A bug in ‘Immuni’ (the Italian government approved app designed to trace Covid-19 infections) has put the health of several people at risk. In recent weeks, some documented cases have emerged, showing that there is a problem with the software.
This error is an anomaly which affects certain specific devices (especially Android smartphones), which can block or drastically reduce the ‘exposure checks’, therefore preventing the user from receiving notifications of the potential presence of people who have tested positive for the virus.
How Immuni works and why the bug is dangerous
Apps for monitoring the spread of coronavirus can be very efficient solutions and have been adopted by many countries. Each nation has its own version which is in fact based on the same principles: they operate via Bluetooth and depend on proximity.
If a smartphone owner has downloaded the software and activated the tracing function, they can receive notifications when they in proximity of infected individuals (as long as those people have the same app and have declared their positivity). This is possible thanks to exposure checks carried out automatically by the app using regular scans.
However, the bug, found in certain models of phone and Android operating system versions, blocks or limits these functions, effectively leaving the owner vulnerable to infection. It is a sporadic service failure and is difficult to spot, as it is mainly due to the huge variety of hardware used in the many types of smartphone available.
How to find out if your smartphone is affected by the Immuni bug
As it involves operations carried out autonomously by the app, people often fail to notice the error. The risk factor is very high, as this bug renders the use of tracing software completely ineffective.
Owners of Android phones can easily establish whether their version of Immuni is affected by this issue and if they are at risk of encountering infected people without realising. A check can be carried out using the following procedure:
- Open Android’s internal search engine and type ‘exposure notifications’;
- Select it and open ‘settings’;
- Click on ‘exposure checks’ and verify if there are any days when the scan was not carried out.
If you find several consecutive days showing a lack of automatic checks, you can safely conclude that your device has been affected by the Immuni bug. In order to reduce risks, it is advisable to mentally reconstruct a map of the places you visited during the ‘missing’ days and inform the people you had contact with.
Is there a solution to this problem?
The Italian Department of Innovation, who were tasked with managing the app by the Prime Minister, has declared that the bug has been isolated and identified. A patch fix should become available soon (or is already available) in order to resolve this issue affecting the service. Those who have been affected by the bug can check on Google Pay Store if the update is available.
In comments regarding this dangerous technical problem, the authorities pointed out that this issue has not compromised the overall validity of the Immuni project. This Covid monitoring and containment solution is still very important and forms a key part of the individual citizen’s responsible and common sense approach to the pandemic.
Downloading these apps remains strongly advised, so that everyone can actively contribute to the fight against coronavirus. Contact tracing allows potential clusters to be isolated immediately thereby avoiding a new lockdown in the coming months.
Translated by Joanne Beckwith