Here at Consult Hyperion we tend to go on about the lack of a joined up thinking around government policy on digital identity and source authentication but mostly it doesn’t really affect us personally. I mean, we get this stuff, we can spot a scam a mile off. But sometimes it does get a bit close to home…

I discovered today that my frail but still mentally competent parents have been quarantining for the past week, and a bit, because they received an NHS Test and Trace text warning that they’d been in the proximity to someone diagnosed with COVID-19. As they’re in the very high risk category, you can imagine how worried they were. But here’s the thing – they never give their mobile number to anyone and they wouldn’t know how to download an app even if I spent a year explaining it to them. It was a scam – in fact the text deleted itself, but almost certainly it will have contained “more information” link, which would have downloaded malware onto their phone.

Although my mother may be old, she isn’t stupid – she contacted both 111 and her GP to check. What’s even worse here is that she was essentially told to obey the warning and shelter in place. So they did – which meant my father’s regular blood medical test got cancelled and they started rationing food to make sure they had enough to get through. It’s easy to imagine that in other circumstances this scam might have been life threatening. A system that allows this type of scam to be perpetrated, without providing a way of verifying the warnings is simply not fit for purpose. It’s a danger to the very people it’s supposed to be protecting. It isn’t rocket science to foresee that this would happen and it isn’t difficult to design a system to ensure verification is in place. But this is what happens when you don’t have a proper digital identity and verification strategy in place – you put in place point solutions in a hurry and expose people to unnecessary risks. Meanwhile, though, if you have vulnerable dependents make sure they’re aware of the issue and prepare to take your own steps to check that any warning is genuine. We certainly can’t rely on the technology.

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