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Mingyan Liu named 2018 Distinguished University Innovator

New approach to enhancing cybersecurity through predicting cyber exploits.| Short Read
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Cybercrime costs the world’s economy billions of dollars each year, forcing many companies to reshape their policies and procedures to stay ahead of cyber criminals.

Mingyan Liu, professor of electrical engineering and computer science, helped develop a new approach to enhancing cybersecurity through technology that predicts with up to 90 percent accuracy the likelihood that a company will be exploited by cyber criminals within the next year.

Her work in the field of cybersecurity earned Liu this year’s Distinguished University Innovator Award. Supported by endowments from the Office of Research and the Stephen and Rosamund Forrest Family Foundation, the award honors U-M faculty who make important and lasting contributions to society by developing novel ideas and insights, and then translating them to practice.

“Cybersecurity is a serious threat in today’s society, but for years, the way in which we approached these crimes was highly reactive,” said Liu. “We took a drastically different path in that our technology enables a more proactive approach to cybersecurity and risk management.”

Liu and her colleagues, with funding from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the National Science Foundation, developed a predictive analytics framework that uses machine learning to estimate an organization’s likelihood of having a material data breach in the near future.

With support from U-M’s Office of Technology Transfer, she then co-founded the company QuadMetrics in 2014 to commercialize the technology, which provides companies with an overall security score, helping security professionals address gaps and enabling partners and insurers to understand a firm’s security risk.

Analytic software company FICO acquired QuadMetrics in 2016 to help in its development of a FICO Enterprise Security Score — which ranks an organization’s level of cybersecurity risk — a tool that parallels FICO’s Consumer Credit Score product.

“The technology developed by Professor Liu and her team has revolutionized the way in which organizations assess their cybersecurity risk,” said S. Jack Hu, vice president for research.

Liu will receive the award Oct. 17 as part of the university’s annual Celebrate Invention event, where the campus community celebrates entrepreneurship and inventions reported by U-M researchers.

“Professor Liu is an excellent example of how researchers at the University of Michigan are able to transform their discoveries into new products and companies that drive economic growth and enhance quality of life,” said Kelly Sexton, associate vice president for research — technology transfer and innovation partnerships.

The Distinguished University Innovator Award was established in 2007 by the Office of the Vice President for Research. The recipient is chosen by the vice president for research on the recommendation of a selection committee, which reviews a pool of nominees each year.

Mingyan Liu
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