Be careful of fake COVID-19 vaccination certificates

AS COVID-19 vaccination campaigns gain momentum around the world, talks of countries planning to introduce COVID-19 vaccination certificates that vaccinated people have also intensified.

Malaysia, too, is set to issue smart vaccinations support to Malaysians who have been vaccinated, according to Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Adham Baba, who said that the certificate will be issued in a month’s time (April 2021).

He also mentioned that the matter is being discussed with the World Health Organisation (WHO) to ensure that the document is also recognised by other countries.

But while the idea of vaccine certifications certainly sounds appealing, the Government needs to also take into account security aspect of it, especially if the vaccine certificates are in digital format.

This is following warnings by cybersecurity experts that have warned that the current QR codes and documentations are easy to forge.

In Israel, for example, the government’s ‘green pass’ – a certificate for Israelis who have received both doses of the vaccine – has been touted a potential privacy nightmare, partly due to its outdated encryption library that is more vulnerable to security breaches.

According to Ran Bar-Zik, an expert on cybersecurity, the QR code on the Israeli ‘green pass’ has no encryption, and corresponds directly to a string of text, with the holder’s personal information, including name, identification number, and date of vaccination, which is identical to the text that is printed on the pass itself.

“Whoever scans the false pass will see the exact same details as are printed on the pass, and there are already tens of thousands of people forging,” Bar-Zik claimed.

What is more disturbing is the fact that a black market for counterfeit vaccination certificates is already thriving on Telegram, where more than 100,000 users have joined groups that offer the forgeries at a price, according to reports.

Similarly, scammers in Europe are also producing and selling fake negative COVID-19 test certificates in airports, stations and on the internet, according to Europol.

In fact, the bloc’s police cooperation and coordination agency, sums up the situation quite nicely: “As long as travel restrictions remain in place due to the COVID-19 situation, it is highly likely that production and sales of fake test certificates will prevail.”

Suffice to say, while COVID-19 vaccine certificates are necessary to help identify those who have been vaccinated against the coronavirus, necessary security precautions still need to be taken to prevent fraud.

After all, the introduction of the vaccine certificates is the first step towards the return to normalcy, and normal is what we need following the rollercoaster that is 2020. – March 15, 2021

Subscribe and get top news delivered to your Inbox everyday for FREE