The Michigan Engineer News Center

Probing tech’s soft underbelly

Tricks of the trade.| Short Read

Written by Claudia Capos

Things are not always what they appear to be in Kevin Fu’s laboratory at U-M’s College of Engineering.

On any given day, research investigators may use an antenna to fool the lab’s temperature sensor into giving a false reading of below absolute zero ― a temperature so low it does not exist in the natural world. They also have utilized a laser light beam to inject false voice commands in a voice-controlled assistant from a distance of 300 feet, roughly the length of a football field.

While these scientific shenanigans seem more like hackers’ pranks, they are meant to illustrate an important point: The electronic devices on which we depend are not as secure and trustworthy as we thought.

“It’s possible to use everyday physics ― such as radio waves, ultrasonic beams, sound waves, lasers, and even laser pointers and flashlights ― to trick these devices into seeing false realities,” says Fu, associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science.

This article was original published in Michigan Today. Read the full article.

  • Kevin Fu

    Kevin Fu

    Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science

The electrons absorb laser light and set up “momentum combs” (the hills) spanning the energy valleys within the material (the red line). When the electrons have an energy allowed by the quantum mechanical structure of the material—and also touch the edge of the valley—they emit light. This is why some teeth of the combs are bright and some are dark. By measuring the emitted light and precisely locating its source, the research mapped out the energy valleys in a 2D crystal of tungsten diselenide. Credit: Markus Borsch, Quantum Science Theory Lab, University of Michigan.

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