Until a proper vaccine is developed, governments are looking to make contact tracing apps the new norm in many countries. However, not all of them seek to strike a balance between safety and user privacy.

For example, we already knew that China isn’t the best when it comes to human rights. And it’s only getting worse, despite the apps having a noticeable effect on containing the outbreak.

On the other hand, there are places where contact tracing apps (even if not mandatory) are great at keeping that balance. Let’s see what countries are doing better than others – maybe other governments can learn a thing or two from their example.

How Contact Tracing Apps Are Rated

Before anything else, a few notes on how these apps’ privacy levels were evaluated:

  • Two points for using Bluetooth (a minimally-invasive technology) versus GPS or other location tracking methods (which scores a 0).
  • Another two points if the app does not collect any personal data. Only one point is awarded for apps that collect minimal data such as device UUIDs. According to ProPrivacy, the most secure apps only use “anonymized, randomly generated, rotating identifiers” to check whether you’ve come into contact with a possibly infected user.
  • If access to this data is restricted to the user (meaning that no government bodies or health organizations can access it), the app gets another two points. One point is awarded if the data can be access by health authorities, but only with user consent.
  • Similarly, if the anonymized data never leaves the user’s device, the app scores two more points. This is in contrast to apps which send the data to centralized servers without user consent.
  • The privacy framework that went into the app development plays an important role as well. Obviously, those that focus on user privacy get two points. The PEPP-PT framework only gets one point due to the controversies surrounding it.

Anything that goes against these characteristics scores no privacy points. Keep this in mind while we take a look at which countries’ contact score the highest.

Switzerland

To start off, here’s the undisputed leader when it comes to keeping their citizens’ medical data private. Switzerland’s “Next Step” landed a privacy score of 10 on ProPrivacy’s list of contact track apps from all around the world, and for good reason.

The app uses Bluetooth, meaning users’ location is never tracked. Moreover, it collects no personal data other than the anonymized device identifiers we mentioned. This data never leaves the user’s device – which is no surprise when you consider that the app is built on the decentralized DP-3T framework.

There’s a second Swiss contact tracing app called “We Trace” that only scored an 8, due to the fact that it’s not built on a privacy-preserving framework. Luckily, the only data they collect is an anonymized, random ID that is changed every day.

Germany

Following at a close second, Germany’s “Ito” app reinforces their users’ right to privacy with the motto: track infections, not people. Like “Next Step”, the app uses Bluetooth to report whether you’ve come recently into contact with an infected person.

Similarly, it only uses a “pseudonymized ID” to track users while keeping their identity a secret. However, the app only scores a 9 on the privacy scale, due to the fact that the health department can access these identifiers. Still, it’s obviously a step or two above apps that collect personal data – completely unnecessary in alerting people of a possible infection.

How Do US Contact Tracing Apps Compare?

Not bad, actually. ProPrivacy have rated two good US-based apps called “Covid Watch” and “Novid”, and they both scored an 8. Although the apps aren’t specifically ranked by ProPrivacy, this puts them both in third place, along with Switzerland’s “We Trace.”

Why only an 8? While they do mostly everything right, the anonymized data may be sent to centralized servers where public health officials and researchers can take a look. This is all with express user consent, however, so they’re otherwise pretty safe to use.

On the other end of the spectrum, we have “Private Kit: Safe Paths” with the low score of 2. Aside from Bluetooth, the app features location logging every five minutes. They mention that this location information does not leave your phone, but the logging still loses them points.

Moreover, the app isn’t built with a specific privacy framework in mind. Instead of keeping the data decentralized, users have the option of sending their location data to centralized servers – where it can be perused by local health officials.

Honorable Mentions

Australia, Austria, Ireland, Italy and Latvia all have their respective Bluetooth-based contact tracing apps. However, ProPrivacy has rated them with a 7 for the fact that they collect sensitive data such as contact details, name, age range, province of residence, and others.

What You Can Do Right Now

Contact track apps have shown promising results. They have helped countries such as South Korea, Singapore, Norway, Austria and Iceland lift restrictions and returned some semblance of normalcy in peoples’ lives.

Still, the US isn’t doing well, and that’s putting it lightly. However, you shouldn’t have to suffer the added stress of COVID-19. Whether it’s health concerns or the sense of isolation that’s giving you trouble, here’s how to manage your anxiety during the pandemic.

Hopefully, apps like “Covid Watch” and “Novid” can help Florida and the rest of the country through this crisis. Of course, this means communities need to do their part as well:

  • Following social distancing guidelines
  • Maintaining good hygiene practices
  • Not taking any unnecessary risks for short term gratification

After we’ve worked on keeping the people safe from harm, we can focus on rebuilding the Florida economy. The pandemic certainly did a number on it, considering our heavy reliance on tourism. The fact that governor DeSantis didn’t take the necessary precautions to mitigate the crisis hasn’t been a huge help either.

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Antivirus Software Can Make Your Computer More Vulnerable

The core purpose of an antivirus software is to protect your device and the data from malicious programs such as viruses and malware. Using a computer or a smartphone without an antivirus program is considered a crime. Users feel protected and safe.

The beginning of the post-antivirus age

Recently, a team of internet security experts has warned that the antivirus programs are not doing a great job in protecting the data of the users. In fact, in most of the cases, an antivirus program can make your device and data more vulnerable.

The Project Zero team at Google found some major issues in the Symantec and the Norton antivirus programs. The CERT has already issued a warning to the users, and the antivirus companies have been informed of these vulnerabilities but the damage has been done.

No Antivirus Security

Is it safe to use antivirus software?

The question that the users are asking if it is safe to use malware programs?

Apparently, having an antivirus program installed on your machine feels good and protected. This is a general perception but some of the experts don’t use any antivirus software.

Mannan, a professor in Concordia University doesn’t use any antivirus. He hasn’t used any for ages because he doesn’t see any value in them.
The CEO of KnowBe4 is of the view that antiviruses are useless and don’t help in protecting the data anymore.

The best thing you can do is stop using antivirus software. This is what the security experts are doing and this is what they call ‘the post-antivirus age’. Having an antivirus installed on your machine that doesn’t do anything is of no use. Not just that antivirus programs don’t have the capacity to detect and remove viruses but they create loopholes and make your machine insecure.

How to protect your data and device

In today’s post-antivirus age, the best way to protect your machines and data from security breaches is to take precautionary measures. Here is what you should do.

1. Refrain from downloading files and attachments from unknown persons. This is the most common and the primary source of infecting your machine with a virus.
2. Update the operating system regularly. Keep it updated. You should be the first to install the updates from the operating system as these updates keep the machine current and protected.
3. Do not use external storage devices from unknown people. The best practice is to refrain from attaching any storage device with your primary work machine. Ask people to share files via cloud or email as this is a safer route.
4. Do not connect with public Wi-Fi and networks. It is an awesome feeling when your device catches an open network but let this feeling not dominate your senses.
5. Backup your data regularly. This includes everything ranging from photos to videos to important files. Either use cloud storage or an external storage device for the backup.

The best you can do to protect your computer, smartphone and other devices from viruses is to refrain from using antivirus software. This is what the experts do and recommend.

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