The December 2022 issue of IEEE Spectrum is here!

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The Sony data breach story just keeps getting worse and worse. News reports yesterday stated that Sony had discovered in its continuing investigation into the Playstation Network breach that apparently the hackers had also been able to initially penetrate Sony’s Online Entertainment (SOE)  servers and possibly stolen information from some 24.6 million customer accounts, bringing the total number of compromised accounts to over 100 million.

The Sony press release on the latest (or currently first known breach) also said that:

“…information from an outdated database from 2007 containing approximately 12,700 non-US customer credit or debit card numbers and expiration dates (but not credit card security codes) and about 10,700 direct debit records listing bank account numbers of certain customers in Germany, Austria, Netherlands and Spain may have also been obtained. We will be notifying each of those customers promptly.”

Sony went on to say that:

“We apologize for the inconvenience caused by the attack and as a result, we have:

1) Temporarily turned off all SOE game services;

2) Engaged an outside, recognized security firm to conduct a full and complete investigation into what happened; and

3) Quickly taken steps to enhance security and strengthen our network infrastructure to provide you with greater protection of your personal information.

We greatly appreciate your patience, understanding and goodwill as we do whatever it takes to resolve these issues as quickly and efficiently as practicable.”

Sony has declined to appear today before the US House Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade to discuss the data breach(es), but said it would be responding to the questions (PDF) sent to it by the subcommittee last week. Sony said that it was too busy with its ongoing investigation to appear.

Epsilon, which had a major data breach of its own recently, also declined to testify, although it has reportedly already answered subcommittee questions about its breach. There was no reason given as to why Epsilon declined to appear. My guess is that it didn’t want to be the only piñata in the room. 

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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