDSafe app.

Government slams COVID app hoax

Health authorities have slammed a hoax message claiming to come from the government’s new COVIDSafe app.

Authorities say that the message, which is being circulated online, claims to detect when a user has moved an unwarranted distance from their nominated location. It appears to have been sent by the app, but it isn’t.

The message reads: “The COVIDsafe app has detected you are now +20km from your nominated home address.

“Please register your reason for travel by calling 1300 1MY GOV within 15 minutes of receiving this SMS.”

More than 2.5 million Australians have downloaded the COVIDSafe app since it became available on Sunday. It was downloaded by more than a million people within five hours of being launched on Sunday evening.

A Department of Health spokesperson confirmed to that the message was a hoax.

“It is abhorrent that scammers would attempt to use the COVIDSafe app, a public health tool, to try to catch out Australians,” the spokesperson said.

“The COVIDSafe App does not have any geolocation capability; it does not track your location, only the proximity of your phone to other people’s phones that have downloaded the app, and cannot monitor a person’s location at any time.

“The app does not register a person’s home address and it does not share or send any information with anyone, until authorised by the user, if they have been diagnosed with COVID-19, and then only to state and territory health officials involved in contact tracing.”

COVIDSafe is designed to help health officials identify people who have come into contact with somebody infected with the disease through a voluntary sign-up process. It is downloaded to a mobile phone. The app uses bluetooth short-range wireless communication technology to anonymously record users who are within 1.5 metres of each other for about 15 minutes.

Responding to privacy concerns, chief medical officer Brendan Murphy said the commonwealth would never have access to the data collected.

“We have locked this down so completely, so thoroughly with the biosecurity rule, with legislation that is coming - the only people who can access the data are the state and territory health officials,” he said.

“We have a compact with the Australian public – this app will only ever be used by public health officials in the purposes of contact tracing.”

Digital rights advocates have been demanding the release of the app’s source code.

Health minister Greg Hunt said that was coming within two weeks.

Have you downloaded the app? Will you? Did you receive the hoax message? Does that concern you?

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    To make a comment, please register or login
    pedro the swift
    28th Apr 2020
    Well, that didn't take long did it? Scammers and hackers at work on this app already. Are these messages going out out to people who have installed the app only or any iphone?
    If only to those who have installed the app then the system is already compromised. so much for security. We have your number!
    28th Apr 2020
    I think it is fishing text messages etc. I get emails from banks that I am not with
    telling that my bank account has been comprimised etc. of course possibly 1 in every 10 emails is going to find a person that is actually with that bank company and might get sucked in to clicking on the link and entering their id and password etc.

    Within minutes of them submitting, the people on the other side would have got in and wipped out the bank account etc. or changed the password too allow them time to work on the account.
    29th Apr 2020
    Someone makes up a scam and you straight away assume it's the App that's been hacked. Lol

    Scammers when dealing with phone numbers send millions of messages to random computer generate phone numbers, some are real numbers some are not.
    28th Apr 2020
    probably any iphone, maybe andtoid was ignored !
    28th Apr 2020
    Yep loaded with an hour of it going live. I am a health care worker. I need the app to work for me!
    28th Apr 2020
    Well, that was predictable. Amazon often get hacked. One of the reasons I’m not downloading the app.
    29th Apr 2020
    You idiot, nothing to do with the App.

    Scammers send millions of messages to computer generated random phone numbers, some numbers are real and some are not, makes no difference.

    Nothing has been hacked, just normal scammers at work.
    29th Apr 2020
    I was very keen to download the COVIDSafe app and tried to do so very soon after it became available and even though my Samsung phone is not top of the range I expected to be able to do so. However I am unable to download it because it is not available as an app on my phone.
    I have checked every day and despite following the instructions shown in articles about the app it cannot be found on my phone. So much for encouraging everyone to download it
    29th Apr 2020
    They want as many as possible, they are not expecting everyone to do, obviously some people have old phones, some people have Microsoft phones (no App for them) and some people have NO phones. It would be great if everyone who CAN download it do so, the rest miss out, that's life.

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