Lockdown roadmaps threatened by fake vaccine passports

Vaccine passports are about to become part of everyday life in Australia, as we enter a new phase of the pandemic. But a burgeoning market for fake vaccine documents is already emerging and threatens to undo the sacrifices made over the past 18 months.

NSW and Victoria have revealed plans to emerge from lockdown, but the immediate future for residents looks a lot different to the one they left behind.

Access to restaurants, bars, pubs, clubs and just about everything else will be dependent on proof of vaccination. The ‘vaccine passport’, as it’s been dubbed, will provide an electronic record of your vaccination status on your smartphone. A quick scan on entry will confirm you’re jabbed.

When you receive your first and second doses, this information is logged with your Medicare number. The future vaccine passport app will access your Medicare details through the federal government’s myGov app.

Read: What you need to be vaccination passport ready

It sounds simple enough in theory, but the tech behind the system has a history of being less than secure. Just last year, thousands of myGov accounts were breached, while in 2017 the details of any Medicare user were being offered for sale on the dark web.

Now, the Herald Sun reports that the Australian Federal Police (AFP) are already investigating users on the dark web offering to update your Medicare vaccine information – for a price.

The hackers are also active on encrypted messaging apps such as WhatsApp and Telegram, offering “a fake digital Apple wallet passport for $500” and the option to have “personal Medicare details updated on medical records for $1000 for one person, $1800 for two people and $4000 for five people”.

Opening plans for NSW and Victoria are heavily reliant on vaccination rates. If there are thousands of people in the community who register as vaccinated but aren’t, case numbers and hospitalisations could overwhelm the health system.

Read: Most travellers support the use of a vaccine passport

“Police are aware of the illegal sale of COVID-19 vaccination certificates and conduct regular proactive operations on the dark web to disrupt such illicit activities,” NSW Police cybercrime commander detective superintendent Matthew Craft told 9News.

An AFP spokesperson says they are aware of fraudulent vaccine passports and medical record hacking services being offered on the dark web and encrypted messaging apps. They praised recent government surveillance legislation that gives them new investigative powers when it comes to encrypted data.

“The new powers under the Surveillance Legislation Amendment (Identify and Disrupt) Act 2021 … would enable the AFP to more effectively identify and disrupt serious criminals who use the dark web and anonymising technology to facilitate and disguise their criminal activities, including the forgery of COVID-19 documents, and will assist us in keeping the community safe,” the spokesperson says.

Read: Loophole revealed in Australia’s vaccine certificates

But that legislation is not without its own controversy, with many experts arguing it goes too far in allowing the government to ‘spy on us’.

We’re entering a new phase of the pandemic, but it’s also, potentially, a more dangerous one given the freedoms and the cyber criminals seeking to profit from the systems being put in place.

Are you comfortable with using vaccine passports? What do you think the punishment should be for selling fake vaccine passports? Let us know in the comments section below.

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Written by Brad Lockyer



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