It continues to be a busy week in the realm of IT security. Late this afternoon, ComputerWorld reported that Honda Canada was notifying 280,000 of its customers that personal information including their "names, addresses, vehicle identification numbers, and in the case of a small number of customers, their Honda Financial Services account numbers," had apparently been compromised by a hacking attack. However, their Social Security numbers, driver's license information, birth dates, phone numbers and credit card numbers were not accessed.

ComputerWorld reported that Honda had discovered the breach in late February, but only began notifying its customers earlier this month. Honda's missive to its customers told them to beware phishing campaigns that might use their Honda-related information.

There was no explanation as to why Honda took so long to let its customers know about the breach. I suspect the Canadian privacy commissioner will be asking for such an explanation very soon.

Then late this evening, the Sydney Morning-Herald reported that at least 8,000 customers of Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) had their MasterCard and Visa credit cards immediately canceled as result of a data breach being uncovered at an as of yet unnamed merchant. The breach caused a smaller number of customers of Westpac Bank and its St. George's Bank subsidiary to have their credit cards canceled as well.

The Morning-Herald stated that the breach was discovered "through an Australian merchant acquired by another bank." No further details were given about this cryptic explanation.

Risk Factor readers may remember that CBA has been plagued with banking problems the past year (see here, here and here, for instance).

Then there was news earlier this week that an employee of Bank of America leaked confidential information to a loosely-organized gang of check scammers, 95 of which have been arrested by the US Secret Service so far. The employee provided the scammers with customers' full banking record, including "names, addresses, Social Security numbers, phone numbers, bank account numbers, driver's license numbers, birth dates, email addresses, mother's maiden names, PINs and account balances," the LA Times reported Tuesday.

The Times article says that the BoA employee leaked customer information as far back as at least last September. The employee and the others were arrested in February, but apparently the bank has only recently begun to notify the affected customers of the fraud. BoA and the Secret Service are saying little about the incident, saying that the investigation is still on-going.

The Times says that at least $10 million was stolen in the scheme.

The Conversation (0)

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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