Hackers may be able to launch two new types of attacks by exploiting weaknesses in programmable metasurfaces – a technology that will become critical in implementing 6G networks.
Programmable metasurfaces they are electromagnetic surfaces designed to integrate into everyday objects such as wallpaper or window glass and aim to optimize communication channels.
This technology could become key to maximizing the potential of 6G in the future. Speeds are expected to be orders of magnitude faster than even some of the best 5G wireless and home broadband networks.
But metasurfaces can also be exploited to launch attacks on wireless networks, according to researchers at Peking University, University of Sannio and Southeast University. Their paper, published in Nature Electronics, demonstrates two types of attacks – active and passive – with metasurfaces at the heart of both.
“The open nature of wireless communication means that data and signals are essentially out in the open, making the risk of physical-layer attacks a major concern,” said researchers Lianlin Li, Vincenzo Galdi and Tie Jun Cui. Xplore technology.
“Our project focuses on identifying some potential risks associated with programmable metasurfaces, a key enabling technology in the anticipated 6G landscape.”
In one scenario, a user can passively use a metasurface to spy on wireless interactions between two devices and interfere with the signal. By rapidly changing the properties of a metasurface, they could also disrupt communication between a router and its user, reducing data transfer rates.
An active attack, meanwhile, could see an attacker generate and send false data to a user while intercepting a connection. Exploiting metasurfaces, in this scenario, can increase the rate at which the false data is transmitted while reducing the effectiveness of the legitimate connection. All of this can happen while the attacker remains difficult to spot.
The researchers hope their work can help industry embed cybersecurity protective measures into metasurfaces as they are developed over the next few years, before 6G’s likely 2030 rollout date.
“Continuing our research, we are dedicated to shaping secure 6G networks, taking into account both the benefits and challenges associated with programmable metasurfaces,” said Li, Galdi and Cui. “Currently, we are focused on developing targeted defenses against physical layer attacks, leveraging strategies such as beamforming, cooperative jamming with artificial noise, index modulation, and adaptive modulation.”