Cryptology ePrint Archive: Report 2020/1150

TEnK-U: Terrorist Attacks for Fake Exposure Notifications in Contact Tracing Systems

Gennaro Avitabile and Daniele Friolo and Ivan Visconti

Abstract: In this work we show that an adversary can leverage blockchain technology to attack the integrity of contact tracing systems based on Google-Apple Exposure Notifications (GAEN). We design a suite of smart contracts named TEnK-U allowing an on-line market where infected individuals interested in monetizing their status will then upload to the servers of the GAEN-based systems some keys (i.e., TEKs) chosen by an adversary. As a consequence, there will be fake exposure notifications of at-risk contacts arbitrarily decided by the adversary and allowed by infected individuals looking for money.

Such vulnerability can be exploited to anonymously and digitally trade valuable contact tracing data without a mediator and without risks of being cheated. This makes infected individuals prone to get bribed by adversaries willing to compromise the integrity of the contact tracing system for any malicious purpose. For instance, large-scale attacks with catastrophic consequences (e.g., jeopardizing the health system, compromising the result of elections) are easy to mount and attacks to specific targets are completely straight-forward (e.g., schools, shops, hotels, factories).

We show as main contribution a smart contract with two collateral deposits that works, in general, on GAEN-based systems and concretely with Immuni and SwissCovid. In addition, we show smart contracts with one collateral deposit that work with SwissCovid. Finally, we also suggest the design of a more sophisticated smart contract that could potentially be used to attack GAEN-based system even in case those systems are repaired to make the previous attacks ineffective. This last smart contract crucially uses DECO to connect blockchains with TLS sessions.

Our work shows that risks envisioned by Anderson and Vaudenay are absolutely concrete, in particular TEnK-U shows how to realize with Immuni and SwissCovid the terrorist attack to decentralized systems discussed by Vaudenay.

Category / Keywords: cryptographic protocols / cryptographic protocols, blockchain, smart contracts, attacks, contact tracing

Date: received 21 Sep 2020, last revised 24 Sep 2020

Contact author: gavitabile at unisa it,dfriolo@unisa it,visconti@unisa it

Available format(s): PDF | BibTeX Citation

Version: 20200925:183620 (All versions of this report)

Short URL:

[ Cryptology ePrint archive ]