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The New York Times reported yesterday that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) suffered what one unnamed official there called a "very major breach." The Times said, however, that an IMF spokesperson "declined to provide details or talk about the scope or nature of the intrusion."

The incident reportedly caused the IMF as a precaution to cut the computer link it has to the World Bank with which it shares some information.

A Bloomberg News story today reported that a security expert supposedly familiar with the attack claimed that it was directed by an unnamed foreign government. The attack, this person says, accessed emails and a "large quantity of data."

The person also claimed that the attack took place before the 14th of May. Internal IMF memos that Bloomberg was able to review say that on the 1st of June, the IMF IT department sent memos to employees warning them of virus attacks aimed against IMF computer systems.

On the 8th of June, Bloomberg reports that the IMF Chief Information Officer Jonathan Palmer wrote in a memo to IMF employees that:

"Last week we detected some suspicious file transfers, and the subsequent investigation established that a Fund desktop computer had been compromised and used to access some Fund systems... At this point, we have no reason to believe that any personal information was sought for fraud purposes."

The information in these internal IMF memos don't seem to line up with the claim that the breach occurred before 14 May, however. The memos make it look like there was another successful attack in early June. Maybe more details will emerge in the next few days to clarify the timeline.

Another thing that was a bit strange was this Reutersreport from last night that quoted a US Department of Defense spokesperson as saying that the US Federal Bureau of Investigation had been called into investigate. Why a DoD spokesperson would be speaking about what the FBI was or was not investigating is unusual, to say the least. 

Furthermore, the FBI wouldn't confirm its involvement in investigating the IMF cyber attack according to today's Bloomberg story.

This IMF attack seems to be following a familiar pattern of targeting government-related financial information. In January , Canada's Treasury Board and Department of Finance were fending off cyber attacks. The attacks forced the two departments off the Internet for weeks.

In March, the French government admitted that the Finance Ministry had been breached by a hacking attack late in 2010, allegedly targeting information related to France's presidency of the G20.

Also in March, Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard's email and the emails of as many as 10 other government ministers, including the Foreign and Defense ministers, were reportedly successfully hacked for most of the month February.

The speculation that all three of these attacks originated in China, which the Chinese government has denied.

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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