Yesterday, Sony updated the information on the data breach announced last week, and which has resulted in the shut-down of its Playstation Network and Qriocity service for a week. The news is not good.

According to Sony's Playstation Blog,

"We have discovered that between April 17 and April 19, 2011, certain PlayStation Network and Qriocity service user account information was compromised in connection with an illegal and unauthorized intrusion into our network..."

"Although we are still investigating the details of this incident, we believe that an unauthorized person has obtained the following information that you provided: name, address (city, state, zip), country, email address, birthdate, PlayStation Network/Qriocity password and login, and handle/PSN online ID. It is also possible that your profile data, including purchase history and billing address (city, state, zip), and your PlayStation Network/Qriocity password security answers may have been obtained. If you have authorized a sub-account for your dependent, the same data with respect to your dependent may have been obtained. While there is no evidence at this time that credit card data was taken, we cannot rule out the possibility. If you have provided your credit card data through PlayStation Network or Qriocity, out of an abundance of caution we are advising you that your credit card number (excluding security code) and expiration date may have been obtained."

The total number of compromised customer accounts may be as high as 77 million, according to some reports. Sony has called in the US FBI to investigate.

The Australian says there are 715,000 Australian Playstation network customers, and according to this report at the Sydney Morning Herald, the head of the New South Wales fraud squad, Detective Superintendent Col Dyson, is warning

"... Australian PlayStation users that they may have to cancel their credit cards after hackers stole enough information to even take out loans on the victims' behalf."

 It will be interesting to see whether Detective Superintendent Dyson's advice is repeated in other countries as well.

I have no doubts that the Australian banks are "just loving" his warning, though. The cost of canceling credit cards and then reissuing them is not insignificant.

Australian Privacy Commissioner Timothy Pilgrim is also quoted in the SMH article as saying that he is "very concerned" and has launched an investigation into the matter. The investigation will likely center on why Sony has taken so long to notify its customers of the breach itself, and of the possibility that personal information was taken.

These two same concerns have been also raised by US Senator Richard Blumenthal from Connecticut, who sent a very public letter to Sony yesterday stating that he was "...troubled by the failure of Sony to immediately notify affected customers of the breach and to extend adequate financial data security protections."

Senator Blumenthal wants Sony to explain what happened, why, and what it is going to do to protect its (Connecticut) customers now and into the future.

I fully expect the US Congress to announce hearings into this and other recent data breaches like that at Epsilon any day now. As the old politicians' saying goes, never let a good crisis go to waste, especially when it means a good photo opportunity. This one is shaping up to be a good crisis to exploit, especially since Sony is making itself such an easy target to criticize.

The European Privacy Commissioner, Viviane Reding, has been uncharacteristically quiet on the matter, but I expect that she will be speaking out about the issue soon as well.

This Reuters news story says that Sony makes about $500 million a year from the Playstation network, so the past week that the network has been shut down has cost the company about $9 - $10 million, not counting lost goodwill. That amount is likely only a down payment, however. The same Reuters story reports Sony's stock has dropped 2.0 percent in Tokyo today even as the broader market is up 1.4 percent on the news of the extent of the breach.

The breach news also is overshadowing Sony's announcement of its first tablet computers. Selling points are the ability to play Playstation games on them as well as connect to Qriocity, and may have been a reason it took so long for Sony to sell a tablet computer in the first place. Those may be less compelling reasons to buy them now.

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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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