The Financial Times of London reported last night that Citigroup had been hacked, and that an unknown number of credit card accounts compromised. The FT says the number could reach into the hundreds of thousands.

The FT article says Citigroup discovered the breach in early May through routine monitoring of banking activity but the bank did not publicly disclose the breach until the FT started to make inquiries.

The story in the FT states that:

"The breach occurred at Citi Account Online, which holds basic customer information such as names, account numbers and email addresses. Other information such as birth dates, social security numbers and card security codes are held elsewhere and were not compromised, Citi said."

Citigroup says that it has contacted law enforcement, but it refuses to give additional details about the hack other than to say that about 1% of its credit card holders were affected. The bank, the FT says, has 21 million customers in North America.

Citigroup also told the FT that only credit card accounts have been compromised, but the FT reports that Citigroup debit cards might also have been compromised.

For a major bank to be breached is, as one security analyst put it, a "very big deal."

For the breach not to be reported until a newspaper comes calling is probably going to turn it into an even bigger deal.

What is intriguing is that an article in Tuesday's New York Times says that Citigroup is among the companies that is going to replace its SecurID tokens after the hack at RSA.

So, is this hack a result of the SecurID breach, and is that why the bank is being so mum about it? If so, this could make it a tremendously huge deal, especially for RSA.

At the very least, this latest breach will provide further ammunition to those in the US Senate trying to make public companies disclose security breaches, which many never mention. It would also give additional ammunition to Senator Patrick Leahy who has introduced once more a bill that would make the "intentional or willful" nondisclosure of a data breach a federal crime.

That is looking more and more like a good idea.

PHOTO: iStockphoto

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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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