A recent press release by the identity-theft protection company IdentityHawk reports that this past September, they counted 54 data breaches that saw 10,461,621 records potentially compromised, as compared to August, which had 44 reported data breaches and 678,614 records reportedly placed at risk. According to the latest count (PDF) at the Identity Theft Resource Center, as of the 18th of October, there have been 327 reported data breaches originating in the US so far this year resulting in 22,237,610 potentially compromised records.

A potentially compromised record is defined by the Identity Theft Resource Center as:

"... an event in which an individual’s name plus Social Security Number (SSN), driver’s license number, medical record, or a financial record/credit/debit card is potentially put at risk - either in electronic or paper format."

As a comparison, last year the Identity Theft Resource Center reported a total of 662 breaches resulting in 16,167,542 potentially compromised records. The year 2009 still hold the record with over 222 million records potentially compromised, mostly due to the Heartland Payment and US veterans' records data breaches.

According to the IdentityHawk release, about 27% of the data breaches reported so far this year were from known hacking.

Some compromised records that have not yet been added to the Identity Theft Resource Center are the 2,000 or so personal records of police officers were acquired by hacktivists claming to be from Anonymous in support of the Occupy Wall Street protests.

According to this story in ComputerWorld, the hacktivists:

"... attacked web sites in Massachusetts and Alabama, including the Boston Police Patrolmen's Association, International Chiefs of Police (IACP), sites run by forces in Birmingham and Jefferson counties in Alabama, and a web company called the Matrix Group which manages the sites."

"In addition to web defacement, the raid netted the attackers 600MB of data from the IACP, including the names and passwords for 1,000 Boston police staff, and the names, addresses, ranks, social security numbers, and phone numbers for another 1,000 officers in Alabama."

The hacktivists claimed that the attack was in response to "acts of aggression" against Occupy protestors. Attacking police web sites in retaliation for perceived police wrong-doing is becoming a common tactic by Anonymous members or followers.


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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