Mingyan Liu named 2018 Distinguished University Innovator

May 30, 2018
Contact: umichnews@umich.edu

ANN ARBOR—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, an electrical engineering and computer science professor at the University of Michigan, developed a system 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,” Liu said. “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 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.

The system analyzes Internet measurement data to provide a cybersecurity rating for an enterprise. The company she co-founded with support from U-M Tech Transfer, QuadMetrics, gives firms and insurers a predictive tool to understand and quantify a company’s cybersecurity risk posture. It was purchased by FICO in 2016.

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

Liu will receive the award Oct. 17 as part of the 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, U-M 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.