May 17, 2020

iPads could help restore vision in blind children

tablet computer
3 min
iPads are being used as a therapy tool for blind children
Apples popular tablet computer, the iPad, could help blind children to communicate, according to researchers from the University of Kansas in the US. T...

Apple’s popular tablet computer, the iPad, could help blind children to communicate, according to researchers from the University of Kansas in the US.

The team believe iPads have the potential to help children living with cortical visual impairment (CVI) to communicate and could even help to restore vision.

Fifteen children with CVI – the result of brain damage that makes people unable to interpret visual information –were given an iPad to play with and the researchers were “shocked” with the results.

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Muriel Saunders, an assistant research professor at the University of Kansas’ Life Span Institute, explained what happened: “We tested 15 children aged and were absolutely shocked.”

“Every single child was enthralled with the iPad. Children that typically didn't look at people, didn't respond with objects or responded in a very repetitious fashion, were absolutely glued to the iPad. It was an amazing experience.”

According to Saunders, children with CVI enjoy looking at lights – be it daylight, room lights or light boxes – because high contrast scenes and images are easier for them to process.

However, they do not focus on objects and so appear to be blind.

Many therapists who work with children with CVI use light boxes, similar to those used in hospitals to view X-rays, to try to develop their communication and language skills.

The researchers believe the brightness of an iPad recreates the images of a light box, but the children are more engaged by it because of sounds, colour and interactivity.

Saunders notes: “We were using some very simple infant applications, one was called 'Baby Finger,' where you just touch the screen and sounds and images and coloured shapes appear on the white background.

 “In many ways it was similar to a light box except for instead of black and white, there were bright colours.”

Although using the iPad as a CVI therapy tool has shown early potential, Saunders believes it could hold endless benefits for children with the condition.

She is in the process of applying for a grant from the National Institutes of Health which would enable a bigger study to be undertaken.

“With the proper intervention techniques, the amazing thing is that the child's brain grows the brain cells needed in the cerebral cortex,” she said.

“It grows the brain cells necessary to begin understanding what their eye is seeing, so they develop the ability to interpret images, sometimes just partially, sometimes fully.”

She expanded: “Using the iPad, not only can they interact with a screen, but we can teach them through a series of steps to control things on that screen.

“There are so many apps already available so we don't have to go out and make our own apps.

 “There are apps available to make a communication board and there are apps available that have different levels of difficulty.”

Internet forums, discussion boards and social media sites are already showing parents of children have witnessed the iPad’s benefits.

“Parents of children with CVI are already learning that the iPad works well. There are blogs that say, 'Look at this one' or, 'Look at that one! My child is responding to this app,” asserts Saunders. 

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Jun 17, 2021

Peloton vulnerable to cyber attacks, McAfee research finds

2 min
​​​​​​​Software security experts McAfee discovered exercise bikes by Peloton are vulnerable to cyber attacks, which the company have since resolved 

Peloton, the popular exercise bikes, were found to be vulnerable to cyber attacks in the latest research from McAfee. 

Peloton is a brand of electric bikes that combines high end exercise equipment with cutting-edge technology. Its products use wi fi to connect to a large tablet that interfaces with the components of the exercise device, and provides an easy way for physical activity enthusiasts to attend virtual workout classes over the internet several times a week.

Peloton has garnered attention recently around the privacy and security of its products. So McAfee decided to take a look for themselves and purchased a Peloton Bike+.

The problem

Researchers looked at the Android devices and uncovered a vulnerability  that could allow an attacker with either physical access to the Bike+ or access during any point in the supply chain to gain to hack into the bike’s tablet, including the camera, microphone and personal data. 

For the person using it there would be no indication the Bike+ has been tampered with, potentially putting Peloton’s 16.7 million users at risk.  

The flaw was found in the Android Verified Boot (AVB) process. McAfee researchers were able to bypass the Android Verified Boot process, which normally verifies all code and data before booting. They were then able to get the device to boot bypassing this step. 

This could potentially lead to the Android OS being compromised by an attacker who is physically present. Even worse, the attacker could boot up the Peloton with a modified credential to gain privileges, granting them access to the bike remotely. 

As the attacker never has to unlock the device to boot it up, there would be no trace of their access on the device. This type of attack could also happen at any point from construction to warehouse to delivery, by installing a backdoor into the Android tablet without the user ever knowing. 

The solution

Given the simplicity and criticality of the flaw, McAfee informed Peloton while auditing was ongoing. The vendor was sent full details,  and shortly after, Peloton confirmed the issue and released a fix for it. 

Further conversations between McAfee and  Peloton confirmed that this vulnerability had also been present on the Peloton Tread exercise equipment. 

Peloton’s Head of Global Information Security Adrian Stone, commented on the research: “This vulnerability reported by McAfee would require direct, physical access to a Peloton Bike+ or Tread. Like with any connected device in the home, if an attacker is able to gain physical access to it, additional physical controls and safeguards become increasingly important.

"To keep our members safe, we acted quickly and in coordination with McAfee. We pushed a mandatory update in early June and every device with the update installed is protected from this issue.”

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