Technology with Internet access has found its way into almost every aspect of modern life. While this has been beneficial in the majority of applications, it has also made many entities increasingly vulnerable to criminals. The floodgates have opened for cyber criminals to attack companies, organizations, and finally homes. Dr. Shiyan Hu, who received his Ph.D. from Texas A&M University, is one of the first-responders to this growing problem of smart-home cyber security. He presented a seminar to CESG last week titled, “Smart Home Scheduling and Cybersecurity: The Marriage of CAD and Cyberphysical Systems,” to demonstrate how he has been actively working to integrate a CAD system to protect those with smart homes so that cyber attackers are unable to run up costs and steal valuable energy.
Dr. Hu discussed a variety of CAD topics, specifically the interconnect optimization and the timing driven minimum cost buffer insertion. For the latter problem, he has designed the first fully polynomial time approximation scheme. Dr. Hu has spent much of his time researching such problems as he serves as the Director of Michigan Tech’s VLSI CAD research lab. The lab focuses on VLSI physical design including buffer insertion, layer assignment, routing, gate sizing, and etc. This leads into his CAD research in that the lab collaborates with the power system lab on the research of a CAD technique for smart-grid systems.
Much of this research has fed into Dr. Hu’s smart home research that includes using embedded systems to deal with scheduling and issues with cyber security. In an interview with Circuit Cellar, he explained how smart meters in homes work, “The smart meter can periodically receive updated pricing information from utility companies. The smart meter also has a scheduling unit that automatically determines the operation of each household appliance, targeting the minimization of the monetary expense of each residential customer.” Later in the interview, he also described how this can be exploited, “Cyber attackers can hack some access points in the transmission or just directly hack the smart meters. Those impacted smart meters would receive fake pricing information and generate undesired scheduling solutions.”
To fight this exploitation, Dr. Hu suggested countermeasures based on joint optimization utilizing machine learning and power electronic sensor deployment. He backed this countermeasure with some of his current work on a strategic Feeder Remote Terminal Unit (FRTU) deployment optimization technique. This technique builds on other techniques of cross entropy and conditional random fields. This all works together to detect smart meter tampering by cyber attackers within the power distribution network.
Dr. Hu received his Ph.D. in Computer Engineering from Texas A&M University in 2008. Next month, he will be an Associate Professor with the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Michigan Technological University, where he is also the Director of the Michigan Tech VSLI CAD research lab. As of 2014, he received the prestigious National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER Award. He also developed an ultra fast slew buffering technique that has been vastly adopted in industry by giants such as IBM.