Towards 6G Wireless: Security Threats from Adversarial MetaSurfaces

Zhambyl Shaikhanov
Ph.D. Candidate, Electrical and Computer Engineering
Rice University
ECSE Seminar Series
JEC 3317 &
Thu, March 30, 2023 at 2:00 PM

Large spectral availability at millimeter wave and terahertz bands jointly with emerging novel device structures such as metasurfaces provide a promising foundation for unprecedented capabilities in next-generation wireless. In that effort, a suite of fundamentally unique challenges arises, particularly in wireless security. In this talk, I will describe a new class of “MetaSurface-In-The-Middle” attack, exposing the first-of-its-kind wavefront manipulation threat on 6G communications. I will also discuss the very low-profile nature of the attack and show how the attacker fabricates such sophisticated wavefront engineering structures in under 5 min and at the cost of several cents. Then, I will discuss the vulnerabilities of high-frequency and highly directive wireless backhaul links to aerial metasurfaces.  

Specifically, I will discuss the concept of wavefront-aware mobility and show how the attacker armed with a drone can controllably manipulate backhaul transmission wavefront via flight mobility and remotely establish stealthy eavesdropping diffraction link, targeting, for instance, sensitive transmissions in financial trading in Wall Street. Lastly, I will share several future research directions I plan to pursue broadly in wireless sensing, networking, and security in millimeter wave and terahertz spectrum.

Zhambyl Shaikhanov is a Ph.D. Candidate in Electrical and Computer Engineering at Rice University, advised by Prof. Edward Knightly. Zhambyl received his Master’s degree from Rice in 2020. He received his bachelor’s degree from The University of Texas at Austin in 2015 and worked in the industry, at Dell Server Networking lab, before starting graduate school. Zhambyl’s research broadly focused on advancing next-generation wireless and mobile networks, including networking, security, and sensing. He designs, prototypes, and experimentally demonstrates novel solutions that span the diverse spectrum, including millimeter waves and terahertz. His research also takes an interdisciplinary approach incorporating principles from physics, e.g., metasurfaces design, and robotics, e.g., aerial flight planning, to demonstrate new ideas that push the boundaries of wireless systems. His work has appeared in many top-tier ACM/IEEE conferences and journals and won multiple awards, including Best Demo Awards at ACM HotMobile and ACM WiSec. Zhambyl is Texas Instruments (TI) Distinguished Fellow, Rice ECE Fellow, and “Bolashak”  International Scholar, among many other awards.