Fake vax certificates renew calls for blockchain-based solution in Australia

Experts are demanding the introduction of a blockchain-based vaccine registry in Australia as counterfeit Covid passports proliferate online.

With counterfeit Australian coronavirus vaccination certificates circulating online, local experts are calling for the national rollout of a blockchain-based vaccine passport to ensure the efficacy of the country’s “Covid certificate” system.

A report in The Australian cites fraudsters who claim to have sold more than 200 fake COVID-19 certificates for $120 or more each and received interest from at least 900 other prospective customers. The fraudsters promote their products as being so convincing that “You’ll be the only one to know you’ve not been vaccinated” and claim they can arrange for doctors to enter false vaccination records into the Australian Immunization Registry.

The fraudsters are not without competitors, with another vendor of fraudulent Covid certificates claiming to have partnered with doctors across Australia, Europe, the United States and parts of Asia to provide false vaccination records internationally.

Other sellers claim to offer more cost-effective solutions to bypassing health guidelines, purporting to sell doctored vaccination records for $12.99 each directly from the Apple App Store.

According to Robert Potter of cybersecurity firm, Internet 2.0, Australia must harness blockchain technology to ensure its Covid certificate system is not compromised. He urged both Australian and international authorities to adopt a blockchain-based “non-reproducible signing authority”:

“We can come up with a foolproof system that only we can use, but we actually need a global system that everyone can use,” he said. “It would be the cryptographic equivalent of a hologram.”

Blockchain is already being used to verify Covid vaccine status worldwide, with initiatives currently exploring the technology in the United States, China, South Korea, and Colombia. Global technology conglomerate, IBM, has already developed a blockchain-powered system integrated with Amadeus — an airline booking system that is used by more than 450 carriers worldwide.

Blockchain Australia deputy chair Karen Cohen believes a blockchain-based Covid certificate could pave the way for the secure sharing of health data worldwide, stating: “This would be a really wonderful test case as a globally secured way of sharing health data.”

Related: The Chinese University of Hong Kong and ConsenSys create COVID-19 digital passport

However, not everyone agrees that a blockchain-based vaccination system is needed in Australia, with Services Australia general manager Hank Jongen asserting that the existing Covid certificate application provided by his organization contains “enhanced anti-fraud features.”

“Any fraudulent creation of a COVID-19 digital certificate does not mean our systems or personal data have been compromised,” Jongen said. “Where there are discrepancies […] Services Australia will contact the provider to ensure accuracy of this information, and correct the record if required.”

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