Can NFTs spell doom for fake Covid-19 passports?
To ensure public safety and encourage as many people as possible to get their vaccines, governments around the world have introduced the so-called ‘Covid-19 passports’. These documents, which are called differently depending on the country, inform the officials requesting them about their holders’ immunization status.
Many countries now require individuals to have these passports so they could get on a plane, avoid self-isolation after traveling abroad, and have access to certain venues.
But some are trying to bypass the rules, even if it means using forgeries.
What does a Covid-19 passport include?
An example of a document that is considered a Covid-19 passport is the Digital COVID Certificate, valid for the territory of the European Union. It represents digital proof that its holder has either recovered from the virus, received a negative test result for its presence, or has received a vaccine against it.
As is the practice with similar documents around the world, the bodies issuing them include hospitals, test centers, or health authorities. Each has its own digital signature key stored in a secure database in each country.
The Digital COVID certificate can be in digital and paper form. Both digital and paper formats of the EU Digital COVID Certificate include a QR code with essential information and a digital signature to make sure they’re authentic. When the officials check the holder’s certificate, they scan the QR code and verify the signature.
Outside the EU, different nations around the world have introduced their versions of Covid-19 passports, such as Israel’s Green Pass, along with their own regulations and eligibility standards.
Weapons, drugs, and forged Covid-19 passports
Sadly, not everyone wants to get their vaccines and abide by the rules.
Some people simply fear or don’t trust the vaccines. Others think the media has overhyped the disease and its effects. Then there are those who believe various conspiracy theories woven around the disease, vaccines, pharmaceutical companies, governments, and the medical community.
Since they aren’t vaccinated and/or can’t want to prove their Covid-19 status, the authorities can’t legally issue them with a Covid-19 passport. This means they face restrictions in terms of travel and access to various places.
To evade these measures, some of these people are willing to resort to some pretty unscrupulous actions, including acquiring and using falsified Covid-19-related documents. This has proved to be the perfect opportunity for fraudsters.
A UK-based cyber investigation firm Intelligent Sanctuary has discovered “passes, certificates, cards, vaccine cards, even down to the choice of what vaccine you wanted recording on the card”. According to the firm’s founder and former senior detective Jonathan Benton, some of them were legitimate documents with false information written in them, while others were entirely forged.
These fake documents have been available for sale on the dark web, alongside drugs, stolen items, and weapons. And it isn’t just the UK’s territory that they’re supposedly available for. Those selling them claim to have forgeries from numerous countries, including the United States, Australia, Latvia, France, Greece, Spain, Morocco, and others.
If these fake documents were to slip under the radar, they would allow individuals to travel freely with a questionable Covid-19 status. At the same time, they would be endangering the health and lives of everyone they encounter. Due to the public health hazard that this presents, falsifying evidence of Covid-19 status is considered a crime in the UK, punishable with a £10,000 fine.
But how is forgery possible in the first place, if all the original documents include a QR code with a digital signature to protect it against falsification?
The answer has concerning implications. The sellers of the forgeries claim to have the assistance of insiders from health authorities who add the relevant information to the database.
Analysis conducted by the BBC and cyber-security company Checkpoint found that the number of Telegram channels offering falsified Covid-19 passes was growing, along with the number of their subscribers. The governments and law enforcement are powerless to stop them, which begs the question:
Is there anything anyone can do at all?
The answer is yes.
NFT technology to the rescue
Thanks to the inherent qualities they provide – immutability, transparency, security, speed, and seamlessness, blockchain technology, and NFTs can revolutionize the way documents, including Covid-19 passports, are created, stored, and managed. In the process, they could effectively put a stop to the above criminal activities and, most importantly, save lives.
Turning each Covid-19 passport (or a similar document) into an NFT would guarantee the authenticity of the provided information, while at the same time reducing the risk of counterfeiting. The record of the owner’s vaccination status is written and verified on the blockchain, providing tamper-proof and portable evidence that can be easily inspected upon request.
Such technology is already being developed by SelfKey. It has built its identity management system on the Ethereum blockchain and uses the cryptographically secure KEY token to deliver a transparent yet private environment. Here, proof of identity and other data, like the Covid-19 immunization status, are securely stored and shared when requested by the relevant authority.
Your KEY to identity in the Metaverse! 🚀🔑
The launch of SelfKey 2.0 commences with a simple design update to the SelfKey website, which underlines the new mission statement of "KEY to the Metaverse." 💥💥💥 pic.twitter.com/KwaFBPw3LB
— SelfKey (@SelfKey) December 14, 2021
The end of falsified Covid-19 passports is in sight
The biggest caveat of blockchain technology is that it makes it virtually impossible to falsify data stored on it and third parties can’t enter or destroy it, ensuring at the same time its privacy and security. This alone makes for a pretty compelling case as regards its use for managing Covid-19 passports.
Turning them into NFTs ensures the integrity of the said data, as these tokens represent an irreplaceable proof of uniqueness and authenticity. As such, this is the sure-fire way to provide immutable and authentic proof of one’s immunization status – one that will spell doom for fake Covid-19 passports.