Yi-Chin Wu receives ProQuest Distinguished Dissertation Award for research in network security

Her dissertation focused on “opacity,” which captures whether a given secret of the system can be inferred by intruders who observe the behavior of the system.

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Yi-Chin Wu (MSE PhD EE:Sys ’11 ‘14) received a 2014 ProQuest Distinguished Dissertation Award for her dissertation, Verification and Enforcement of Opacity Security Properties in Discrete Event Systems. This award recognizes exceptional and unusually interesting work produced by doctoral students at the University of Michigan.

Yi-Chin studied with Prof. Stéphane Lafortune in the Discrete Event Systems Group. She was originally drawn to Prof. Lafortune’s group by the question of how computer-based systems such as network protocols can be formally analyzed and designed using the control theory of Discrete Event Systems.

Her general research area brings Discrete Event Control Theory to the analysis and design of secure systems. Specifically, her dissertation focused on an information-flow property called “opacity” that captures whether a given secret of the system can be inferred by intruders who observe the behavior of the system. Her work explored various formulations of opacity notions, and developed algorithms that analyze these opacity notions of the system. She proposed a novel enforcement mechanism that inserts fictitious behaviors into the system’s original behaviors, which enforces opacity notions of the system in a provably correct manner.

“Computer devices are becoming more integrated into our lives,” said Dr. Wu. “Meanwhile, new ways to attack computer systems are constantly developed. We can no longer solve security and privacy threats by only examining the implementation of each specific system. To proactively design general secure systems, we need to address security in a theoretical approach.”

By studying opacity security properties from the control theory of Discrete Event Systems, her work provides formal formulations for security as well as methods to design secure systems.

Yi-Chin now works as a postdoctoral researcher in the TerraSwarm Research Center. TerraSwarm is addressing the huge potential (and associated risks) of pervasive integration of smart, networked sensors and actuators into our connected world. The Center is based at UC-Berkeley; Prof. Lafortune is one of many U-M researchers involved in the Center, which also involves investigators from seven additional universities.

While at Michgian, Yi-Chin participated in many intramural sports, including volleyball, wallyball, basketball, softball, and soccer. During her last two years of study she helped organize social gathering events for graduate women. She says this group provided extremely valuable connections with other women.

Yi-Chin is enjoying her research at TerraSwarm, and anticipates a future continuing her research in the field of discrete event systems and security applications.