Issues preventing downloads and registration

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Submission Name: Issues preventing downloads and registration
Status: Submitted, pending confirmation of receipt.
Version: 5416860c24987a6b241515b36b6268c003d03448 on

Select Committee on COVID-19

Terms of Reference

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 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. 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.

Experts available for in-person evidence

Geoffrey Huntley

🙌 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)

Jim Mussared

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.

My Bluetooth research into contact tracing has received world wide praise. I discovered a Bluetooth security vulrunability (CVE-2020-12856) which requires governments to modify their technological approaches and programs of work.

Photo licensed under Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

Richard Nelson

I'm a professional software engineer of 16 years, 8 of which have been in mobile app development and leadership. I have a strong interest in infosec, and my research into the iPhone application background behaviour identified a coding error as a contributing factor preventing COVIDSafe from working effectively. I discovered a denial of service vulnerability (CVE-2020–12717) in COVIDSafe.

Photo licensed under Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

Contact person(s) for this submission

Technical Expert & Coordinator

Name: Geoffrey Huntley

April 30th, 2020 - Australian Financial Review

Over 500 met on Wednesday evening by video, after multiple developers and software engineers had reverse-engineered the code base and inspected it for security, integrity and usability.

Led by Queensland open-source software engineer Geoff Huntley, a group of developers and programmers have collated the findings of about a dozen different efforts to review the code and the usability of the app

Mr Huntley told the meeting the group was ready to share their findings with the government's developers to help debug and improve its usability.

The group met up after Atlassian co-founder Mike Cannon-Brookes called on developers and software engineers to help debug the application.

Mr Huntley detailed the issues the group had identified with the app.


Elderly cannot register because the PIN times out too fast

People cannot register when on WiFi

Only available in the Australian App Store

The iOS version of the app is limited to the Apple Australian App Store only.

This can be verified using with the argument 1509242894 which is the application identifier for COVIDSafe.

Singapore identified this issue and responded by adding UK & US stores (source, Version 1.5 Release notes). Also confirmed by script 1498276074 (1498276057 is id of TraceTogether) Available in United Kingdom, Singapore, United States

DDG search- - suggests also iin sg/gb/us + tw, nl, es, fr, kr, jp

Cannot register if name fails validation

Rural Australians cannot register

Many rural Australians aren't able to register for the app at all.

In order to register for COVIDSafe, users need to be sent an SMS verification. This two-factor authentication (2FA) is for security purposes and in general is a good feature of the app.

But this becomes problematic if you live in an area with patchy or no mobile service. And this is the issue that many rural Australians are now facing. If you can't get the SMS, you can't use COVIDSafe.

For rural Aussies – or even just those who live in a mobile black spot – who are on plans with Vodafone and Optus, excluding prepaid, this isn't a problem. With these providers, they're able to still receive the verification text because these telcos offer SMS Over WiFi.

Unfortunately, users who are with Telstra or some Mobile virtual Network Operator (MVNO) resellers don't have the SMS over WiFi option.

Over the past week we have been hearing about issues that some rural Australians are having installing the COVIDSafe app. This is because Telstra, unlike Vodafone and Optus, didn't have SMS over WiFi, which prevented 2FA texts from being received by people who don't have mobile phone reception. Importantly, is an issue that also impacts other 2FA SMS as well as emergency texts. During our investigation into this Telstra started quietly rolling the feature out.

We knew Telstra was going to be looking at finally rolling out SMS Over WiFi, but the telco was unable to provide Gizmodo Australia a clear timeline. It appears the decision may have been tied to COVID-19 and the need for the COVIDSafe app in rural communities. Comments received from both Telstra and the Federal Minister for Communications Paul Fletcher to Gizmodo last week indicated that the telco was working on a solution to 2FA for the COVIDSafe app specifically.

"Telstra customers in areas that do not have mobile coverage are unable to send or receive SMS over WiFi. We have been working to introduce this capability into the network and will now accelerate the work required. We are also working closely with the DTA on alternative methods for the COVIDSafe app to send an authentication code," a Telstra spokesperson said in an email to Gizmodo Australia.

"SMS over WiFi updates for customers’ smartphones have gone live overnight and will roll out progressively over the next seven days. Some Telstra customers will already see the functionality available on their devices." said a Telstra spokesperson in an email tp Gizmodo Australia.

Norfolk Island residents cannot register

Norfolk Island is an external territory of Australia but uses a different country code, +672 instead of +61. This means Norfolk Island numbers cannot be used to register for COVIDSafe.

People who are roaming with an international SIM cannot register

COVIDSafe requires an Australia mobile number beginning with +61 to register, meaning foreigners in Australia need a local sim card. People who are roaming with an international SIM and are located within Australia cannot register for COVIDSafe.

Appendix - Timeline

Day Date Notes
0 26/04/2020 COVIDSafe app launched
1 27/04/2020 First long-term tracking issues reported to, ASD, Maddocks (author of the PIA). First reports of the app interacting poorly with other Bluetooth devices (e.g. Continuous Glucose Monitors).
2 28/04/2020 First four issues described in a single document that was distributed widely to the relevant teams (both through official and unofficial channels).
4 30/04/2020 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.
8 04/05/2020 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. publishes a high-level summary of the known issues at this stage.
9 05/05/2020 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
10 06/05/2020 DTA CEO questioned by the Select Senate Committee on COVID-19. Topics include the iPhone background behavior and engagement with the tech community. Richard Nelson discovered the remote iPhone crash, reported to DTA.
12 8/05/2020 Source code of v1.0.16 (Android) and v1.1 (iPhone) released, confirming that there are no differences in the Bluetooth implementation to the upstream Singapore codebase.
13 9/05/2020 Same issues discovered in the ABTraceTogether app used by Alberta, Canada. Emailed, and Skype meeting arranged within 24 hours.
17 13/05/2020 DTA confirms that there will be a release tomorrow to fix the iPhone crash but it will fix none of the outstanding privacy issues.
18 14/05/2020 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)
19 15/05/2020 Source code of v1.0.17 (Android) and v1.2 (iPhone) released.
20 16/05/2020 Source code of Alberta, Canada’s ABTraceTogether released. None of the issues raised on 09/05/2020 have been fixed.
21 17/05/2020 v1.3 (iPhone) released.
22 18/05/2020 Source code of v1.3 (iPhone) released. iPhone crash fixed in Singapore OpenTrace.
23 19/05/2020 Full details of CVE-2020-12586 shared with the Singapore & Alberta teams (and other affected countries).
26 22/05/2020 iPhone TempID expiry issue raised with DTA (and Singapore & Alberta).
29 25/05/2020 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”.
30 26/05/2020 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.
32 28/05/2020 Submisisons for the Australian Senate Select Committee on COVID-19 close.

Appendix - Google Android Changelog

Version Date Comments
v1.0.11 2020-04-26 Initial Release. Implementation in serious breach of privacy policy. Contained text that caused public panic - "You have COVID19"
v1.0.15 2020-05-04 Brand new coat of paint and did not resolve privacy breach. Accidentally added 20 second pause to the launch screen.
v1.0.16 2020-05-04 Removed 20 second pause from the launch screen.
v1.0.17 2020-05-14 Partially resolves privacy breaches.
v1.0.18 2020-05-27 Source code released but application not available for download from the app store. Analysis pending.

Appendix - Apple iPhone Changelog

Version Date Comments
v1.0 2020-04-26 Initial Release.
v1.1 2020-05-05 Debug view removed, updated design and removed com.googleusercontent URLScheme.
v1.2 2020-05-14 Largely fixed background behaviour. Implemented the fix for CVE-2020-12717.
v1.3 2020-05-14 Removed daily notifications to remind users to keep app in foreground.
v1.4 2020-05-26 Application released, source code was partially published but unable to compile as files are missing. Analysis pending.