International news media are reporting today of a successful cyber attack by unknown parties against the French Government that occurred late last year. The incident was first reported by the magazine Paris Match yesterday, which the French government later confirmed.

According to this article in the Financial Times of London, the attack targeted "sensitive information relating to France's presidency of the Group of 20 industrialised nations."

The FT article quotes François Baroin, Budget Minister, as saying the attack had been "spectacular", while this article at the Wall Street Journal states that computer security on 12,000 of the 170,000 workstations used by the French Finance Ministry was increased this past weekend in wake of the attack.

Patrick Pailloux, head of L'Agence nationale de la sécurité des systèmes d'information (National Agency for Information Systems Security) was also quoted by the FT as saying the cyber attack was:

"... pure espionage ... one of the most important attacks, if not the most important, ever to target the public administration."

The attacks apparently began in December of last year, but weren't detected until January of this year. By the time the attacks were detected, at least 150 workstations at the Finance Ministry had been successfully penetrated.

Attempts to gain access to the computers located in the office of French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Prime Minister François Fillon, and the Minister of State failed, however.

The FT states that the workstations were penetrated via a Trojan Horse concealed in a PDF file attached to an email that supposedly came from a known source. The WSJ article says that the malware was detected when an employee at the Finance Ministry noticed an email had been sent to them from someone in the ministry who said they hadn't sent it.

Speculation is that the French Government believes the attack came from China, but is hesitant to say so for fear of losing China's support of France's G20 initiatives.

A few weeks ago, I blogged about Canada's Treasury Board and Department of Finance being hacked. Suspicion fell on China, which the Chinese government strongly denied.

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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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