Aug 17, 2020

McAfee finds security risk with robots in care homes

virtual assistant
Leila Hawkins
2 min
McAfee finds security risk with robots in care homes
Virtual assistant helping keep elderly residents in touch with loved ones found vulnerable to exploitation...

A personal robot used in care homes for the elderly was recently found to be at risk of attack by hackers. 

Security software company McAfee found that virtual assistant temi had vulnerabilities they were able to exploit, including intercepting calls, gaining video access, and even controlling the device remotely without the need for authentication. 

temi was launched in early 2019, billed as the world's first cost effective robot, aimed at both business and personal use. The 4-foot-tall robot uses Android software and connects via wifi and bluetooth. It was recently introduced into healthcare facilities and care homes for the elderly, largely to help keep residents connected to family and friends through teleconferencing while visiting has been restricted due to Covid-19. 

But when McAfee's Advanced Threat Research department decided to take a close look at temi, they found that the functions that make it such a highly connected device made it a target for malicious attacks. 

The McAfee team spent several months analysing the robot's functions, making video calls, marking key locations, and doing more in-depth work like looking at what open network ports the robot exposed and activating an Android debugger. 

They found that by making a few changes to the original Android app, phone calls could be easily intercepted. Another few changes and the robot could be manipulated to move around and activate its camera and microphone. To do this, the only information a hacker would need is a telephone number. 

This could have very serious consequences in clinical settings. Writing on McAfee's blog, Principal Engineer Douglas McKee said: "With the phone number of anyone who has called a temi recently, a hacker could observe what room number and condition a hospitalised member of congress is in. Temi could watch the security guard type in the building alarm code. Temi could observe the dog pictures on the nurse’s desk labeled with its cute name and birthday, that just happens to also be part of their password."

Inkeeping with their responsible disclosure policy, McAfee contacted temi once they'd confirmed these vulnerabilities. The two organisations have since been working together to improve the security of the robot, and after thorough testing have reported these have been resolved. 

"It is always exciting to see the positive impact security research can have when responsible disclosure is valued by vendor and researchers alike" McKee said. 

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Jun 24, 2021

Jvion launches AI-powered map to tackle mental health crisis

2 min
Jvion's new interactive map uses AI to predict areas most vulnerable to poor mental health

Clinical AI company Jvion has launched an interactive map  of the US that highlights areas that are most vulnerable to poor mental health. 

The Behavioral Health Vulnerability Map uses Jvion's AI CORE™ software to analyse public data on social determinants of health (SDOH)  and determine the vulnerability of every US Census block group. 

Vulnerability refers to the likelihood that residents will experience issues like self-harm, suicide attempts or overdoses. The map also identifies the most influential social determinants in each region, to show the social and environmental conditions that contribute to mental illness. 

As an example, the map shows that Harrison County in Mississippi has a 50% higher suicide rate than the rest of the state. It also shows a high percentage of individuals in the armed forces at a time when active duty suicides are at a six-year high, along with a high prevalence of coronary artery disease, arthritis, and COPD, all chronic illnesses that are linked to a higher suicide risk.  

The map also shows Harrison County has a high percentage of Vietnamese Americans, who studies suggest have high rates of depression and may be less likely to seek help from mental health professionals. 

The map was built using the same data and analytics that Jvion used to create the COVID Community Vulnerability Map, which was launched towards the start of the pandemic. 

With this new map, Jvion is aiming to tackle the growing mental health crisis in the US. “At a time when so many Americans are struggling with their mental health, we’re proud to offer a tool that can help direct treatment resources to the communities that need it most,” said Dr John Showalter, MD, Jvion’s chief product officer, who led the development of the map. 

“For too long, the healthcare industry has struggled to address social determinants of health, particularly in the context of behavioural health. Our hope is that by surfacing the social and environmental vulnerabilities of America’s communities, we can better coordinate our response to the underlying conditions that impact the health and wellbeing of people everywhere.” 

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