On 8 April 2020 the Senate established the Select Committee on COVID-19 and referred the following matters to it for inquiry and report on or before 30 June 2022:
the Australian Government's response to the COVID-19 pandemic; and
any related matters.
To members of the Senate Select Committee on COVID-19. Thank you for the opportunity to participate in this Senate inquiry. Below you will find a submission related to the COVIDSafe application. We are doing seperate submissions on a per-topic basis to optimize for your reading experience.
Members from the https://covidsafe.watch/ community are available to give in-person evidence to future public (or private) hearings by video conference.
We would appreciate a confirmation of the receipt of this submission and welcomes any feedback you may have.
https://covidsafe.watch/ is an online community backed by a team of security researchers, open-source software engineers, community managers and privacy specialists that support the concept of technology based contact tracing.
We want to see lives saved through the use of this unprecedented technology.
It is crucial to us that privacy and security issues are addressed promptly and communicated in an inclusive and open manner.
We believe transparency is essential to achieve both of these goals without compromising either. Compromising privacy risks people’s lives by undermining public trust in the systems built to protect them.
This can only be achieved by direct collaboration with engineers using transparent open source platforms as done by the UK National Health Service.
It's here! The source code for the COVID-19 BETA Apps.
🙌 I'm Geoff, the probono open-source software engineer leading the independent analysis of covidsafe via studying the source code. Software that I maintain is inside Microsoft Visual Studio, GitHub, Atlassian Sourcetree, Amazon Drive, Halo, Slack, is heavily used by the financial services industry and has been installed by other software developers over 21 million times.
Photo licensed under Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)
I'm a hybrid hardware and software developer, with current professional experience with open-source development and designing/developing BLE-based products for George Robotics. Formerly worked in programming/electronics education at Grok Learning, and before that at Google Australia as a tech lead in the SRE team as well as some time working with the Android team.
Hey @DTA, @VTeagueAus noted in intitial app analysis that tempIDs in iOS COVIDSafe were not rotating properly. It's still not fixed (do you care about privacy?), so here's a script which fixes it, and brings the rotation time down to a recommended 15m:https://t.co/9OxAXBJctA
Huntley has called upon those responsible for the app to implement formal customer service and developer community engagement tools, as he feels the app is a worthy weapon in Australia’s coronavirus response. However he has withdrawn his personal support for the app until the privacy issues he has identified are addressed.
Huntley also labelled the lack of a bug bounty program for the app “unusual” and said only personal relationships with government staff afforded him a channel through which to report his findings – after mailing government agencies' public email addresses with details of bugs and not receiving replies for a week.
Australia’s app uses some of Singapore’s open source contact-tracing code. Huntley said he found flaws in Singapore’s code, reported it to developers there and saw changes made on the same day. He said he’s since informed Australian authorities of the same problem and seen it left in place in an app update that he said has changed nothing of substance. His research and opinions are detailed in this Tweet and subsequent thread.
Engagement on reported issues to coordinate disclosure
In private I tried numerous times contacting the DTA, the minister of Services Australia and the media/privacy departments and the Australian Signals Directorate to pickup the phone.
We have shared comprehensive details of several issues, ranging from privacy to app reliability that are worth attention. It's been impossible to establish any meaningful response with the gov. Here's a timestamp from an unreleased privacy, security and data quality report. pic.twitter.com/Oh6pSozUYK
There has been no public acknowledgement of issues raised, nor has there been any communication around interim mitigations or workarounds.
26 minutes after this was posted, I received the first email from the DTA since 08/05/2020 (other than a brief SMS on 14/05/2020 described in the doc). Good news, there's an update coming. No idea what's in the update yet, but we'll see!
In the case of the two long-term tracking issues that were fixed, neither recommended fixes were implemented. The recommendation was to remove the unnecessary features altogether to avoid any further risks, and also to add comments to prevent future regressions. Instead, workarounds were added to the existing fragile code.
It is worth noting how much better the response from the DTA was to the iPhone crash, compared to the privacy issues. As is to be expected, a crashing app is far easier for the public to understand than an invisible privacy leak. This difference was not just in terms of time-to-fix, but also in the engagement from the DTA.
Going to throw this out here again. Dear DTA. We want to help you. We have been saying this from day 0. Those findings that we privately disclosed may soon be public by people not part of our community. In the "pending-disclosure_ room there's a semi consenus to wait 1 sprint /1 pic.twitter.com/ZmJGwZFdi5
As a result of @RNBreakfast's broadcast and @isobelroe's help the DTA finally picked up the phone and called us. We have a mobile phone number, email address and name of a public servant that we can speak directly with if we need to escalate (eg security research that's wormable)
"But one of the things we've found in there will require every country that has used the Bluetooth implementation from Singapore to update their privacy policies and release new versions of the application." pic.twitter.com/H2YY65u0pd
Again. Some of these problems are quite serious from a privacy perspective. If your countries government used the Singapore code in their contact tracing apps then you will need to bring it to their attention. We won't be doing it. We are all volunteers here giving up $$$ to help pic.twitter.com/WOw2XiPPDr
Here's a demonstration of Issue #4 in action. The notification is injected into the app, but the data is not. Both the Z2 and this device are on the latest versions of COVIDSafe. pic.twitter.com/17nszAoHNr
First long-term tracking issues reported to email@example.com, ASD, Maddocks (author of the PIA). First reports of the app interacting poorly with other Bluetooth devices (e.g. Continuous Glucose Monitors).
First four issues described in a single document that was distributed widely to the relevant teams (both through official and unofficial channels).
First contact with Singapore OpenTrace team. TempID caching issue fixed same-day. The Singapore team confirms that iPhones in the background are “not expected to work”. ASD confirmed that they will “follow this up”. No further contact. The Cybersecurity CRC confirmed that they have forwarded this doc but are extremely dismissive of the findings. No further contact. Maddocks replied and promised to forward the doc. No further contact.
First contact with DTA. v1.0.15 & v1.0.16 (Android) released containing only updates to graphics and animations and some minor text changes. The only issue fixed is the confusing wording raised by Geoff. risky.biz publishes a high-level summary of the known issues at this stage.
v1.1 (iPhone) released. DTA confirms that they were first aware of the issues on 30/04/2020, but our contact still had not read the document. Full details of CVE-2020-12586 shared with the ASD/ACSC and DTA
Same issues discovered in the ABTraceTogether app used by Alberta, Canada. Emailed, and Skype meeting arranged within 24 hours.
DTA confirms that there will be a release tomorrow to fix the iPhone crash but it will fix none of the outstanding privacy issues.
v1.0.17 (Android) and v1.2 (iPhone) released. Contrary to advice from the day before, fixes the first two privacy issues (along with the remote iPhone crash). DTA asked (via SMS to Jim Mussared) for availability to discuss fixes for CVE-2020-12586 in the next couple of days. Jim offered that they can call any time, but then they never followed through on arranging a time. No further contact received from the DTA, all follow-up emails ignored. (Edit: update after this doc was published, see below)
The The COVIDSafe App - 4 week update document was released publicly. 26 minutes later, update from the DTA with a planned release date for “the remaining Bluetooth issues”.
v1.4 (iPhone) released and available to download, source code partially available same day but unable to compile as source code is missing. v1.0.18 (Android) source code released but Android application but not available to download from the app store.
Submisisons for the Australian Senate Select Committee on COVID-19 close.
Appendix - Google Android Changelog
Brand new coat of paint and did not resolve privacy breach. Accidentally added 20 second pause to the launch screen.
Removed 20 second pause from the launch screen.
Partially resolves privacy breaches.
Source code released but application not available for download from the app store. Analysis pending.
Appendix - Apple iPhone Changelog
Debug view removed, updated design and removed com.googleusercontent URLScheme.
Largely fixed background behaviour. Implemented the fix for CVE-2020-12717.
Removed daily notifications to remind users to keep app in foreground.
Application released, source code was partially published but unable to compile as files are missing. Analysis pending.