A state-backed COVID-19 PCR testing system, known as one of the best in Austria, was discovered to have dazzling security issues after a journalist tricked a cartoon character into issuing a negative test certificate.
Kids around the world can breathe a sigh of relief: Papa Smurf hasn’t got COVID-19. It’s ‘Ales Gurgelt!’ is according to. The rapid test system is used in Vienna, the capital of Austria. The project, which is supported by the Vienna government and provides free home testing, recently issued a COVID-19 certificate to the fictional cartoon character after receiving a negative PCR test result.
NS System, which is operated by Austrian company LEAD Horizon and the Italian Lifebrain laboratory network, allows people to pick up test kits at stores and test themselves at home after registering with a special app. The test can then be submitted to a lab through another retail chain.
Verification involves filming yourself gargling with the test solution and sending the sample bottle to the laboratory. But when Michael Pomer, editor of the Kronen Zeitung decide To test how well the widely acclaimed system performs in its verification processes, the results weren’t particularly convincing.
Registered with Pomer Ales Gurgelt! On Tuesday under his real name, but instead of filming himself gargling, he filmed an image of Papa Smurf and filled the sample bottle with tap water. Apparently, no one saw the video, as Pomer had successfully received a certificate, Kronen Zeitung reported on Sunday, “Critical Security Gap” in the system, called by the Vienna Health Minister Peter Hacker “Unique in the world” praise it as a “Central Ingredient in Vienna’s Fight Against the Epidemic.”
The minister warned that anyone who tries to obtain the certificate – which gives entry to places such as restaurants, clubs and hair salons – could face charges of endangering the public with infectious diseases by tricking the system. – And it may mean up to three years behind bars if intentionally committed, and up to one year for negligence. There may also be a fine of up to €1,450 ($1,660).
However, it appears that the system may struggle to detect criminals in the first place. According to the Kronen Zeitung, 100,000 to 200,000 samples are analyzed every day as part of the program. The validation data is evaluated by a special team through random checks. Between 7,000 and 10,000 actual tests are done every week, which is only a small fraction of the tests.
System operators told the paper that they are currently working on an AI solution that will validate uploaded ID images and identify people in test videos before reporting suspected cases. He also vowed to expand random checks.
As of mid-October, 10 million tests had been analyzed as part of the program. It was also expanded to cover school and kindergarten tests in Vienna.
However, people may soon find fewer ways to circumvent government restrictions, as Austria became the first country to introduce a nationwide lockdown without vaccinations starting Monday.
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