China, Google, Hacking, Phones and Texting: Things Get Messy

Google Delays Launching Phone, China Scans Text Messages, Google Hacking Supposedly Traced To China Origins

2 min read
China, Google, Hacking, Phones and Texting: Things Get Messy

A stream of stories out of China the last few days.

First, Google announced not unexpectedly that it was going to postpone the release this week of two mobile phones in China that were going to use Google's Android software, reports the New York Times. No indication of when - if ever - Google would release the phones.

Second, China Mobile announced that text messages would automatically be scanned for "key words" provided by the police. The news was reported first by the China Daily which was then reported on by the New York Times.

Messages that are deemed to be "unhealthy" (i.e., they violate some undisclosed criteria established by the central government) they will be turned over to the police who can then order China Mobile to suspend the texting function from the phone.

The China Daily also reported today that SMS was returning to the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region of China six months after the ethnic clashes last July. Texting will be allowed within the region, but not overseas, and residents are restricted to 20 messages a day.

Third, an American computer security researcher at SecureWorks named Joe Stewart claims that he has found evidence that the hacking of Google and other companies was of Chinese origins. He bases his claims by determining that "the main program used in the attack contained a module based on an unusual algorithm from a Chinese technical paper that has been published exclusively on Chinese-language Web sites," reports the New York Times.

Reuters and others then reported earlier this week that Google was trying to determine whether a Google insider helped the hacking attack along. If true, this could increase tensions more than a bit.

Different news reports also say that Google is exploring options for staying in China, but given the Chinese government's stand on censorship, this would seem to be difficult.

Other companies that were hacked along with Google for the most part kept their mouths shut, and did little in the way of publicly supporting Google. Yahoo did, however, and its Chinese partner the Alibaba Group immediately called Yahoo's stance "reckless."

I guess those US-based companies that did not support Google don't believe in Ben Franklin's warning, "We must, indeed, all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately."

Stay tuned: this story is going to be around awhile.


Two quick additions to the post.

First, IEEE Associate Editor Joshua Romero pointed me to an interesting post by David McCandless who visualizes information, ideas, stories and data. You can see it both here and an updated version here at the London Guardian. You may want to peruse his blog as well - it is pretty interesting.

Also, there was a story in today's Wall Street Journal indicating that China was trying to frame the dispute with Google as being a technical one, not a political one. However, another story in today's Financial Times of London indicated that this stance might have changed overnight. This story says that Chinese media are calling Google's threat to leave a conspiracy by the White House.

Confusing signals to say the least, and maybe an indication of some political indecision in the Chinese government on what to do next.

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Metamaterials Could Solve One of 6G’s Big Problems

There’s plenty of bandwidth available if we use reconfigurable intelligent surfaces

12 min read
An illustration depicting cellphone users at street level in a city, with wireless signals reaching them via reflecting surfaces.

Ground level in a typical urban canyon, shielded by tall buildings, will be inaccessible to some 6G frequencies. Deft placement of reconfigurable intelligent surfaces [yellow] will enable the signals to pervade these areas.

Chris Philpot

For all the tumultuous revolution in wireless technology over the past several decades, there have been a couple of constants. One is the overcrowding of radio bands, and the other is the move to escape that congestion by exploiting higher and higher frequencies. And today, as engineers roll out 5G and plan for 6G wireless, they find themselves at a crossroads: After years of designing superefficient transmitters and receivers, and of compensating for the signal losses at the end points of a radio channel, they’re beginning to realize that they are approaching the practical limits of transmitter and receiver efficiency. From now on, to get high performance as we go to higher frequencies, we will need to engineer the wireless channel itself. But how can we possibly engineer and control a wireless environment, which is determined by a host of factors, many of them random and therefore unpredictable?

Perhaps the most promising solution, right now, is to use reconfigurable intelligent surfaces. These are planar structures typically ranging in size from about 100 square centimeters to about 5 square meters or more, depending on the frequency and other factors. These surfaces use advanced substances called metamaterials to reflect and refract electromagnetic waves. Thin two-dimensional metamaterials, known as metasurfaces, can be designed to sense the local electromagnetic environment and tune the wave’s key properties, such as its amplitude, phase, and polarization, as the wave is reflected or refracted by the surface. So as the waves fall on such a surface, it can alter the incident waves’ direction so as to strengthen the channel. In fact, these metasurfaces can be programmed to make these changes dynamically, reconfiguring the signal in real time in response to changes in the wireless channel. Think of reconfigurable intelligent surfaces as the next evolution of the repeater concept.

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