Companies have warned that Australian vaccine passports “easily forged”

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Sydney has reopened, but the system that is supposed to keep unvaccinated residents out has a very serious flaw.

As businesses in NSW opened their doors and bravely entered the world of trying to control people’s immunization status on Monday, an expert said it didn’t matter because Australia’s current vaccine passports are “easily falsified”.

Business owners had warned that things could “get ugly” in stores and restaurants, with the onus on them to confirm whether people are vaccinated.

Yet the government of New South Wales’ digital passport to vaccines, VaxPass, is not publicly available, which means that vaccine enforcement comes down to an honor system.

Once made public, it will allow people to simultaneously register at a location and confirm their immunization status, but it is not expected to go live until October 18.

It is currently being tested by around 500 people in Wagga Wagga, Lismore, Tamworth and Port Macquarie.

Although still locked, Victoria’s vaccine passport was launched on Monday, allowing 200,000 people to link their Medicare vaccine certificate to their Service Victoria app.

It gives them the ability to prove their immunization status to companies using the state’s QR code system and is expected to be rolled out once the state reaches 80% of the population on November 5.

But security expert Vanessa Teague, of the Australian National University, said NSW and Victoria vaccine passports and Medicare certificates “don’t prove anything,” making it difficult to “justify their verification when they are. easily manufactured “.

“There aren’t any really significant security features in the versions we’ve seen in Australia, except maybe for international travel,” she told news.com.au.

“Otherwise, they have nothing to verify that the passport or vaccination certificate is genuine. “

According to Dr Teague, the Victorian vaccine passport includes a cute little animation, which could easily be copied even with a simple video screenshot.

“I think if the technology isn’t improved, the important thing that everyone has to understand is that certificates in their current form really can’t be trusted,” she said.

“So if you run a health service or service that really relies on verifying that person’s immunization, you have to understand that the certificate is very easily tampered with.”

She said there was a free and easy solution that could solve the security concerns, which is currently in use across the European Union.

It attaches a digital signature to the passport or vaccination certificate, which is not only difficult to forge, but does not require someone to come back to an authority as this can be verified online, she explained. .

“It’s absolutely free, there is literally open source code on the web for European standards, so it costs next to nothing to download or copy it,” she added.

“There really is no rational reason why this shouldn’t be done. You can ask the Australian Immunization Register or certain state authorities to digitally sign the vaccination certificate and put it on a simple PDF downloaded from Medicare. It works on a QR code or the digital signature can even work on a print.

In further controversy, vaccine passports will be largely useless on December 1 in NSW, as the unvaccinated are given more freedoms, but there is no end date for their use in Victoria.

Melbourne city bar owner Maz Salt was concerned that the vaccination passport system was a permanent feature and made life difficult for hotel owners as staff were already being abused by customers because of face masks .

“What are we going to do when they don’t have a phone with them?” ” he said Age.

“Will we refuse to serve them because they haven’t updated their app?” This is going to affect the staff and the operator in a very serious way. “

“Strong doubts about the effectiveness of an honor system”

Social media received mixed comments on the level of enforcement of the law on Monday by Sydney businesses.

“Can report from Sydney that none of the 1 hospitality business and 1 retail business I have been in today check immunization status (I also don’t think this should be the responsibility of small businesses, but I highly doubt the effectiveness of an honor system), ”wrote one woman.

“I went out to see how things are going now that NSW has been torn apart. No company has verified my vax status, next to no masks inside, no one is checking in, ”another said.

“I enjoyed a free haircut, went to a clothing store and had a drink in a cafe. Some insist on QR records but no one checks the vax status, ”one man tweeted.

A woman said on Facebook that “every store” in her local place has not verified its vaccination status, despite being in “one of the hot spots.” Another said the pharmacy and children’s play area inside the mall did not ask to see her vax status.

But others have said large retailers are enforcing the rules, where only the vaccinated can enjoy new freedoms such as dining out, shopping and going to the gym in NSW until December 1.

“Can confirm Myer and JB Hi-fi are checking vaccine status in Sydney,” one man tweeted.

It has been reported that Kmart stores are also using security guards to check the vaccination status of customers.

“We are not the police”

Many business owners are furious that they have been put in an impossible situation.

Ahead of ‘Freedom Day,’ Jade Pham, who owns a popular nail salon called CJ Artistry in West Sydney, was preparing her staff by simulating role-playing games before the opening.

But she was also preparing for the “worst case scenario” of dealing with verbally or physically abusive clients forcing her to call the police.

Businesses such as Cremorne’s Best Bagel Co. have refused to fully reopen until all customers have the same freedoms.

Speaking to SMH, owner Sarah O’Brien, who is pro-vaccination, said the business will operate on take-out only and spoke out against the obvious difficulties of self-monitoring the vaccination status of every customer and worker who walks through the door. entry.

“I’m quite worried that there might be an explosion in the store of a customer who thinks we haven’t verified someone’s vaccine credentials,” she said. .

“We are not the police. We are cafe owners who have been in our business for three months, with a small team. It will be difficult to enforce this. “

New South Wales Premier Dominic Perrottet told a press conference on Monday that opening would depend on “everyone doing the right thing”.

“I accept that there will be challenges and problems along the way,” he said. “I ask companies: where you can, check that the data is correct.”

As Victorians wait for their own “freedom day,” business owners were also worried.

“As a small business owner at VIC, getting people to register with the QR code is hard enough. I’m so angry that the government is fining Me for not checking someone’s immunization status and putting us at risk after offering NO support during the current lockdown, ”one person said on Twitter.

Read related topics:Sydney


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