Apps against infections: solutions help fighting coronavirus 

Author : News Agency

Source : 112 Ukraine

What apps exist on the market today, what Ukrainian developers offer, how to recognize malware?
22:14, 29 March 2020

112 Agency

The network enters the war against coronavirus infection because modern problems require modern solutions. We are talking about apps that would help control the spread of the virus and even recognize it in the early stages. Several developers of the world are already offering their ideas, including Ukrainian ones. But speaking about the World Wide Web, one shouldn't forget about the risk of hacker attacks, it is not surprising that there also exist "experts" who want to earn extra money. What apps exist on the market today, what Ukrainian developers offer, how to recognize malware?

Apps and different software for smartphones have long served as a kind of assistant for people in their every life. For example, with their help, you can communicate, get acquainted, order things and services, pay for them, study, take tests or manage the entire ecosystem of devices in your dwelling. Therefore, it would be strange that in a world where the majority of the citizens of Earth cannot imagine their lives without smartphones at all, and the word “digitalization” sounds from every teapot if they don’t take advantage of these innovations in the fight against a new virus that continues spreading around the planet (in particular, as of today, the infection claimed over 27,000 lives, 8 of them are Ukrainian citizens).

What solutions other countries have?

China. It is not surprising that one of the first countries to develop these apps was China (in support of several government agencies and ministries of the country). Now there are about 10 apps to fight against coronavirus. In particular, an application for checking possible contact with infected people (YiKuang), which was launched back in February. The app helps to check whether there were cases of infection registered in your building, riser blocks of flats, airplane or bus that you traveled over the past 14 days.

You can access the function using a special QR code. To sign in, you must specify your cell phone number and get verified by entering the real name and ID number. A foreigner will not be able to register with his documents since the system only accepts a certificate of citizens of China.

The application also contains information about the most common places of infection, as well as places of mass gathering areas (so that users can avoid them).

Presentation of one of Chinese apps
Open source

The app uses various programs and trackers that show geolocation. QuantUrban and WeChat have developed a platform that uses information from official sources and marks locations and entire zones with an increased risk of infection with a new coronavirus (based on officially confirmed cases of infection).

If a user is broadcasting his geodata, the application may send a warning of closeness to the places of the virus outbreaks. Geographically, the application covers the southern cities of Shenzhen and Guangzhou, as well as nine other cities in the province. Volunteers help update the map as the government publishes new data daily.

"Checking map is a psychological comfort. You cannot guarantee that there will be no new cases, but you can avoid visiting an area that is already infected," developers note.

As of March 27, China registered 81,340 thousand cases of infection, with 3,292 deaths. 74 588 thousand citizens (over 90%) recovered.


Israel. Using the data of the mobile network, the country's authorities track the movement of citizens who have a confirmed Covid-19, as well as their contacts with other people. The Israeli Ministry of Defense, together with the startup company Vocalis Health, is developing a mobile application that will help identify symptoms of coronavirus by the user's voice.

Vocalis Health was formed after the merger of two companies: Beyond Verbal and Healthymize. These companies have joined their efforts to use the voice of man as a revolutionary tool in the healthcare industry.

The Vocalis Health algorithm using artificial intelligence (AI) identifies the patient’s condition according to voice markers for various diseases (respiratory, cardiac or diseases associated with behavioral disorders such as depression).

In the fight against coronavirus, commissioned by the Israeli Ministry of Defense, Vocalis Health is creating a mobile application that will detect the symptoms of coronavirus using the same algorithm (after all, the virus is also a respiratory disease that affects the human respiratory system, reflected in the breath and voice).

The country's Ministry of Defense noted that the algorithm will be used for remote diagnostics and monitoring in order to prevent the spread of the disease and overload of the national health system. Thus, according to the developers, it will be possible to determine who should be tested in the first place, who needs immediate hospitalization, and which patients can stay at home because the symptoms are mild.

So far, the platform is available only to healthcare providers and patients who take part in the study (so that the algorithm learns to recognize the symptoms of infection, this week they will begin gathering voices of Covid-19 patients). However, on the company's website, everyone can join and also send their recorded voice to the developers for research.


The United Kingdom. The Covid Symptom Tracker app is designed to help British specialists track the spread of coronavirus, as well as to better understand which citizens are at risk of infection.

British researchers recently launched the free Covid Symptom Tracker - users fill out data, including age, gender, even a zip code, chronic diseases like heart disease, asthma, and diabetes (it’s also worth indicating whether the user is using drugs such as immunosuppressants or ibuprofen and whether he/she uses a wheelchair).

Then the application asks everyone who provided the information to make a maximum of one minute every day in order to report their well-being. If the user does not feel healthy, then it will be necessary to answer a few more questions regarding the symptoms (both physical and mental health).

Thus, the country's specialists created an early warning radar device, which, according to them, in addition to the geographical spread of the disease, can also indicate more accurate symptoms (after all, they are different for many patients).

And although the app is already available to the general public, developers continue to look for new information that would help to improve it. In particular, the team asked 5,000 twins and their families across the UK (who are already part of another broader research project) to use the app. If they detect signs of Covid-19, specialists will send test systems to families for verification.

Since the twins have already shared a wide range of data - from genetic information to the composition of the microbes in the intestines - the researchers say they hope the work can help shed light on why only some people become infected and why some of them develop more severe symptoms than others.

“What we can do is quickly figure out whether genes play a role or not because we just compare identical and non-identical twins. We can do this in a few days,” said Tim Spector is a Professor of Genetic Epidemiology and Director of the Twins UK Registry at Kings College, London. He

As of March 27, 11,658 infections were recorded, 578 citizens died, 135 recovered the United Kingdom.


Singapore. TraceTogether is a mobile application for monitoring the spread of coronavirus infection in Singapore. The application, using tracking tools (which are available for the country's authorities), tracks people who are at risk of infection.

Singapore's app interface
In particular, with Bluetooth, the program can calculate the proximity of people to each other, warning users about their interlocutors (if the interlocutor has a confirmed diagnosis or a high probability of infection). If the program understands that the user has already talked to people whose case has been confirmed, the location and address of the user will be sent to the authorities, which in turn shall send the citizen a test system to check for the presence of Covid-19.

The developers note that it was because of the application that the country managed to prevent the lockdown (schools, institutions are still working, although the state’s borders are closed). It is also worth noting that twice a day, Singapore authorities, through WhatsApp, inform citizens about the number of cases in the country, places with the highest infection rates and tips for preventing cases of infection.

According to the latest information, 683 cases of infection with a new coronavirus have been confirmed in the country, 2 of them died. 172 people recovered.


Taiwan. The country's experts developed a special device that can track the mobile signal of people who are at home in quarantine. If a citizen turns off the phone or leaves the house, the device will automatically notify the police of the violation. It will not be possible to leave the phone at home because they can call for verification. In case of violation, the police will get to the place in 15 minutes.

As of March 27, there are 267 cases of infection in the country, 2 of them died, 30 people recovered.


South Korea. The country has also developed a special GPS system that helps users track places of the greatest concentration of people, as well as places visited by patients with confirmed coronavirus.

According to the latest information, 9,332 cases of infection have been confirmed in South Korea, 139 of them died, 4,528 people recovered.


Slovakia. A law has been passed that allows authorities to track the movement of individuals according to mobile operators.

269 cases of infection were confirmed in Slovakia, 2 of them died.


Poland. In Poland, the Home Quarantine application has been launched, in which you need to take a selfie in order to confirm that a person who has committed to self-isolation adheres to the quarantine conditions. The application is free, tested and available on the Google Play and App Store.

"Home Quarantine" app interface
Open source

"The application should be used by those who have arrived from abroad and are in quarantine for 14 days. From time to time they must take selfies indicating the geolocation," the website of the Ministry of Digitalization of Poland reports.

The program creates accounts for those quarantined automatically after crossing the border when the citizen fills out an application, where he notes his phone number and location (address) for the next 14 days.

“Every day, we will send quarantined persons a request to complete the task by SMS,” the ministry’s website explains. “You will need to take one or more of these photos per day. We will send requests unexpectedly. ”The idea is exactly the same as for unforeseen visits by police,” explains the country's digitalization minister Marek Zagorsky.

Explanations on the website of Poland's Ministry of Digital Affairs
Ministry of Digital Affairs of Poland

The time allotted for the submission of the task (selfie) is 20 minutes after receiving an SMS. If a person does not catch up in time, this will be a signal for the police, which must check whether the quarantine rules are violated or not. In case of violation, the citizen must pay a fine of 5,000 zlotys (1,110 euros).

Besides, users will also be able to quickly access the necessary information during quarantine, use a special hotline, or seek help from a social worker (similar to sending a report to local social assistance centers that can help with medicines or food in justified cases).

As of March 27, 1289 cases of infection were recorded in the country, 16 of them died. 7 people recovered.


And what about Ukraine?

In Ukraine, an application to control coronavirus infected people is being prepared to be launched next week, similar to the solutions that are already operating in Poland and South Korea. This was noted by Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs Anton Herashchenko.

The corresponding app has been developed by the Ministry of the Interior and the Digital Transformation Ministry. A special package of documents is being developed that would allow using mobile devices to control the self-isolation of people. The Ministry of the Interior will also propose that the government allows the State Border Service to transmit information to local authorities about people who crossed the border and are required to be in quarantine so that local authorities can also control this.

The application will carry out mandatory control for those infected with coronavirus and voluntary control for those self-isolated using geolocation data and FaceID. According to the Minister of Digital Transformation Mykhailo Fedorov, such actions are needed in order to stop the pandemic.

“I would like to assure you: no “big brother” or surveillance of citizens shall be applied. Mandatory monitoring will be applied for those ill, and voluntary monitoring of geolocation and FaceID randomly - for those self-isolated. There's no other way to stop the epidemic,” Mykhailo Fedorov emphasized.

Also, with the help of the application, Ukrainians will be able to order products, medicines or to report online on their health status.

The next step, according to the initiators, should be the implementation of monitoring contact with a sick person.

“The idea is to use a wide network of QR codes in stores, taxis and other public places. If a person starts to voluntarily scan codes, we can warn him about possible contact with the patient. Again, no geo-targeting or surveillance,” the minister adds.


Things to remember when working with such apps

Taking into account the rate of expansion and complication of the situation with coronavirus, there appear more and more cases of fraud in various areas of life globally. Internet is not an exception, where there were always those who wanted to steal the personal data of users and use them for their own purposes.

For example, after recent events related to user complaints about malware, Googe Play and the App Store began to carefully check and block all apps related to coronavirus infection that were downloaded from suspicious sources.

One such malignant product was the CovidLock (Coronavirusapp), which promised to provide users with real-time information on the state of coronavirus infection in the world. However, instead, the program blocked the phone and demanded a fee for keeping confidential information.

Therefore, cybersecurity experts advise against using unofficial links to applications or downloading them from sources other than Googe Play and AppStore. Indeed, given the events, companies are conducting a multi-stage verification of such applications, trying to protect their consumers from low-quality goods. For example, Apple recommends using the Time-Sensitive Event label to speed up the process of this test.

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