Interview with CyberCall Expert Panellist Prof Liu Yang

Date: 12 Jul 2022

This post features Prof Liu Yang, who was among a stellar panel of experts called on to contribute their technical knowledge to the 2021 Cybersecurity Industry Call for Innovation, an initiative by the Cyber Security Agency of Singapore. Prof Liu Yang is currently a Professor at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.

The call attracts cybersecurity innovators with clever solutions to address challenges laid out by participating end-users. To remove cost as a barrier to innovation, CSA awards up to S$1M for the co-development of promising projects.

Imperative to call’s success, the expert panel provides advice on the technical novelty and suitability of submitted proposals. For their contributions in pushing the frontiers of cybersecurity innovation, we thank Prof Liu and fellow expert panellists!

Read on to learn more about Prof Liu and why he’s doing this.

Interview with Prof Liu Yang

Over the years, you have made many notable contributions in pushing the frontiers of cybersecurity. What do you consider your greatest achievement?

We have been working on software security for the last ten years. We have established a comprehensive solution (using formal methods, program analysis and AI) to find and fix security vulnerabilities in various systems, including popular software like PDF reader and Chrome. Most importantly, it has been translated into commercial products via our spinoff Scantist, which has been used by thousands software developers.

Now we are applying this research to improve the security of the open-source ecosystem and help to promote software supply security adoption.

What is one unexpected thing that people don’t know about you?

I was once a shy boy and didn’t talk too much, and never dared to speak in front of the public before college. But it seems that being a teacher in the university has changed my personality, and now I feel that I am talking too much sometimes. 😜

People always use ‘race’ or ‘war’ to describe cybersecurity. Well, are we winning? 

This is a very interesting question.

Obviously, cybersecurity has become a global phenomenon and I have written recently that cybersecurity has become everyone’s business – if you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.

Back to the question, for every cyber war, it is clear that we will win eventually, but the battle can be very devastating. If you look at the history of cybersecurity development, there has been consistent good progress of defensive solutions in malware detection, vulnerability prevention and so on.

But the sad news is that the war may not be ending as new attacks can be discovered or may be triggered by non-technological factors (like human mistakes). And the worse news is that there will constantly be new wars started when we develop new technologies like blockchain, autonomous driving and quantum computing. Human beings will not stop technological evolution; hence cybersecurity researchers will not lose their job, at least in the coming future.

The road ahead will not be easy, but we’ll do that much more to make sure it’s even harder or impossible to lose.

As part of the Technical Panel for the CyberCall, you played an indispensable role in evaluating proposals for quality and innovation. Are there any areas that you would like to see more innovation in? How can start-ups leverage these opportunities?

Cybersecurity requires constant innovation on existing problems and solutions to address new cybersecurity topics. I hope to see new solutions using AI, and program/data analytics techniques to bring more intelligence and automation to reduce the need of security experts.

On the other hand, demand for securing AI software and Web3 solutions is also growing rapidly, which requires good solutions.

It will also be helpful to bring IHL’s R&D capabilities into the team formation so that the solution can benefit from state-of-the-art research results.

Why should companies join the CyberCall?

CyberCall provides important topics and support proposals to help keep us going as a cyber-safe nation. Here, cyber-security experts, companies, contributors and end-users work together to explore a cybersecurity ecosystem that operates in the spirit of excellence. Take the initiative – we can build cyber security into everything we do for solutions that are safe, effective, simple and reliable!

> Learn how you can leverage opportunities in the CyberCall here.

About Prof Liu Yang

Dr. Liu Yang obtained his bachelor and Ph.D degree in the National University of Singapore in 2005 and 2010, respectively. In 2012, he joined Nanyang Technological University as a Nanyang Assistant Professor. He is currently a full professor, director of the cybersecurity lab, Program Director of HP-NTU Corporate Lab and Deputy Director of the National Satellite of Excellence of Singapore. In 2019, he received the University Leadership Forum Chair professorship at NTU.

Dr. Liu specializes in software verification, security and software engineering. His research has bridged the gap between the theory and practical usage of formal methods and program analysis to evaluate the design and implementation of software for high assurance and security. By now, he has more than 300 publications in top tier conferences and journals. He has received a number of prestigious awards including MSRA Fellowship, TRF Fellowship, Nanyang Assistant Professor, Tan Chin Tuan Fellowship, Nanyang Research Award (Young Investigator) 2018, NRF Investigatorship 2020 and 10 best paper awards and one most influence system award in top software engineering conferences like ASE, FSE and ICSE.

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