The TraceCORONA app analyses contacts completely anonymously

CYSEC and partners are working on a tracing app for the pandemic


The team at the security lab of the cybersecurity profile area (CYSEC) at TU Darmstadt is working on a tracing and information system for the pandemic together with its industrial partner KOBIL, the partial sponsor INTEL and the University of California San Diego. The aim is to break the chain of infection by tracing contacts fully anonymously. The system is currently being designed for Europe and the USA.

The COVID-19 disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 corona virus is primarily spread by direct contact between people. Health authorities face the challenge of identifying and isolating chains of infection so as to prevent the further spread of the pandemic. The problem is that the contact information voluntarily provided by infected people is generally incomplete or imprecise. This means that reconstructing and tracing their contacts requires a huge amount of work by the authorities for every single case. Due to concerns about compliance with data protection regulations during and after the pandemic that are often very justified, this process has been unable to keep pace with the rapid spread of the virus in many countries.

The use of advanced, digital tracing apps on mobile devices can help to reduce the amount of manual work and significantly increase the precision of contact tracing. This has already been successfully demonstrated in Asia (e.g. Singapore, China and Korea). However, the tracing technology that has been used there collects highly sensitive data about individuals. The protection of data and privacy, especially with respect to medical data, are regulated differently and usually much more strictly in countries outside of Asia.

The integrated contact tracing app, which is open source software, is currently being developed by a team at the CYSEC profile area at TU Darmstadt and works without the need for any personal data. It functions in a context-based and user-driven manner, while protecting the privacy of the user.

The secure, software-based mPower system developed by the company KOBIL, based in Worms, acts as a secure communication platform that is linked to the app. In a press release, the company explained that TraceCORONA can be used by various different interest groups such as patients, doctors, hospitals, chemists, health organisations, insurance companies, the authorities and private users.

“Various research groups at TU Darmstadt have been working together successfully with KOBIL for many years on a wide range of security projects”, says Professor Ahmad-Reza Sadeghi, spokesperson for the CYSEC team at TU Darmstadt, describing the long-standing partnership.

The system offers a series of important functions: It notifies users about any encounters they may have had with infected people and uses the latest security technology to provide the highest level of data protection, without negatively influencing the effectiveness and precision of the overall system.

The special feature of the contact tracing app is that users are not required to enter any personal data in order to use the app. The only personal data that users are able to enter voluntarily is their postal code. The anonymous tracing approach used by the researchers at TU Darmstadt also ensures that users of the system will themselves remain anonymous and untrackable even if the user’s smartphone is hacked or a user maliciously attempts to transmit false data. It is expected that the app will be available free of charge in May for all standard Android smartphones and iPhones.


Focus "Fighting Corona"

Researchers, students and employees at the university are responding to the current corona crisis in a variety of ways. The focus provides an up-to-date overview of the numerous aid initiatives and projects in research, teaching and transfer.