COVIDCertNI app suspended after data leak

  • A data breach in the new Northern Ireland Covid vaccine passport scheme has resulted in some users being sent other applicants’ personal information.

    Sinn Fein's health spokesperson, Colm Gildernew said he will be raising the "concerning" issue around the recently launched COVIDCert NI app and service at the recalled health committee on Thursday.

    “Significant personal information could have been exposed and it was right for the Department to advise the Information Commissioner’s Office," he said. 

    "The Department must also ensure that those impacted are made aware of the breach and actions being taken to address this issue."

    Officials said the Northern Ireland Covid-19 Certification Service has experienced a technical difficulty and availability will be temporarily interrupted, causing concern for holidaymakers.

    The app only went live less than a week ago on Friday night. The announcement of its launch followed a Department of Health statement earlier in the week to say that the interim certification system that allows vaccinated people in Northern Ireland to travel abroad was under "extreme pressure".

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    Some people applying for a certificate had also had trouble obtaining a certificate online, via post and by telephone.

    The Department of Health said it is aware that a limited number of users may be presented with data relating to other people and stated immediate action has also been taken to temporarily remove a part of the service that manages identity, while the Information Commissioner’s Office has been contacted.

    The Alliance Party’s health spokesperson Paula Bradshaw expressed worry that this news would "create further public concern about this app, which is already long overdue.

    "The public are due a full explanation of how this has happened, and how they can be certain that those using the app to demonstrate vaccine certification for whatever purpose next month will know that their details are secure," she added.

    Former health minister and DUP MLA Jim Wells said he’d advise people to think “long and hard” before booking a holiday as the situation could “get very complicated over the next few weeks”.

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    “There are bound to be problems with the demand and the quick turn around in setting it up. Other countries may decide to impose more strict controls in response to new variants emerging,” he commented.

    The Department of Health said while not all applications will be affected, those undergoing identity validation can continue, but will need to pause once successfully validated. Some users may find they cannot login through their NI Direct account.

    Breaking down who is affected the department exlained:

    • Applicants (currently up to and including July 31) who already have their certificate will not be impacted by this – their apps or paper copies are still operational.
    • Applicants (to July 31) who have lodged an application using the online portal for a downloadable PDF who have not yet received it will not be impacted by this – their PDF will be delivered.
    • Applicants (to July 31) who have lodged an application using the COVIDCert NI app for an electronic certificate who have not yet received it will not be impacted by this – they will be sent a PDF as an interim step.
    • Applicants (to July 31) who have lodged an application for an electronic certificate who receive a PDF copy instead will be able to log-in and download an electronic version after the issue is fixed.
    • Applicants who are currently undergoing identity validation in the NIDirect workflow can continue. Once successfully validated they will need to pause while we fix the above issue.
    • Some users may find they cannot login through their NIDirect account, as they have been locked due to the technical issue.

    A spokesperson for the Department of Health said: “The department is endeavouring to resolve the issue and will provide a further update as soon as responsibly possible.”

    About the author

    Niamh is a Sync NI writer with a previous background of working in FinTech and financial crime. She has a special interest in sports and emerging technologies. To connect with Niamh, feel free to send her an email or connect on Twitter.

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