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Programmable metasurfaces in 6G networks vulnerable to wireless attacks

To prepare for the projected 2030 launch of 6G, the researchers hope their work will help the industry decide to build security protections into metasurfaces when they are created over the coming years

By taking advantage of flaws in programmable metasurfaces, a technology that will be crucial in the deployment of 6G networks, hackers may be able to launch two different forms of attacks.

To improve communication channels, programmable metasurfaces are electromagnetic surfaces that may be integrated into commonplace items like wallpaper or window glass.

In the future, this technology might be essential for realizing the full potential of 6G. Even the greatest 5G home internet and wireless networks are not expected to match the anticipated speeds.

Attacks Using Metasurface

According to academics from Southeast University, the University of Sannio, and Peking University, metasurfaces can also be used to attack wireless networks. The active and passive attacks they demonstrate in their research, which was published in Nature Electronics, both have metasurfaces at their core.

“The open nature of wireless communication means that data and signals are essentially out in the open, making the risk of physical level attacks a major concern,” researchers Lianlin Li, Vincenzo Galdi, and Tie Jun Cui said in a statement to Tech Xplore.

As a crucial enabling technology in the envisioned 6G environment, “our project focuses on identifying some potential risks associated with programmable metasurfaces.”

In one scenario, a user might passively observe wireless interactions between two devices using a metasurface and disrupt the signal. They might also interfere with communication between a router and its user, slowing down data transmission rates, by abruptly changing a metasurface’s attributes.

While conducting an active attack, an attacker might create and send false data to a user while listening in on a connection. In this case, taking advantage of metasurfaces can speed up the transmission of bogus data while decreasing the effectiveness of the real connection. All of this may occur while the attacker avoids detection.

To prepare for the projected 2030 launch of 6G, the researchers hope their work will help the industry decide to build security protections into metasurfaces when they are created over the coming years.

Li, Galdi, and Cui stated that “continuing our research, we are committed to designing secure 6G networks, taking into account both the advantages and challenges associated with programmable metasurfaces.”

By utilizing techniques like beamforming, cooperative jamming with artificial noise, index modulation, and adaptive modulation, we are currently concentrating on developing targeted defences against physical-layer attacks.

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