In April, the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) announced that a laptop and 50 papers containing medical information on over 133,000 persons were stolen from an employee's car. Then in September,  TRICARE backup tapes containing data on 4.9 million patients from 1992 to most of 2011 were stolen out of a Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) employee's car.

Now comes word this week that a desktop computer belonging to California's Sutter Medical Foundation that contained the records of over 4 million patients - some dating as far back as 1995 - was stolen from the Foundation's offices in mid-October.

According to this story in the Sacramento Bee, the patient information on the desktop was password protected but not encrypted. The Bee reports that for 3.3 million patients whose providers are supported by Sutter Physician Services and for 943,000 patients of the Sutter Medical Foundation itself, the computer contained their "... names, addresses, email addresses, dates of birth, telephone numbers and names of patients' health insurance plans."

The Sutter Health Foundation's press release quoted Sutter Health President and CEO Pat Fry as stating:

"Sutter Health holds the confidentiality and trust of our patients in the highest regard, and we deeply regret that this incident has occurred. The Sutter Health Data Security Office was in the process of encrypting computers throughout our system when the theft occurred, and we have accelerated these efforts."

That last sentence is likely cold comfort to those whose information was stolen.

Earlier this month, the payment information of some 8,000 people using Lawrence [Kansas] Memorial Hospital’s online patient bill-pay-services operated by its vendor Mid Continent Credit Services was discovered to have been publicly accessible since possibly as early as 2005. According to stories (here and here) appearing at, in late October, information on 28 LMH patients was discovered to be inadvertently posted online, including their names, contact information, health care provider and medical payments.

This led to an investigation that led to officials to worry that information on thousands more patients was also accessible, including says the story, the patients' name as well as their:

"... phone number, email address, health care provider, payment amount and date of payment;"

"Credit card information, including the type of card, name and address of the card holder, the account number, the verification number and the expiration date; [and]"

"Checking account information, including the check number, the account holder name and address, the checking account number and bank routing number, and the bank name and address."

LMH reportedly is expecting a Federal investigation into the situation and a fine. It has suspended online payments, and is looking for a new payment processing vendor, too. LMH director of community relations is quoted as saying:

"We take privacy and security of patient information very seriously and we sincerely apologize for the inconvenience caused by this event."

Both the Sutter Medical Foundation and Lawrence Memorial Hospital are in good company. The security company IdentityHawkreported that there were 58 publicly reported data breaches in October that resulted in the potential compromise of 12, 279,616 online records. The company reported that for September, they counted 54 data breaches and 10,461,621 records potentially compromised.

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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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