According to reports, hackers obtained personal information of a Nantes nurse and then used that data to make 54,000 vaccine passes. Meanwhile, the French government says it’s detected 110,000 such fakes to date.
The nurse’s story was reported by Ouest-France on Thursday, with the news site claiming that all the fake passes are now in circulation.
France’s health pass system works similarly to vaccine pass setups in use throughout the EU. The system works by pairing a public key (contained in the QR code on a vaccinated person’s phone) with a private key (held by the hospital, pharmacy or healthcare provider that vaccinated them). Venues checking the validity of someone’s Covid pass scan the code and receive a green tick if it matches the private key and a red cross if it doesn’t.
A single private key can generate unlimited vaccine passes. This information is highly valuable for hackers and fraudsters, who may then be able to sell fraudulent vaccine passes online.
The authorities face another challenge when trying to cancel fake vaccination passes. A fake vaccine pass cannot be cancelled if it was generated using the same private key. New passes must then be made for people actually entitled to them.
In France, there have been many similar stories. This story is from Nantes. In September, a pharmacist from nearby Angers claimed that his private keys were stolen and used to make 2,700 fake passes. He discovered this when he saw an unusually large number of requests to the pharmacy computer for authentication.
In the suburbs of Paris last month, a doctor was arrested after allegedly selling at least 220 fake passes for the princely sum of €1,000 ($1,132) each.
French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin saidOn Thursday, the government announced that 110,000 counterfeit vaccine passes were found and arrested over 100 individuals in relation to the fakes. Although the maximum penalty for using fake vaccine passes is five years imprisonment, Darmanin stated that they will grant amnesty to any person who uses them. “recognizes their mistake and gets vaccinated.”
Introduced during the summer, France’s ‘health pass’ system requires citizens to present proof of vaccination or a negative coronavirus test to access bars, restaurants, shopping malls or public transport, among other locations. Since its inception, thousands have protested the system and have filled Paris’ streets with their anger. All adults living in France now need to have a booster shot. This will allow them to maintain their valid health passes.