This Crafty Tool Can Eavesdrop on 6G Wireless Signals

Hackers could make a tool to eavesdrop on some 6G wireless signals with just office paper, an inkjet printer, a metallic foil transfer, and a laminator.

The researchers who discovered the wireless security hack will present their findings and demonstrate the attack this week in San Antonio at ACM WiSec 2022, the Association for Computing Machinery’s annual conference on security and privacy in wireless and mobile networks.

“Awareness of a future threat is the first step to counter that threat,” says study coauthor Edward Knightly, professor of electrical and computer engineering at Rice University. “The frequencies that are vulnerable to this attack aren’t in use yet, but they are coming and we need to be prepared.”


In the study, Knightly, Brown University engineering professor Daniel Mittleman, and colleagues showed an attacker could easily make a sheet of office paper covered with 2D foil symbols—a metasurface—and use it to redirect part of a 150 gigahertz” pencil beam” transmission between two users.

They dubbed the attack “Metasurface-in-the-Middle” as a nod to both the hacker’s tool and the way it is wielded. Metasurfaces are thin sheets of material with patterned designs that manipulate light or electromagnetic waves.” Man-in-the-middle” is a computer security industry classification for attacks in which an adversary secretly inserts themself between two parties.

The 150 gigahertz frequency is higher than is used in today’s 5G cellular or Wi-Fi networks. But Knightly says wireless carriers are looking to roll out 150 gigahertz and similar frequencies known as terahertz waves or millimeter waves over the next decade.


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