Category Archives: Tech Tips

COVIDSafe

COVIDSafe is the name given to an app launched by the Australian Government in order to help with contact tracing. COVIDSafe implements the opensource BlueTrace protocol which uses Bluetooth to exchange ID codes with devices that are within 1.5m of each other for a time period of 15 minutes – Although some testing has shown this distance and time can vary.

Ensure you are downloading the correct version of COVIDSafe either via the AppStore (Apple) or PlayStore (Android).

With the release of COVIDSafe came misinformation about the app tracking your location. Many people jumped on social media to express their concerns regarding location tracking and the information required by COVIDSafe. The irony here being that many people have happily shared their name, phone number, location, and even more personal information with companies such as Facebook, Google, and TikTok, and that your phones location can be tracked at any time by your service provider using network triangulation.


COVIDSafe requires Bluetooth to function. Bluetooth has had known vulnerabilities. These tend to be low risk as the attacker needs to be in close vicinity to be successful in attacking your device, but still dangerous nonetheless.

There is a good chance that you already use Bluetooth to connect to you car, your fitness tracker, or your speakers. Having Bluetooth turned on is a requirement for running the COVIDSafe app, and for most people this is something they are already running so it not introducing any extra risk.

When Bluetooth is enabled you will be broadcasting the name of your device: “John’s iPhone” or “Galaxy S10”. This is mostly a privacy risk as your phone may be broadcasting your name to people nearby. There is also the security risk of broadcasting the model of your phone to a potential attacker, giving him more information needed to compromise your device.

These issue existed before COVIDSafe although have they been more publicised since the apps release. It is simple enough to change your device name by following steps provided by Apple (iOS) and Samsung (Android).


COVIDSafe uses the BlueTrace protocol. BlueTrace is open source software. This means that anyone is able to review the code to ensure that no backdoor have been added by the developers. The COVIDSafe app is also opensource and can be viewed on GitHub.

There were talks of moving to Exposure Notification Framework developed by Apple and Google to improve the reliability of the app. The government decided against this because it is not compatible with the BlueTrace protocol meaning people using the BlueTrace version would not exchange IDs with the users of the Exposure Notification Framework version. To use Exposure Notification Framework, users would be required to update their mobile devices operating system. This mean anyone who cannot update to the latest version of iOS or Android would not be able to use COVIDSafe. At this stage COVIDSafe is staying with the BlueTrace protocol.

COVIDSafe relies on Bluetooth to send and receive ID codes between users. The app needs to be opened regularly to ensure that it works effectively. This is especially important on iOS devices where there are limitations on how Bluetooth is used by apps when an app is left running in the background. It is recommended to open the app before going out in places where you will contact many people. If you’re out for the day check it is still running throughout the day. Once running the phone can be locked as normal.


When you first download the app you are required to enter registration data. This is your name, phone number, age group, and postcode. You are able to give a pseudonym but remember what you have given so if health officials call asking for John Smith, you will know they mean you. Your phone number is required to allow health officials a way to contact you. Your age group and postcode are used for prioritising cases (hot spot areas or elderly age group) and allows the correct health official to call you i.e. NSW Health. More information can be found in the Privacy Policy.

This registration data is uploaded a database stored on Amazon Web Service (AWS) if an attacker was to gain access to the data they would need to decrypt the data before they could gain any information from it. AWS is one of the largest cloud computing platforms and is already used by Government, Banking, and other business that you deal with daily.

COVIDSafe records the following data:

  • Encrypted user ID – ID codes are temporary and are rotated frequently. This stops a malicious actor from tracking your ID by sniffing Bluetooth traffic
  • Date and time of contact
  • Bluetooth signal strength of anyone you come in contact with

A new encrypted user ID is created every 2 hours. This is logged in the national COVIDSafe data store operated by the digital transformation agency. No location data is collected at any time.

This information is also recorded on other users devices and the data is automatically deleted after 21 days.

It is also possible for your to delete your sign up data if you decide to stop using the app. You can do this at the following website: https://covidsafe-form.service.gov.au/


Conclusion

The app isn’t perfect. As outlined in this article published by The Guardian, “The federal government’s COVIDSafe contact tracing app works as few as one in every four times for some devices, documents tabled in the Senate have revealed.”

The devices in question is iPhone, which as outlined earlier, requires the app the be opened regularly for it to work efficiently. For more effective contact tracing COVIDSafe would need to move to the Exposure Notification Framework, which as outlined earlier is not going to happen.

The ABC reported that “the information logged by the app provided no information that was not already collected through traditional contact tracing.”

While this means contact tracing teams are doing an excellent job, it’s possible that with low cases, the app is no more effective than traditional contact tracing. If cases increase, COVIDSafe might be able to automate the process of contact tracing thus lowering the manual workload.


Whether or not you choose to install COVIDSafe, please remember to wash your hands and keep your distance. And if you’re experiencing cold or flu-like symptoms, stay home and speak to your doctor about getting tested

Online Resources to Keep the Kids Entertained

Getting outside and running around is the best way for children to burn off energy and keep fit and healthy. But there are times when it may not be possible to go outside. Current social distancing rules mean that parks are off limits and if you don’t have a large outdoor area, or the weather isn’t great, you may need some other ideas on keeping the kids entertained – and yourself sane!

The internet has vast amounts of information and activities your children can undertake while stuck inside on a rainy day or social distancing. Below are just several ideas to keep your children entertained in a somewhat educational manner.

eBooks – Reading, whether they are being read to or reading themselves, is very important for a child’s education. Apple Books is available for Apple devices and Amazons Kindle can be downloaded on Apple and Android devices. These apps allow you to download books directly to your tablet. Grenfell Public Library also offer a service called BorrowBox from which you can borrow ebooks as you would from the Library. The Library is also offering a ‘click and collect‘ borrowing system for physical books.

Best & Less Retro Colouring in fun – Colouring in is a popular activity among children and is a great way to get some simple ‘arts and crafts’ activities with minimal clean up. Crayola also offer some free colouring pages.

How To Make the Perfect Paper Airplane – Get creative and unleash your child’s inner Aerospace engineer. If Mum or Dad are handy on the tools there are also some plans for building a paper airplane launcher! This activity could be fun indoors or outdoors.

Create Stories, Games, and Animations with Scratch – Screen time often gets bad wrap, but technology is a great tool when it is used to create rather than consume. Scratch is an easy way to introduce your child to the world of programming. Some info for Mum and Dad can be found here.

Zoo Cams – There are plenty of Zoo’s live streaming their animals. You can see live streams from zoos close (ish) to home, such as Taronga Zoo. Or even travel abroad to San Diego Zoo. More Australian live streams can be viewed at at zoos.org.au. Typing ‘zoo live stream’ into Google brings up plenty of results.

Kid-Friendly Cooking – Cooking is a great way to teach children the importance of healthy eating. Having your child help out in the kitchen may even entice them to try those new foods – It was something they cooked after all! And with the measuring, adding up, and weighing of ingredients it counts as a delicious maths lesson. Doesn’t it?

YouTube – We all should get a chance to unwind at the end of the day. YouTube can be a great place to learn new skills with plenty of educational channels on the platform. YouTube kids is a safer version of YouTube that Mum or Dad will need to configure an account for first. If the family are going to unwind together some great channels are NasaTV, AustralianZooTube, and MinutePhysics.

These resources are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the vast amount of information on the internet. The internet has plenty of material that children should not see, but could easily stumble across. The best way to prevent this is to ensure devices are used in common areas such as the living room and don’t leave children unsupervised when browsing the web.

Children may have a harder time adjusting to and understanding social distancing rules currently in place. This can have its toll on the whole family. Beyond Blue have resources on talking about Coronavirus with children. They also have a dedicated portal on Coronavirus for anyone who isn’t feeling 100%.

Take care, and stay safe!

Adding a Password to your Zoom Meeting

Zoom has quickly become the virtual meeting platform of choice for those who need to attend meetings but are currently self-isolating or working from home.

The default settings for Zoom leaves meetings open for anyone to join. This make it a lot simpler for people to join – but it also leaves the chance someone could stumble across your Zoom meeting accidentally. There have been reports of people abusing this for pranks, as well as more sinister activities.

To keep your meetings safe from pranksters, eavesdroppers, or other malicious actors you can set a password. As long as you choose a secure password, you should be able to avoid anyone Zoombombing your meeting.

Setting a Password

First all open up Zoom.

Zoom Main Screen

At the bottom of the main window click on the Meetings button. This will open up the Meetings page and will list all the meetings you have scheduled. It is possible to set a unique password for each individual meeting.

Zoom Meetings Screen

After you have selected a meeting, click on the Edit button to view the settings for that particular meeting.

Personal Meeting ID Settings

In the Password section tick the box labeled Require a meeting password. A password field will then be showed. Type a password in the password field, and click Save.

You will now need to share the meeting link and the password to anyone whom needs to attend the meeting. For extra security try to send the link and password via separate communications. i.e. emailing the meeting link and sending the password via a secure messenger.

Your meetings should now be more protected from prying eyes; whether accidental, curious, or malicious. Now you just need to concentrate of the other mishaps that may occur when working from home. While you’re here feel free to browse our other Tech Tips articles!