My research focuses on computer security and privacy, with an emphasis on problems that broadly impact society and public policy. Topics that interest me include software security, network security, data privacy, anonymity, election cybersecurity, censorship resistance, computer forensics, ethics, and cybercrime. I’m also interested in the interaction of technology with politics and international affairs.
Cyber-security is a complex and multi-dimensional research field. My research style comprises an inter-disciplinary (primarily rooted in economics, econometrics, data science (AI/ML/Bayesian and Frequentist Statistics), game theory, and network science) investigation of major socially pressing issues impacting the quality of cyber-risk management in modern networked and distributed engineering systems such as IoT-driven critical infrastructures, cloud-based service networks, and app-based systems (e.g., mobile commerce, smart homes) to name a few. I take delight in proposing data-driven, rigorous, and interdisciplinary solutions to both, existing fundamental challenges that pose a practical bottleneck to (cost) effective cyber-risk management, and futuristic cyber-security and privacy issues that might plague modern (networked) engineering systems. I strongly strive for originality, practical significance, and mathematical rigor in my solutions. One of my primary end goals is to conceptually get arms around complex, multi-dimensional information security and privacy problems in a way that helps, informs, and empowers practitioners and policy makers to take the right steps in making the cyber-space more secure.
I am interested in the intersection of big data, data science, privacy, security, public policy, and law. At U-M, this includes co-convening the Dissonance Event Series, a multi-disciplinary collaboration of faculty and graduate students that explore the confluence of technology, policy, privacy, security, and law. I frequently guest lecture on these subject across campus, including at the School of Information, Ford School of Public Policy, and the Law School.
I study cybercrime using data-driven methods to analyze, characterize, and measure the infrastructure and modus operandi used by criminal activities on the Internet. In particular, I focus on collection, analysis, and semantic characterization of cyber threat intelligence that comes in many shapes and forms (e.g., natural language, network traffic, system audit logs). The ultimate goal is to learn insights that will inform decisions on building robust defense against online criminal activities that involve threats such as ransomware, exploit kits, and botnets. To achieve these goals, I find graph theory and analytics, machine learning (deep learning), longitudinal analysis, and causality inference to be the natural methods. I also study the training and deployment of cyber threat classification/prediction systems in adversarial settings.
Satish Narayanasamy, Ph.D., is Associate Professor in the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science department in the College of Engineering at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Satish’s interests are working at the intersection of computer architecture, software systems and program analysis. His current interests include concurrency, security, customized architectures and tools for mobile and web applications, machine learning assisted program analysis, and tools for teaching at scale.
My research spans security, privacy, and optimization of data collection particularly as applied to the Smart Grid, an augmented and enhanced paradigm for the conventional power grid. I am particularly interested in optimization approaches that take a notion of security and/or privacy into the modeling explicitly. At the intersection of the Intelligent Transportation Systems, Smart Grid, and Smart Cities, I am interested in data privacy and energy usage in smart parking lots. Protection of data and availability, especially under assault through a Denial-of-Service attacks, represents another dimension of my area of research interests. I am working on developing data privacy-aware bidding applications for the Smart Grid Demand Response systems without relying on trusted third parties. Finally, I am interested in educational and pedagogical research about teaching computer science, Smart Grid, cyber security, and data privacy.
Mingyan Liu, PhD, is Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, College of Engineering, at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.
Prof. Liu’s research interest lies in optimal resource allocation, sequential decision theory, online and machine learning, performance modeling, analysis, and design of large-scale, decentralized, stochastic and networked systems, using tools including stochastic control, optimization, game theory and mechanism design. Her most recent research activities involve sequential learning, modeling and mining of large scale Internet measurement data concerning cyber security, and incentive mechanisms for inter-dependent security games. Within this context, her research group is actively working on the following directions.
1. Cyber security incident forecast. The goal is to predict an organization’s likelihood of having a cyber security incident in the near future using a variety of externally collected Internet measurement data, some of which capture active maliciousness (e.g., spam and phishing/malware activities) while others capture more latent factors (e.g., misconfiguration and mismanagement). While machine learning techniques have been extensively used for detection in the cyber security literature, using them for prediction has rarely been done. This is the first study on the prediction of broad categories of security incidents on an organizational level. Our work to date shows that with the right choice of feature set, highly accurate predictions can be achieved with a forecasting window of 6-12 months. Given the increasing amount of high profile security incidents (Target, Home Depot, JP Morgan Chase, and Anthem, just to name a few) and the amount of social and economic cost they inflict, this work will have a major impact on cyber security risk management.
2. Detect propagation in temporal data and its application to identifying phishing activities. Phishing activities propagate from one network to another in a highly regular fashion, a phenomenon known as fast-flux, though how the destination networks are chosen by the malicious campaign remains unknown. An interesting challenge arises as to whether one can use community detection methods to automatically extract those networks involved in a single phishing campaign; the ability to do so would be critical to forensic analysis. While there have been many results on detecting communities defined as subsets of relatively strongly connected entities, the phishing activity exhibits a unique propagating property that is better captured using an epidemic model. By using a combination of epidemic modeling and regression we can identify this type of propagating community with reasonable accuracy; we are working on alternative methods as well.
3. Data-driven modeling of organizational and end-user security posture. We are working to build models that accurately capture the cyber security postures of end-users as well as organizations, using large quantities of Internet measurement data. One domain is on how software vendors disclose security vulnerabilities in their products, how they deploy software upgrades and patches, and in turn, how end users install these patches; all these elements combined lead to a better understanding of the overall state of vulnerability of a given machine and how that relates to user behaviors. Another domain concerns the interconnectedness of today’s Internet which implies that what we see from one network is inevitably related to others. We use this connection to gain better insight into the conditions of not just a single network viewed in isolation, but multiple networks viewed together.