A security bug in health app Docket exposed COVID-19 vaccine records

A security bug in the health app Docket exposed the private information of residents vaccinated against COVID-19 in New Jersey and Utah, where the app received endorsements from state officials.

Docket lets residents download and carry a digital copy of their immunizations by pulling their vaccination records from their state’s health authority. The digital copy has the same information as the COVID-19 paper card, but is digitally signed by the state to prevent forgeries. Docket is one of several so-called vaccine passports in the U.S., allowing residents to show their vaccination records — or a scannable QR code — for getting into events, restaurants, or crossing into countries where vaccines are required.

But for a time, the app allowed anyone access to the QR codes of other vaccinated users — and all the personal and vaccine information encoded within. That included names, dates of birth, and information about a person’s COVID-19 vaccination status, such as which type of vaccine they received and when.

TechCrunch discovered the bug on Tuesday and immediately contacted the company. Docket chief executive Michael Perretta said the bug was fixed at the server level a few hours later.

The bug was found in how the Docket app requests the user’s QR code from its servers. The user’s QR code is generated on the server in the form of a SMART Health Card, a widely accepted standard for validating a person’s vaccination status across the world. That QR code is tied to a user ID, which isn’t visible from the app, but can be viewed by looking at its network traffic using off-the-shelf software like Burp Suite or Charles Proxy.

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But Docket’s servers weren’t checking to make sure the person requesting a QR code was allowed to request it. That meant it was possible for any app user to change their user ID and request someone else’s QR code. Worse, Docket user IDs are sequential, and so new QR codes could be enumerated simply by changing the user ID by a single digit.

It’s not known if anyone else discovered the bug. Perretta said the company is “currently in the process of reviewing logs to determine if there was any malicious activity on the platform.” Perretta also said that the company was working to inform state governments about the lapse, but did not say if the company planned to notify its users of the security lapse.

Nancy Kearney, a spokesperson for New Jersey’s Department of Health, said in a statement: “The New Jersey Department of Health was notified by our vendor, Docket, of a code vulnerability related to the recent release of a QR code associated with the app. Docket assured the Department that they identified and fixed the vulnerability within the code. No other functionality of the app was affected. The privacy and security of Docket users remains paramount. At this time, Docket is investigating for any indication of potential records that could have been compromised. The Department continues to work with Docket to ensure their ongoing vigilance on this matter.”

A spokesperson for Minnesota’s Department of Health also not reply. (Docket is available for Minnesota residents, but the state has not yet deployed QR codes.)

Tom Hudachko, a spokesperson for Utah’s Department of Health, said: “The Utah Department of Health is committed to ensuring the privacy of Utah residents and expects its contractors and partners to maintain the same commitment. Docket notified us [Tuesday] of a bug within its system that could potentially allow users to receive the personal information of other users. Docket has assured us they have identified what caused the bug and have resolved this issue.”

“We are working with Docket, and our own data security teams to identify any users that may have had their information inappropriately shared and provide appropriate notification to those individuals,” said Hudachko.

But questions remain about how the bug slipped through to begin with. It’s not known exactly how many vaccinated people’s records were at risk. Last week, Docket said it reached one million users. New Jersey and Utah have a combined 8.5 million residents who have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at the time of writing.

Perretta would not say, when asked, what kind of security testing was done on Docket before its launch.

Utah’s Hudachko said that Docket went through a “thorough security review” by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC), two offices housed within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). An ONC spokesperson deferred comment to CMS and HHS, neither of which responded to our requests for comment.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which approved the app, also did not respond to questions asking if the agency had conducted a security review.

Docket isn’t the only vaccine passport app maker that’s faced security issues. The bug found in the Docket app is a nearly identical issue found in an app called Aura, which exposed thousands of QR codes containing the vaccination status of staff and students. And earlier this year, the Calgary-based proof-of-vaccination app Portpass exposed the personal information of hundreds of thousands of people after leaving its website unsecured, while one hacker was able to create an entirely fake vaccine passport using Quebec’s official proof-of-vaccination app.

Facebook will require employees to be vaccinated before returning to campus

Earlier today, Google CEO Sundar Pichai announced that the company will require employees to be vaccinated before returning to work on-site. It was part of a larger letter sent to Google/Alphabet staff that also noted the company will be extending its work-from-home policy through October 18, as the Covid-19 Delta variant continues to sweep through the global population.

In a message to TechCrunch, Facebook’s VP of People, Lori Goler, confirmed a similar policy for the social media giant.

“As our offices reopen, we will be requiring anyone coming to work at any of our US campuses to be vaccinated,” Goler writes. “How we implement this policy will depend on local conditions and regulations. We will have a process for those who cannot be vaccinated for medical or other reasons and will be evaluating our approach in other regions as the situation evolves. We continue to work with experts to ensure our return to office plans prioritize everyone’s health and safety.”

The statement is worded similarly to the long letter penned by Pichai, which carved out an exception for “medical or other protected reasons.” The comment doesn’t offer an adjusted timeline for the return, which had initially planned to go half-capacity in September and full by October.

Last week, a spokesperson told The Wall Street Journal, “Expert guidelines state that vaccines are highly effective at preventing variants of COVID-19, including the Delta variant. Our timelines to reopen our offices haven’t changed.”

Both statements offer some wiggle room for the company, based on things like local and state regulations, medical or personal concerns and, presumably, access to the vaccine, which can vary greatly based on region.

Amazon also responded to TechCrunch’s inquiry on the matter, noting, “We strongly encourage Amazon employees and contractors to be vaccinated as soon as COVID-19 vaccines are available to them.”

The company’s current guidelines don’t appear to require vaccination in order to return to its offices, though unvaccinated employees are required to wear masks. Face coverings are optional for those who have verification of being fully vaccinated.

Want to work at a Google campus? You’ll need to be vaccinated

Even for tech companies who create the tools for remote work, returning to the office is proving a major challenge. After early work-from-home recommendations last March, companies like Google eventually closed up shop, requiring employees to take their work home with them. The intervening year and change have been a fraught balancing act for the company (along with most of the world), which began outlining return-to-work plans for some employees as early as May 2020.

As Delta and other COVID-19 variants threaten anticipated returns to normalcy, Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai offered a clearer look at the company’s new normal. In a letter to employees reprinted on the Google Keyword blog, Pichai noted that all employees working out of one of Google’s campuses will need to be vaccinated.

“We’re rolling this policy out in the U.S. in the coming weeks and will expand to other regions in the coming months,” Pichai wrote. “The implementation will vary according to local conditions and regulations, and will not apply until vaccines are widely available in your area.”

Further complicating matters is the second bullet point. While the rise of the Delta variant is extending the company’s work-from-home policy through October 18, it’s not entirely clear what happens after that date (assuming the virus doesn’t force another shift in the goal posts) to unvaccinated employees, who may not be able to work out of a Google office or remotely.

The post does, however, note some exceptions for those unvaccinated for “medical or other protected reasons.” Google hasn’t clarified how it will enforce such exceptions.

“For those of you with special circumstances, we will soon be sharing expanded temporary work options that will allow you to apply to work from home through the end of 2021,” Pichai wrote. “We’re also extending Expanded Carer’s Leave through the end of the year for parents and caregivers.”

Other tech giants like Apple have also pushed back return-to-office plans and implemented mask mandates in retail stores as restrictions have gone into effect amid increasing COVID-19 rates. Others, including Facebook, are sticking with original fall reopening plans.

“Expert guidelines state that vaccines are highly effective at preventing variants of COVID-19, including the Delta variant,” a spokesperson for the social media giant recently told The Wall Street Journal. “Our timelines to reopen our offices haven’t changed.”

Class, a Zoom-only virtual classroom, nears unicorn status after SoftBank check

Class, a virtual classroom that integrates exclusively with Zoom, announced today that it has raised $105 million in a financing led by SoftBank Vision Fund II. The 10-month old startup has now raised a total of $146 million in known venture funding to date, which eclipses the amount of capital raised by founder Michael Chasen’s now-public previous company, Blackboard.

Despite its infancy, Class is rapidly nearing unicorn status, confirming that it currently sports a post-money valuation of $804 million. Other investors in Class include GSV Ventures and Emergence Capital, who led the startups’ pre-seed round, as well as top U.S. edtech funds including Reach Capital, Owl Ventures, Insight Partners and Learn Capital.

Class, formerly Class for Zoom, uses management and instruction tools to bolster the video conferencing call experience. Since launch, Class has integrated exclusively with the videoconferencing giant, which rose to household name prominence during the initial months of the pandemic and continues to be a mainstay in synchronous communication. It’s part of a wave of Zoom alternatives and enhancements that have launched over the past year – and to date has over 250 customers.

Today’s announcement of the SoftBank stamp of approval means that Class is making two statements: one, that it’s taking global expansion seriously, and two, I’d argue that it’s signaling that it is not looking to be just an acquisition target for Zoom.

Globalization of edtech

SoftBank likes to back what it views as “winner” in one sector and throw millions into it to help it foothold international markets. Earlier this month, the Japanese conglomerate put millions into Clearco, formerly Clearbanc, to help the alternative financing startup grow into new geographies beyond Europe, Canada and the United States. At this point, I imagine SoftBank is looking for opinionated startups that are naturally pulled internationally, and then funds the heck out of them.

Class is no different. Chasen explained how international demand for the product has been high since Class announced its seed round. Schools from Europe, the Middle East and Japan reached out before Class had rolled out general availability. Now, with Class’ general availability rolled out on Mac, Windows, iOS, Android and Chromebook, Chasen is focusing on turning those on the waitlist into customers.

Class’ international expansion will see it build up local teams in target regions such as the UK and Ireland, EMEA, Latin American and APAC. The startup is expecting to add 100 new team members across the world to its already 200-person team.


Chasen estimates that 65% of the financing will fuel Class’ internationalization and that the remaining will be allocated toward product development. One critique of Class is that the platform offers the same experience to a second grade class as it does to a higher-ed class. Chasen agreed that the startup needs to add more specificity to its product – perhaps gamification for K-12 and exam proctoring for higher ed – in future versions.

“V1 gives you what we believe is the bare minimum you need to teach online,” he said, noting features such as testing and grade trackers. “Right now, we need a product that works well across every market, and in the future we’ll make enhancements that are specific for the markets.”

And so far, users are paying for it. Class said that its revenue grew almost 4X quarter over quarter in 2021.

Friends with Zoom benefits

While there’s a numbing effect around big rounds and flashy valuations, Class’ recent raise could squash questions around whether it’s teeing itself up for an eventual acquisition by Zoom.

When TechCrunch first spoke to Chasen, he said that Zoom is focused more on scale than the sort of in-depth specialization that Class wants to provide.

Still, the company was in kahoots with Zoom’s earliest investors and acted as a Zoom reseller in multiple markets, suggesting that consolidation wouldn’t be too wild of an assumption down the road. After today, though, it’s clear Class views itself as a standalone business. Startups don’t just raise nine-figure funding rounds from savvy investors unless they have ambitions to be bigger than an integration.

Going forward, Class may use some of those millions to establish its brand as the go-to option for schools or institutions that want a classroom-friendly Zoom environment. Per Class’ careers page, marketing is its most aggressive hiring focus right now. The company has six open roles in the marketing team, which include an international marketing manager and a content marketing manager.

Class’ closest competitor is Engageli, which last raised a $33 million Series A in May 2021. Engageli’s co-founder and COO, Jamie Farrell, left in February 2021 for another edtech startup, and the company doesn’t appear to be hiring too aggressively via online job boards. While the details are anecdotal, Engageli may face steeper competition in terms of bandwidth and marketing now that Class has fresh capitalization – and a growing team of global employees.

IFA Berlin 2021 is canceled, citing ‘uncertainties’ around vaccine rollouts

After IFA became one of an extremely small number of in-person trade shows in 2020, the gfu Consumer & Home Electronics GmbH is pulling the plug on this year’s event. Initially planned for September 3-7 at the Messe in Berlin, the large-scale consumer electronics trade show is going on hiatus.

Among other concerns, organizer are citing the emergency of Covid-19 variants and concerns around the speed and consistency with which vaccines have been rolled out globally.

“Ultimately, several key global health metrics did not move as fast in the right direction as had been hoped for – from the rapid emergence of new COVID-19 variants, for example in South Asia, to continued uncertainties about the speed of the rollout of vaccination programmes around the world,” the organization said in a press release. “This in turn is adding uncertainty for the companies that were committed or interested in coming to Berlin, as well as media and visitors – all of whom have to plan well ahead with regards to budgets, investments and travel – not just for IFA, but all similar events around the world.”

Another key issue here is the Messe Berlin (convention center) has been – and continues to be – used as both an emergency medical facility and a vaccination center. The planned Berlin Photo Week at ARENA Berlin and SHIFT Mobility events will continue. IFA, meanwhile, is set to return on September 2, 2022.

The news comes as a number of high profile exhibitors have opted not to exhibit in-person at MWC late next month in Barcelona. The list, thus far, includes Qualcomm, Google, IBM, Nokia, Sony, Oracle, Ericsson, Samsung and Lenovo. As with IFA before it, MWC’s organizers are citing a number of safety precautious and likely – given travel restrictions, MIA exhibitors and a general sense of caution even among vaccinated people – a scaled back event.

MWC will be something of a hybrid event, with both online and in-person exhibits. IFA, meanwhile, appears to be canceled outright. The Berlin show is notably different than other consumer trade shows in that it is partially open to the public.

Google begins surfacing vaccine centers, hospital beds, oxygen info in India

Google, which reaches more than half a billion people in India, is turning its services into tools to help the world’s second largest internet market fight the pandemic.

Google said on Monday it has rolled out a range of updates to its Search, Maps, YouTube, and Google Pay services in India to display and boost authoritative and credible information about the coronavirus to help people in the South Asian nation find vaccination centers and other resources to navigate the crisis.

Google Search, which has been offering updates on the virus for more than a year, now also displays information panels with vaccine registration details in India and highlights the official Indian government website for the vaccine at the top.

Search and Maps that have been showing 2,500 testing centers in India now similarly also show locations of over 23,000 vaccination centers across the country in English and eight Indian languages. The company said it is working with India’s Ministry of Health and Family Welfare to source this information.

Google, which identifies India as its biggest market by users, said it is also testing a Q&A function in Google Maps in India to enable people to ask about and share local information on the availability of beds and medical oxygen in select locations in the country.

The new features rollout comes as India reports over 350,000 infections and over 3,500 fatalities everyday. The nation’s healthcare infrastructure is struggling to serve patients, having largely run out of beds and medical supplies.

In recent weeks, scores of firms, startups, entrepreneurs and investors have stepped up to fill this gap. And Twitter, Facebook, and WhatsApp have become the real-time helpline as people exchange leads with one another.

Google said it is also using its various channels to help extend the reach of health information campaigns in India. This “includes the ‘Get the Facts’ around vaccines campaign, to encourage people to focus on authoritative information and content for vaccines. We’re also surfacing important safety messages through promotions on the Google homepage, Doodles and reminders within our apps and services,” it wrote in a blog post.

On YouTube, Google has curated a set of playlists with videos that offer authoritative information about the vaccine, the spread of the virus, and facts from experts. The company said it has also rolled out a COVID Aid campaign on Google Pay to enable users to donate to non-profit organizations such as GiveIndia, Charities Aid Foundation, Goonj, Save the Children, Seeds, UNICEF India (National NGOs) and United Way.

The company said a similar campaign to support several other foundations has raised over $4.6 million.

“As India battles this devastating wave, we’ll keep doing all we can to support the selfless individuals and committed organizations on the front lines of the response. There’s a long way to go—but standing together in solidarity, working together with determination, we can and will turn the tide,” read a blog post signed by Covid Response team at Google India.

Walmart’s Flipkart to cover insurance for all sellers in India and waive additional fees

Walmart-owned Flipkart is exempting storage and cancellation fees for sellers on its marketplace and also providing them with insurance coverage as the top e-commerce platform in India looks to maintain cordial relationships with more than 300,000 sellers who are facing severe disruption amid an unprecedented rise in the spread of coronavirus infections in the South Asian nation.

The Bangalore-headquartered firm said Friday evening that it is exempting storage fees to sellers who use the company’s fulfilment centres, and also waiving off the cancellation fees until the end of the month. (Several Indian states, as they did during the first wave of the virus, have imposed restrictions on sale and delivery of non-essential items.)

Flipkart will bear 100% premium of COVID insurance to all sellers that transact on the platform, covering any hospitalization and consultation fees between 50,000 Indian rupees ($685) to 300,000 Indian rupees ($4095).

The news today comes a week after Amazon, Flipkart’s chief rival in India, announced it was waiving 50% of the referral fee sellers are required to pay the e-commerce firm for this month, though not all sellers are qualified to avail this benefit. (The company said earlier this week that it was also postponing Prime Day in India and Canada due to the growing cases of the infection.)

Flipkart said it is also making it easier for sellers to access working capital from the firm without any incremental cost, though it did not specify the steps it had made.

It is also extending the window for the Seller Protection Fund to 30 days (from 14) to make claims on returned products. Flipkart said it will also ease its policies and performance metrics to ensure that they are not impacted by state-led lockdowns.

Flipkart, which as of last year was working to go public this year, said it has partnered with Vriddhi, Walmart’s Supplier Development Program in India, to organize webinars for small businesses to share best practices to ensure safety of workforce and provide insights to stay afloat amid the crisis.

“Through these testing times it is our constant effort to support our seller partners who face immense operational challenges as a result of the pandemic. As a democratic marketplace, we want to ensure that our lakhs [hundreds of thousands] of seller partners are able to continue operations and keep the economic engine running,” said Jagjeet Harode, senior director and head of Marketplace at Flipkart, in a statement.

“With them and their family’s financial and health safety in mind, we have rolled out these initiatives that will bring them the much-needed respite to keep their businesses active.”

India has been reporting over 400,00 daily infections this week, more than any other nation, as the world’s second-most populated nation struggles to contain the second wave of the virus. Scores of firms, startups, investors and people alike are uniting to help the nation fight the virus, which has severely impacted the healthcare facilities.

Facebook rolls out vaccine finder tool in India, donates $10 million

Facebook has announced a $10 million grant to support emergency response efforts in India and has rolled out its Vaccine Finder tool in the country as the South Asian nation grapples with the latest wave of the coronavirus pandemic.

The American social network said that it has partnered with a number of organizations including United Way, Swasth, Hemkunt Foundation, I Am Gurgaon, Project Mumbai and US-India Strategic Partnership Forum (USISPF) to help augment critical medical supplies with over 5,000 oxygen concentrators and other life-saving equipments such as ventilators, BiPAP machines and to increase hospital bed capacity.

Facebook also said it has partnered with the Government of India to roll out a Vaccine Finder tool on the company’s marquee app. The tool, available in 17 languages, is designed to help people identify and spot vaccine centres in their vicinity.

Last week, India opened vaccination to people aged between 18 to 45, though its website quickly crashed and wasn’t immediately accepting appointment requests from most people in that age group.

Also worth checking out: Folks over at WiFi Dabba, a Bangalore-based startup that is working to build a low-cost ISP, have also developed a tool to help people easily find vaccination slots.

A bigger challenge confronting India currently, however, is the shortage of vaccine.

Facebook said it is also supporting non-government organizations and United Nation agencies in India with ad credits to reach the majority of people on Facebook with Covid-19 vaccine and preventive health information.

Additionally, the company said it is providing health resources to people from UNICEF India about when to seek emergency care and how to manage mild Covid-19 symptoms at home.

Scores of firms, startups, entrepreneurs, and investors have stepped up their efforts in recent weeks to help India, the world’s second most populous country, fight the pandemic after the federal and state governments were caught ill-prepared to handle it.

On Monday, Pfizer said it was sending medicines worth $70 million to India. “We are committed to being a partner in India’s fight against this disease and are quickly working to mobilize the largest humanitarian relief effort in our company’s history,” said company’s chairman and chief executive Albert Bourla.

India’s entrepreneurs and investors are mobilizing to help the nation fight COVID-19 — and you can too

At a time when much of the world has asserted great control over containing the spread of the coronavirus, with countries increasingly vaccinating its citizens, a different story is playing out in India, the world’s second-most populous nation.

For a week straight, India has reported more than 300,000 daily new infections, about half of all the cases across the globe, despite cutting down on testing in some states and underreporting deaths.

Hospitals have ran out of beds for new patients, and doctors are consistently pleading on social media, often tagging Prime Minister Narendra Modi, for essential medical supplies such as oxygen.

With several major industries, including film and sports, going about their lives pretending there is no crisis, entrepreneurs and startups have emerged as a rare beam of hope in recent days, springing to action to help the nation navigate its darkest hours.

It’s a refreshing change from last year, when thousands of Indian startups themselves were struggling to survive. And while some startups are still severely disrupted, offering a helping hand to the nation has become the priority for most.

Hundreds of startup entrepreneurs and venture capitalists, if not more, are spending much of their time trying to build software to find ways to make it easier for people to track new updates and make donations to foundations, and are exploring and funding ideas that have the potential to address some of the challenges surrounding the crisis.

Two organizations rising to the occasion include:

ACT Grants, which is run by nearly all active venture funds and PE firms, in addition to dozens of other volunteers. The initiative is the collective group’s continuing effort from last year.

Zomato Feeding India: India’s largest food delivery startup is helping patients and hospitals with oxygen and other crucial supplies.

Additional resources and efforts:

Can the tech trade show return in 2021?

The past year has been a devastating one for the conference industry. It’s certainly an issue we’ve grappled with here at TechCrunch, as we’ve worked to move our programming to a virtual setting. Clearly each individual case calls for an individual solution, dependent on geography, attendance and a variety of other factors.

IFA has proven itself bullish on the in-person element. The Berlin tech show was one of a small handful of these sorts of events to go on with the show in Europe. The organization held an in-person event in September, albeit at a dramatically scaled-back rate.

“To be a little poetic, usually in the late summer, there’s a special air in Berlin and you go out in the morning, you feel this air,” director Jens Heithecker told me of last year’s event, which scaled back to around 170 exhibitors from 2,300.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the organization is planning to come back big this year, in spite of prolonged concerns around COVID-19 and its variants. A press release announcing the show’s fall return is downright celebratory.

“With the world on course to emerge from the pandemic, IFA Berlin is set to take place as a full-scale, real-life event from 3 – 7 September 2021,” the company writes. “Huge interest from brands, manufacturers and retailers across all industry sectors to exhibit, network and co-innovate on location in Berlin.”

The organization highlights some health and safety measures that are being carried over from last year’s event. But while it’s not quite ready to talk scale yet, the organization is highlighting a number of new tracks for the conference.

“As always, keeping our visitors and exhibitors safe is our top priority,” it said in a statement. “Of course, with all our precautions to ensure everybody’s good health, we don’t expect IFA Berlin 2021 to set new records. However, the trend is clear: IFA Berlin is set for a full-scale comeback, to lead our industry once more.”

Over in Spain, the GSMA is still working on its messaging as a number of large companies have already announced they intend to only attend the show “virtually.”

Organizers offered TechCrunch the following statement:

We appreciate that it will not be possible for everyone to attend MWC Barcelona 2021, but we are pleased that exhibitors including Verizon*, Orange and Kasperksy are excited to join us in Barcelona. To ensure everyone can enjoy the unique MWC experience, we have developed an industry-leading virtual event platform. The in-person and virtual options are provided so that all friends of MWC Barcelona can attend and participate in a way that works for them. We respect the decisions that have been made by some exhibitors and are working with them to move their participation to the virtual platform.

[*Disclosure: Verizon owns TechCrunch]

Google, IBM, Nokia, Sony, Oracle and Ericsson have already announced they won’t be attending the show in person. Other large names are seemingly undecided. The whole thing is reminiscent of the lead-up to last year’s event, which was ultimately canceled.

The necessity of these large events was called into question prior to the pandemic, but the shift to virtual events has truly brought the topic into sharp relief. It’s true that there’s still value in an in-person event for hardware, specifically, but many have learned to adapt to a virtual setting. Even though if the last CES taught us anything, it’s that there are still a whole lot of kinks to work out with the system, especially as it pertains to prioritizing content all effectively being channeled through the same funnel.

People’s willingness to attend these events is based on a broad range of factors. At the very base level, there’s a question of personal comfortability (I can’t be the only one who has a visceral reaction every time they see crowded photos from past events). For many, it will be a bit of a shock to the system to suddenly attend a large indoor conference. There are factors like vaccinations and a particular region’s handling of the pandemic (all of which can wildly swing in the course of several months).

Just today, Germany’s Health Minister sounded the red alert, asking states to tighten restrictions. “We know from last autumn what happens when we don’t act quickly,” Jens Spahn warned the media.

There are a slew of other factors, including a potential attendee’s location and their workplace’s willingness to approve travel. Many companies have restricted business travel to all but the most essential trips. Depending on what you do for a living, your definition of “essential” may vary. But given how much can potentially change in that time, the soundest strategy for many is planning to tackle things remotely.

Earlier this week, the GSMA sent out its own email to previous attendees titled, “Why do you believe MWC Barcelona 2021 will take place?” The note seems to be a direct response to stories about exhibitors opting for a virtual presence.

“Depending on when you are reading this, we will be about 12 weeks away from the doors opening for MWC21 in Barcelona,” CEO John Hoffman wrote. “To say that the last year has been disruptive is an understatement and my thoughts are with anyone who has been impacted by COVID-19. I am not only hopeful about the future, but I am also excited about convening our ecosystem at MWC21. We recognise that not everyone will be able to attend in person and that is fine as we will augment our physical event with our MWC virtual program bringing you content from the show.”

Canceling a flagship show one year could have been utterly devastating. For many of these organizers — and the local governments who rely on tourism money — two years might seem unthinkable. MWC’s virtual strategy in year one of the pandemic was, understandably, undercooked.

More than a year into this, however, the GSMA and organizations like it hopefully have more robust strategies in place. The fact of the matter is that going virtual isn’t a one- or two-off. For many companies and people profoundly impacted by the pandemic, this is what the future looks like.