Using Spectral Cloaking for Object Invisibility

An example of when science fiction becomes science fact. This advance could be used in many different ways, including in digital security, with out of sight possibly meaning out of mind.

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Researchers and engineers have long sought ways to conceal objects by manipulating how light interacts with them. A new study offers the first demonstration of invisibility cloaking based on the manipulation of the frequency (color) of light waves as they pass through an object, a fundamentally new approach that overcomes critical shortcomings of existing cloaking technologies.

The approach could be applicable to securing data transmitted over fiber optic lines and also help improve technologies for sensing, telecommunications and information processing, researchers say. The concept, theoretically, could be extended to make 3D objects invisible from all directions; a significant step in the development of practical invisibility cloaking technologies.

Most current cloaking devices can fully conceal the object of interest only when the object is illuminated with just one color of light. However, sunlight and most other light sources are broadband, meaning that they contain many colors. The new device, called a spectral invisibility cloak, is designed to completely hide arbitrary objects under broadband illumination.

The spectral cloak operates by selectively transferring energy from certain colors of the light wave to other colors. After the wave has passed through the object, the device restores the light to its original state. Researchers demonstrate the new approach in Optica, The Optical Society’s journal for high impact research.

“Our work represents a breakthrough in the quest for invisibility cloaking,” said José Azaña, National Institute of Scientific Research (INRS), Montréal, Canada. “We have made a target object fully invisible to observation under realistic broadband illumination by propagating the illumination wave through the object with no detectable distortion, exactly as if the object and cloak were not present.”

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While the new design would need further development before it could be translated into a Harry Potter-style, wearable invisibility cloak, the demonstrated spectral cloaking device could be useful for a range of security goals. For example, current telecommunication systems use broadband waves as data signals to transfer and process information. Spectral cloaking could be used to selectively determine which operations are applied to a light wave and which are “made invisible” to it over certain periods of time. This could prevent an eavesdropper from gathering information by probing a fiber optic network with broadband light.

The overall concept of reversible, user-defined spectral energy redistribution could also find applications beyond invisibility cloaking. For example, selectively removing and subsequently reinstating colors in the broadband waves that are used as telecommunication data signals could allow more data to be transmitted over a given link, helping to alleviate logjams as data demands continue to grow. Or, the technique could be used to minimize some key problems in today’s broadband telecommunication links, for example by reorganizing the signal energy spectrum to make it less vulnerable to dispersion, nonlinear phenomena and other undesired effects that impair data signals.

New Haven App Uses a Smartphone to Guard Devices

Haven looks useful for more than it was designed for too, of course. Someone looking to secure a room in general could use the app to identify any unauthorized visitors.

It’s still in the early stages of development, but it’s one of the most promising attempts at defending against evil mail attacks for those with heightened threat models.

LIKE MANY OTHER journalists, activists, and software developers I know, I carry my laptop everywhere while I’m traveling. It contains sensitive information; messaging app conversations, email, password databases, encryption keys, unreleased work, web browsers  logged into various accounts, and so on. My disk is encrypted, but all it takes to bypass this protection is for an attacker — a malicious hotel housekeeper, or “evil maid,” for example — to spend a few minutes physically tampering with it without my knowledge. If I come back and continue to use my compromised computer, the attacker could gain access to everything.

Edward Snowden and his friends have a solution. The NSA whistleblower and a team of collaborators have been working on a new open source Android app called Haven that you install on a spare smartphone, turning the device into a sort of sentry to watch over your laptop. Haven uses the smartphone’s many sensors — microphone, motion detector, light detector, and cameras — to monitor the room for changes, and it logs everything it notices. The first public beta version of Haven has officially been released; it’s available in the Play Store and on F-Droid, an open source app store for Android.

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You can configure Haven to send you real-time encrypted alerts of what it detects to your other phone, the one you carry with you, when an intrusion is detected. You can choose to get encrypted Signal notifications, and you can also configure Haven to run a Tor onion service website (that is, a darknet site), and use Tor Browser on another device to connect in and view all of the alerts — all without giving anyone else access to these evidence logs unless you choose to share them. Haven also supports SMS text notifications, which can be intercepted but which might be more reliable in some situations.

Giant Data Leak Exposes Data on 123 Million U.S. Households

This is yet another data breach that would be much less likely to happen if the NSA would primarily do its actual job and protect Americans instead of spying on them and other relatively innocent foreign citizens. Up to 90 percent of the NSA’s budget is dedicated to offense and spying when it should be dedicated to securing vital technological infrastructure and defending the public instead. Unfortunately though, the NSA today is largely an example of the government — compromised through excessive corporate control — treating its own domestic population as the enemy, and that sort of example happens far too frequently in the modern world.

Researchers revealed Tuesday that earlier this year they discovered a massive database — containing information on more than 123 million American households — that was sitting unsecured on the internet.

The cloud-based data repository from marketing analytics company Alteryx exposed a wide range of personal details about virtually every American household, according to researchers at cybersecurity company UpGuard. The leak put consumers at risk for a range of nefarious activities, from spamming to identity theft, the researchers warned.

Though no names were exposed, the data set included 248 different data fields covering a wide variety of specific personal information, including address, age, gender, education, occupation and marital status. Other fields included mortgage and financial information, phone numbers and the number of children in the household.

“From home addresses and contact information, to mortgage ownership and financial histories, to very specific analysis of purchasing behavior, the exposed data constitutes a remarkably invasive glimpse into the lives of American consumers,” UpGuard researchers Chris Vickery and Dan O’Sullivan wrote in their analysis.

A cascade of recent database breaches has left consumers on edge about the security of their personal information. After credit monitoring company Equifax revealed in September that cybercriminals had made off with data on more than 145 million Americans, US lawmakers began efforts to hold such businesses accountable to the everyday people whose data they collect for profit.

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“The data exposed in this bucket would be invaluable for unscrupulous marketers, spammers and identity thieves, for whom this data would be largely reliable and, more importantly, varied,” the researchers said. “With a large database of potential victims to survey — with such details as ‘mortgage ownership’ revealed, a common security verification question — the price could be far higher than merely bad publicity.”