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Public worried about privacy violations from COVID-19 tracing app

People in the UK are wary of downloading the NHSX COVID-19 contact-tracing app, new research reveals.

A nationwide survey carried out by Censuswide for cybersecurity company Anomali revealed that nearly half (48%) of the UK public do not trust the UK government to keep their information safe from hackers.

Another 43% of respondents were concerned that the app would give cyber criminals the opportunity to send ‘smishing’ text messages or phishing emails. Only half (52%) felt they were savvy enough to differentiate between a legitimate email or text message and a phishing/smishing message.

Respondents also expressed concern that the app might allow the government to track their whereabouts (33%) or collect data on them (36%).

The app is currently being trialled in the Isle of Wight ahead of a proposed national launch.

“At this stage, nobody knows where to get the NHSX app from, so it can be reasonably expected that consumers will be faced with floods of emails with bogus links to convincing looking domains to download the app from,” Jamie Stone, head of EMEA at Anomali, pointed out.

Stone also warned of an increase in people being targeted by mobile phone communications, with the small screen size meaning that recipients may be less able to check the veracity of the link and more likely to click it.

With thousands of domain registries for COVID-19 over the past few months, Anomali urged the public to be extra vigilant when it comes to what they download or click.

“It’s tough to predict the increase in the volume of attacks we’ll see. However, we’re already seeing thousands of rogue and spoof COVID-19 domains being registered and used in attacks,” Stone explained. “Global interest around the virus, and each nation’s track-and-trace apps, means that attackers will likely use many of these domains to host phishing attacks via both email and SMS. People using COVID tracking apps need to be extremely vigilant and aware, ensuring that they’ve installed official government apps and that they are interacting with authentic messages from the agencies.”

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