ACS - The Professional As Australia
Australian Computer Society (ACS) is the largest professional body in Australia representing the ICT sector. ACS members are from business, education, government and the wider community. We provide individuals and teams within organisations opportunities for professional development. We also accredit ICT education for training providers with the objective of supplying the future demands of ICT skills in Australia.
Coronavirus can last 28 days on phones - ACS
CSIRO makes alarming discovery.
Mobile phone screens, bank notes and stainless steel can harbour the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 for up to 28 days, according to new CSIRO research that may force public-health authorities to revise their recommendations around surface disinfection. The scientists, working at the CSIROs Australian Centre for Disease Preparedness in Geelong, inoculated concentrations of the SARS-CoV-2 virus roughly equivalent to the typical amount of virus excreted by an infectious COVID-19 onto a range of surfaces at a range of temperatures. At room temperature (20 degrees), the scientists reported in a new article in Virology Journal, half of the viral load could still be detected, on average 1.7 to 2.7 days later. When heated to 40 degrees, the virus half-life was decreased to just a few hours. Most worryingly, however, was the finding that at 20 degrees viable virus could still be isolated from non-porous surfaces such as glass, stainless steel, and paper and polymer banknotes like those used in Australia as much as 28 days later. That means you could theoretically be exposed to SARS-CoV-2 by using an ATM, supermarket self-service checkout, airport check-in kiosk or other public touchscreen device if it had been used by a COVID-19-positive patient at any time in the last four weeks. The virus could also be transmitted if you shared a mobile phone or office phone that had been used by a COVID-19-positive patient within the past few weeks, and had not been properly disinfected. Porous materials, such as cotton used in clothing, reduced viral loads much more quickly and the virus lasted a maximum of 14 days, with detectable amounts dipping quickly in the first few days. The results demonstrate SARS-CoV-2 can remain infectious for significantly longer time periods than generally considered possible, the team, led by CSIRO biorisk pathogen specialist Shane Riddell, concluded. And while environmental conditions were carefully controlled samples were kept in the dark, for example, to eliminate the potential disinfectant effect of sunshine UV light the high amount of virus inoculated onto the test surfaces represents a plausible amount of virus that may be deposited on a surface. A changing understanding of risk Viral infection of fomites contaminated objects or surfaces has been extensively studied but the extended timeframes in the new CSIRO study, and the fact that the viral loads persisted at common real-world temperatures, suggest that surface-based transmission remains a significant potential problem. Early concerns about surface transmission led heavily trafficked stores like Woolworths and Coles to implement aggressive surface-cleaning policies that included checkouts and trolleys, while retailers have actively discouraged the use of cash as banks encouraged adoption of contactless payments. These policies echo Australian Department of Health recommendations that citizens clean and disinfect surfaces you use often such as benchtops, desks and doorknobs as well as objects you use often such as mobile phones, keys, wallets and work passes. Yet official global guidance offers a different perspective, with a World Health Organisation (WHO) literature review noting that virus transmission may also occur indirectly through touching surfaces in the immediate environment or objects contaminated with virus from an infected person, followed by touching the mouth, nose, or eyes. Despite this possibility, however, WHO suggests that there are no specific reports which have directly demonstrated fomite transmission a perspective echoed by Centres for Disease Control guidelines that suggest that transmission of novel coronavirus to persons from surfaces contaminated with the virus has not been documented and that respiratory droplets such as sneezes are a much more common infection vector than touching surfaces. Cleaning of visibly dirty surfaces followed by disinfection is a best practice measure for prevention of COVID-19 and other viral respiratory illnesses in households and community settings, the CDC advises. Although fomite transmission is considered a likely most of transmission, the WHO notes, it can be hard to distinguish between virus that is passed from infected people and virus that is passed from surfaces that they have touched. People who come into contact with potentially infectious surfaces often also have close contact with the infectious person, it advises, making the distinction between respiratory droplet and fomite transmission difficult to discern.
ACCC goes after app stores - ACS
Apple and Google to go under the microscope.
Australias competition watchdog is taking aim at the Google Play Store and Apple App Store as part of its five-year digital platform services inquiry. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) began its report into app marketplaces on Tuesday with a call for submissions from consumers and app developers about the nature of app stores. Apps have become essential tools for daily living for many Australian consumers, a trend that is likely to have increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard said. Apps are, in turn, increasingly important for businesses as they promote, grow and run their enterprises. We want to know more about the market for mobile apps in Australia, including how transparent and effective the market is, for consumers as well as those operating in the market. We will also focus on the extent of competition between the major online app stores, and how they compete for app sales with other app providers. Apple and Googles domination of mobile app stores has come under scrutiny recently following the rebellion of Fortnite developer Epic Games. Last month, the US game developer launched a protest against 30 per cent taxes Google and Apple impose on in-app purchases, calling Apple a behemoth seeking to control markets, block competition, and stifle innovation. The ACCC mentions the 30 per cent tax in its issues paper for app developers, saying it wants to know how those requirements affect developers ability to compete with apps made by Google and Apple. Other issues concerning the ACCC are how apps are ranked, how consumer data is collected and used, and existing feedback systems for harmful apps. For app developers and suppliers, gaining a spot in one of the major app stores can result in significant sales, while failing to gain access can be a major setback, Rickard said. We are keen to provide greater transparency on how this process works. We are also interested in how data is used and shared in the app ecosystem, including the data available to Google and Apple as a result of their control of the major app stores. The investigation is part of the ACCCs five-year digital platform services inquiry which is due to be completed in 2025. When the consumer watchdog hands down its initial report into app stores in March next year, it could result in recommendations to the government to address underlying issues with the app store marketplace. Previously, the ACCCs digital platforms inquiry pointed to tech giants like Facebook and Google exploiting a distortionary market imbalance in competition with Australian media and advertising companies. That has since resulted in the development of a draft media bargaining code that would require Facebook and Google to pay for news content used and shared on their platforms. Both companies have protested the upcoming regulation: Google threated that the laws will hurt how Australians use Google Search and YouTube and Facebook said it would skirt the laws by banning Australian users from posting news content. You can contribute to the inquiry by emailing a written submission to [email protected] or by filling out the consumer and developer questionnaires.
Apple and Google join forces to fight COVID-19 - ACS
Your phone will trace proximity to infected persons.
Privacy authorities face a new challenge as Apple and Google ramp up efforts to embed automatic coronavirus contact tracing into their smartphone operating systems within months. In an unusual pique of cooperation, the CEOs of Apple and Google announced a partnership that will enable their devices to anonymously record a list of the phones of people that their owners pass close to. That information, which will be exchanged automatically via promiscuous Bluetooth connections, creates a record of the other people that the user comes into contact with. The opt-in apps will automatically raise an alert should anyone on that list of contacts later become infected with the COVID-19 coronavirus. Its a ubiquitous version of a technique most successfully executed by the government of Singapore, which has convinced over 1 million of its 5.6m citizens to download the TraceTogether app that has been open-sourced for use anywhere in the world. Google and Apples work which will bear fruit with new operating-system versions by May will dramatically expand the reach of Bluetooth contact tracing, first by allowing apps from public health authorities to anonymously collect data exchanged by users phones. An app framework provided to formalise the data exchange and, within a few months, the capability will be embedded into both Apples iOS and Googles Android operating systems, extending the contact tracking to an estimated 3 billion combined users. Making location sharing Despite Singapores early move into phone-based contact tracing an opt-in version of more-intrusive government tracing efforts in countries like South Korea, China and Israel many Western governments have balked at ubiquitous mobile-phone tracing. That could make coronavirus a feather in the cap of Apple and Google, which have been all but begging for use cases that justify their mass collection of users location data already used for tasks like monitoring traffic density and the foot traffic at individual businesses. Googles recently released location maps expanded the list by providing insight into the movement of people through common spaces. However, the prospect of allowing the company to mass-collect data about Australians might be unpalatable for the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC), given that the organisation is currently litigating against Google for its past use of location data. Despite their hunger for mobile phones that track location passively, Australians have been less than enthusiastic about explicit location tracking, with even potentially life-saving advanced mobile location (AML) technology for Triple-0 calls still months away. Yet early concerns about privacy and government surveillance are giving way to pragmatism, with new apps emerging from governments in France and the UK which has just launched its own contact-tracing app. Academics believe phone-based contact tracing could be invaluable in New Zealand, and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison recently intimated his government is also looking at options. A systematic approach to privacy Yet concerns persist, with some warning that the apps wouldnt work very well and many concerned that they would create a privacy nightmare by allowing authorities to not only track users movements, but to track whom they associate with on a regular basis. Even in desperate times, there are privacy concerns, Macquarie University Department of Computing professor Dr Dali Kaafar and lecturer Dr Hassan Asghar argued in a recent technical analysis of the TraceTogether code that argued the apps should use a more decentralised architecture to dissipate the concentration of personal data. Security researchers have been working hard to address such concerns, with Stanford University-University of Waterloo researchers modelling the potential efficacy of apps like their Covid Watch and experts arguing that it is possible to implement contact tracing while preserving individual privacy. Apple and Google have already published a cryptography specification outlining the way the rapidly evolving system would function, both in co-ordinating the data exchange between devices and in using cryptographic techniques to preserve the privacy of the collected data. Reflecting concerns about building a centralised database of contacts, that specification requires that any calculated matches are stored on each users phone and not be revealed to the Diagnosis Server that manages the exchange of the heavily encrypted data. Privacy-rights organisation the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) recently published a white paper analysing the potential serious practical problems posed by contact-tracing apps, with surveillance and cybersecurity counsel Jennifer Granick writing in a subsequent analysis that the Google-Apple approach appears to mitigate the worst privacy and centralisation risks, but there is still room for improvement.