Texans like to say that everything is big in Texas. Well, they've got something new to brag about now.

According to the Dallas Morning Star, Comptroller Susan Combsdisclosed yesterday that names, addresses and Social Security numbers - and in some instances, the driver licenses and date of birth - of some 3.5 million persons were inadvertently left on a "publicly accessible state computer server for a year or longer" that her office uses to verify unclaimed property records.

The Comptroller refused to say whether there is evidence that the data had been downloaded while it was accessible, but did point out that there has been no evidence of anyone having their identity stolen as a result.

How she would know whether that is true is beyond me, since the state hasn't yet notified anyone involved that their identity might have been taken as a result of this breach in security.

The FBI and the Texas Attorney General have already launched an investigation into the incident and those identified as responsible have already been fired. The paper reported that the information was not encrypted as required, and that the internal procedures concerning the proper handling and safeguarding of the data, including its removal after it was used, also were not followed.

The security hole was discovered on the 31st of March "when other folders were being scanned in the server," Morning Star reported.

The Dallas Morning Star also stated that:

"The information was data from the Teacher Retirement System of Texas covering 1.2 million education employees and retirees that was transferred to the comptroller’s office in January 2010; Texas Workforce Commission records on 2 million people that was transferred in April 2010; and Employees Retirement System of Texas data covering 281,000 state employees and retirees, transferred in May 2010."

The Comptroller's office will begin sending out letters explaining what happened to those affected on Wednesday. It has also set up an informational web site at www.TXsafeguard.org. Basically, the information there says to be diligent for possible "misuse" of your personal data.

The state is not offering any free credit monitoring services or the like because it has no money to do so.

The Comptroller, per usual, stated that:

"We take information security very seriously, and this type of exposure will not happen again."

One wonders if that is Texas-sized "seriously" or a regularly-sized "seriously"?

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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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