Harrisburg, PA (WHTM)- It has been over a month since the Pennsylvania Department of Health launched its COVID-19 alert app. The state claims it does not track a persons location or their personal data. Is that true?
The abc27 Investigators put it to the test with the help of Harrisburg based security consulting firm, INA.
“It was a very secure app,” said John Sancenito, President, INA.
Sancenito’s team downloaded the COVID Alert Pa app onto an apple and android device and carried the phones around for two weeks. The team then brought the devices back to the INA lab to run some tests.
“Both devices were tested in our laboratory and looked at forensically for vulnerabilities,” said Sancenito. “What we found was there was no high-ranking vulnerabilities. The database on the app itself was encrypted through AES-256, which is a military grade encryption standard.”
According to the Pa Department of Health, the COVID Alert PA app uses bluetooth technology to alert users if they have been in close proximity with another app user who later tested positive for COVID–19. The concern is the app may share a person’s geolocation or access personal information on the users phone.
“There was no ability for the app to actually trace people’s physical location,” said Sancenito. “The app did not access any personal data on the phones. It did not access contacts. It did not access any other personal information that was stored on the phones. It actually does work exactly as the government has portrayed it to.”
More than 374,000 people have downloaded the COVID Alert Pa app. According to the Pa Department of Health, on average, more than 33,000 people check-in each day to report their symptoms. There have been 30 exposure alerts sent and of the positive cases reported since the app launched on September 22nd, 204 of them have had the app.
The Deaprtment of Health is encouraging more Pennsylvanians to dowload the app.
“It is the best way to help share information to those you may come in contact with that you do not know, to help protect them,” said a Pa Department of Health spokesperson.
“People have to make a personal decision whether they want to opt in and use the app or not. I can tell you if there are concerns that the government is mining their data from their phones or that the government is going to track them I don’t believe that is a major concern at all with this app,” said Sancenito. “We give social apps access to all kinds of personal data without a thought. Just because this one is issued by the government people have a heightened sense of fear about it.”
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