nhs contact tracing app

NHS Contact Tracing App – What is it and How can it be Best of Help in COVID-19 Tracing

Hello friends, We all know that COVID-19 has become viral and spreading at a rapid rate. Are you trying to protect your family and friends from COVID-19 infected people? Do you need to track the people having COVID-19 symptoms nearby you?

You can track them by using the NHS Contact Tracing App. This helps you to find out whether the person is infected by COVID-19 or not and maintain social distance from each other. This app is developed by the UK government and is available only in the UK region.

What Is the NHS Contact Tracing App?

Today the world is transforming everything to digital, the way of understanding and technology is advanced, but the contact tracing remained the same, which will be a long term process. The NHS contact tracing app has provided a simple solution with advanced techniques.

The NHS Contact Tracing app is designed to let you know whether any person infected by or having symptoms of COVID-19 virus is nearby you or later reports positive. The main purpose of this app is to track people with symptoms and alert them of the need to self- quarantine along with the people who have been in close contact with the infected person. Users can download this app on their mobile and record the details of their symptoms in case if they are feeling sick.

This COVID-19 tracing app is used to keep track of others who have been in close contact with the infected people for the past 28 days, which helps you to maintain social distance. This app works by using the Bluetooth signals that transmit an anonymous ID. When two users come in close contact it generates an ID with the help of a Bluetooth signal and keeps the data anonymous.

How The NHS Contact Tracing App Works?

NHS covid-19 Contact tracing app working

  • Users can download the NHS contact tracing app from Google or Apple play store for android, or IOS phones respectively and users have to enable the Bluetooth feature on their mobiles. Get the NHS Contact Tracing App.
  • When the users register in this app they are requested to enter the first half of their postal code(LS1 or SW1A, for example). This is how the Coronavirus tracing app could store data to see how the people located in the hotspots of infection areas are breaking out. No more details are requested after this from the users until they report some symptoms.
  • NHS Contact Tracing app will be running in the background and alert the users when it senses another phone with the app coming into range and generate a random number(128 bit GUID) to be anonymous. Then it will use the Bluetooth to sense how far the infected person is for every 15 secs. If two persons come in close contact with each other then the app will log for the next 28 days.
  • If the user has any symptoms of fever, dry cough, shortness of breath, headache, sore throat they report these in the COVID-19 tracing app. They will be asked some questions related to their health conditions.
  • The answers submitted by the users will be analyzed by Artificial  Intelligence. If the AI decides the symptoms meet the doorstep of COVID-19, it sends the notification to the user and the person should self-quarantine for 14-15 days.
  • If the person symptoms suspected to be COVID-19 then they will arrange NHS Viral Swab Test. This will be arranged in the Coronavirus tracing app by the time it rolls out.
  • If the test results are positive, it will alert the person and other persons who have been in contact with the infected person to remain in self-quarantine. The Contact tracing team will follow up on the infected person and others who might have been infected. If the test comes back negative, it will alert the users that they stop self-isolating.

In Brief :

The 5 simple steps for ease understanding how the NHS contact tracing app works-

  1. To use the NHS Contact Tracing app, turn the Bluetooth on.
  2. When two people come in close contact with each other, it exchanges a key that is used to identify the unique phone. Each person keeps this key in their mobile.
  3. If a person is diagnosed to have a positive result, then the test result should be entered in the app.
  4. Then it will ask the user to upload the keys of the past 14 days into the cloud.
  5. Besides, the people who met the person who is tested to be positive will download the keys for their region. If the phone detects the match between the keys then he/she will be alerted.

What information does the app take from the users?

The NHS Contact Tracing app does not collect the user’s personal information like the user’s name and so on. This additional information is required only when the user reports his symptoms. The location of the user is not collected as GPS technology is not used.

They collect information like which mobile version(for example Oppo A9) they are using, their Bluetooth usage, and also the unique IDs that are generated when it interacts with other phones. How strong the signal is between the devices and the distance between them. It tries to take fewer user details as much as possible.

The app will keep the users anonymous and makes sure that the user’s data collected from them remains with  NHS Care Management and Research. Even if the user deletes the app the data will not be compromised and it will apt the Data Protection Act.

Whatever the changes made in the NHS Contact Tracing app will be transparent for the users and keep them updated. The back end of the app has been built in a more secure fashion so that it holds only anonymous data and communicates to other NHS systems via privacy-preserving gateways.

Hence there is less chance of data leakage. This app does not allow the police department to avail the data of users.

How Can It Help People And The Government In Corona Virus Tracing?

NHS covid-19 Contact tracing app how

The person who is infected by the virus will report their symptoms in the app which will, in turn, warn by sending the alert message to all those people who have been in close contact with him anonymously and take preventive measures to stop the spread of the virus.

This encourages them to self-quarantine before they are infected. It will be one of the safest ways to stop the spread of COVID-19. Instead of employing additional staff in the call centers and gathering information from the people, this one can be proved to be the simplest and smartest way.

The NHS Contact Tracing app gives so much information to the general public to get updated with the Coronavirus status and statistics. This app can have a record of people infected with the virus and also the list of the number of people having the symptoms of the virus.

It usually takes a long time for us to analyze the symptoms and confirm COVID-19. This can be easily done with the help of the NHS Contact tracking app. It helps the public to be aware of affected people, sick people, and maintain social distance from each other. This prevents the spread of coronavirus from person to person.

The traditional health contact tracing methods do not cope up with the speed of virus spread and take control measures. Using the app is completely safe and does not compromise with user data privacy and confidentiality.

For instance, it does not use mobile data but only the Bluetooth signals to track the nearby users. Also, the outside people cannot make any changes to the code so it is secured. Neither using the app is a tough job. The users just have to download the official NHS Contact Tracing app to use it and input the test results.

How Can It Help In Lifting LockDown Measures?

The government has been trying to find out easy ways to keep the public safe and maintain social distancing. This COVID-19 tracing app has been helpful for updating people and keep them self isolated. The COVID-19 contact tracing app could be the key to ease the lockdown restrictions. If there is a huge expansion in testing, it could make it possible to start lifting the social distancing.

This NHS Contact Tracing app will help to prevent the spread of coronavirus by sending alert messages for the people to take respective measures and be in self-quarantine to maintain social distance.

If this has been implemented and followed by the people effectively then the spread of coronavirus can be controlled. In case if the number of cases tested to positive, decreases then it helps in lifting lockdown measures.

Security Flaws In This App

NHS covid-19 Contact tracing app security

Though the NHS Contact Tracing App has been helpful to the common public, there are some security flaws found that is due to using a centralized approach that pools user data in a centralized server to a decentralized approach.

The developers of the app found that the data stored in the user’s mobile phone could be easily accessed by law enforcement, though the government assured that they will use this information only for COVID-19 responses.

By generating a random ID once a day, the risk of exposure to the individual is increased. This may lead to some serious real-world consequences.

Pros

This NHS contact tracing app has been very helpful for people to monitor themselves and stay safe at home. It would be easy to track the infected people and take preventive measures in order to stop the spread. This app uses better technologies to support almost all devices and the user can download it whenever he required.

It does not collect user personal data, not even the name of the user. As this app uses only the Bluetooth, it is less prone to vulnerabilities. As it uses less power of Bluetooth, there is no issue of battery drain.

The data once stored cannot be deleted. According to the NHS, this information may be used for the research purposes that are related to public health concerns but the data will be secured among the NHS services.

Cons

The main drawback of this NHS contact tracing app is that it will be effective only when most of the people install this app, as this is a voluntary app the count will be less. The user has to be genuine and fill the details with appropriate data without false information. There might be a chance of misguidance.

There is a lot of contradictions on using centralized models and the loss of data. The Bluetooth device must be always enabled else the app may not work. In case if Bluetooth is continuously switched on then there is a possibility for unknown users to enter the device and steal the confidential data stored on the phone.

There are some vulnerabilities through which an unauthorized user can enter into your phone. The weakness in the registration process may allow the attackers to steal the encrypted keys.

This thing will block the notifications if a person tests positive for COVID-19 and generates spoof transmission to create fraudulent contact events. There has been a problem for UK citizens. But wait, what if they need to travel to other countries with decentralized systems?

Is This App Helpful?

NHS covid-19 Contact tracing app is it helpful

Though this NHS contact tracing app does not include much security to prevent the external attacks, they made the implementation and availability of source code transparent. They provide the public with more appropriate information and also reduce the risk of data sharing.

The NHS contact tracing app is limited to the regional area. It will be much helpful if a large number of users have registered as it is a voluntary app. This app gives good results only if 60 percent of people use it.

This app supports most of the versions in all devices. It will not result in battery draining and affect the working of other apps running on the phone. It provides insights to the health professionals to control the virus.

Conclusion

The NHS contact tracing app has been more user friendly. The security risks and the vulnerabilities in the app have been identified and overcome the threats in the coming versions. This app has been much helpful for the people to remain self-isolated and maintain social distance. NHS contact tracing app helps the country to keep people safe and secure from the spread of COVID-19.

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Jaahnavi
Hi, I'm Jaahnavi. I work on Cyber-Security projects and in my free time, I do blogging. Currently pursuing MCA from Sastra University