A study by Professor Knightley and Daniel Mittleman suggests that an attacker can
Engineers call the attack Metasurface-in-the-Middlein honor of the hacker's tool and the way it is used. Metasurfaces are thin sheets of material with patterned patterns that manipulate light or electromagnetic waves.
The 150 GHz frequency is higher than what is used inmodern cellular 5G networks or Wi-Fi. But Knightley believes that wireless carriers will roll out networks at 150 GHz and similar frequencies, known as terahertz or millimeter waves, over the next decade.
“Awareness of the future threat is the first step tocountering this threat,” said study co-author Edward Knightley. “The frequencies vulnerable to this attack are not yet in use, but they will appear, and we must be ready.”
In the study, engineers used two simulated users, Alice and Bob, to refer to subscribers whose messages were hacked. The eavesdropping user's name was Eve.
To organize an attack, Eve firstdesigned a metasurface that refracted part of the narrow beam signal to her location. To demonstrate, the researchers designed a template with hundreds of rows of split rings. Each of them looks like the letter "C", but they are not identical to each other. The exposed portion of each ring varies in size and orientation.
“These holes and their orientation are specially madein such a way that the signal diffracts exactly in the direction that Eva wants,” said Zhabyl Shaikhanov, a graduate of Rice University. “After she designed the metasurface, she printed it on a conventional laser printer and then used the hot stamping technique that is used in crafting.”
“We developed this approach to lower the barrierfor fabricating metasurfaces: It allows researchers to quickly and inexpensively test many different designs,” said Mittleman. “Of course, it also lowers the barrier to listening devices.”
In addition, it will be very difficult for users to detect the attack. Since such a metasurface is easy to hide, for example, among other sheets of paper.
The researchers said they hope their work will dispel a common misconception in the wireless industry that higher frequencies are inherently safe.
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