Category: Computer Science

Dependable and Secure CPS and (IoT) Course Offered Next Semester

Dependable and Secure Cyber Physical Systems (CPS) and Internet of Things (IoT)

CS 5090 | TR | 2:05-3:20 pm | Spring 2020 | CRN 12738 | Max class size: 30 students

Instructor: Dr. Ali Ebnenasir | Department of Computer Science |

A course on the theoretical and practical aspects of developing dependable and secure Cyber Physical Systems (CPS) and the Internet of Things (IoT), especially the controlling software of CPS and IoT (CPS-IoT). Students will gain a a deep knowledge of the literature on modeling, designing and verifying dependable Cyber Physical Systems, as well as the programming of IoT.  They will improve their knowledge and skills in (1) rigorous modeling of CPS-IoT; (2) design, verification and validation of CPS-IoT; (3) programming paradigms for CPS-IoT, and (4) methods for the design of fault-tolerant and secure CPS-IoT.

Course Modules

• Background on (distributed) CPS-IoT

• Background on dependability aspects, especially fault tolerance and security as well as their interplay.

• Design methodologies for CPS-IoT.

• Programming models for CPS-IoT.

• Distributed computing primitives for resource constraint systems.

Prerequisities | Discrete Math, Formal Models of Computation, Skills in a common programming language. Students from disciplines other than Computer Science (e.g., ECE) should contact Dr. Ebnenasir for approval before enrolling in this course.

Download a course flyer.

Yooper Lights: Blue Marble Security Enterprise mentors 7th graders on an eCYBERMISSION

Students attending Lake Linden-Hubbell schools who live within one mile of their school are not eligible to take the school bus. Many walk to school, often in the dark, early morning hours. The same is true for students in another nearby school district, Calumet-Laurium-Keweenaw.

The Yooper Lights eCybermission team, L to R: Olivia Shank, Rebecca Lyons, Chloe Daniels, and Jenna Beaudoin

A small group of 7th grade students from Lake Linden-Hubbell High School in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula—Jenna Beaudoin, Chloe Daniels, Rebecca Lyons, and Olivia Shank—decided to do something to help improve safety for students who walk to school. Each was highly motivated, for personal reasons.

“I have three younger siblings who walk to school, and they aren’t always aware of their surroundings,” said Daniels.

“My uncle was biking one night and didn’t have a helmet or a reflector and he got hit by a car. He had brain trauma and now has trouble remembering certain things,” said Beaudoin.

“I want to be able to walk safely by myself or with my dogs in the early morning or in the evening when it gets dark,” said Shank.

“We live in a really snowy area, and kids can get hit,” said Lyons.

Helping kids and others walk safely in the dark is their mission, but it was more than that—it is their eCYBERMISSION, a national science competition sponsored by the Army Educational Outreach Program. Nationwide, students in grades 6-9 work in small teams for over a year to develop a process or product that will benefit their community. Locally, the Lake Linden Middle School eCYBERMISSION team is advised by Michigan Tech Engineering Fundamentals instructor Gretchen Hein, and chemical engineering senior Ryan Knoll.

Because none of them knew anything about circuits, the team contacted Glen Archer, interim chair of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Michigan Tech. Archer introduced the seventh graders to electrical engineering student John Robinault, outreach manager of Blue Marble Security.

Born out of the Michigan Tech Enterprise program, Blue Marble Security is a virtual company comprised undergraduate students focused on securing the future through thoughtful use of technology.

Yooper Lights team tested their LED reflectors at night, with help from volunteers.

Twice a week, Beaudoin, Daniels, Lyons and Shank met with Robinault and computer science major Tyler Arthur in the Blue Marble Security lab, located in the EERC building on campus.

The girls modeled the casing of their LED reflector using Siemens NX software, created their circuit using National Instruments Multisim™ software, and modeled their circuitboard using Eagle PCB design software. They had never used the software or soldered. The Blue Marble students demonstrated how to model and solder, but the girls did the work.

Arthur was a brand new member of Blue Marble Security Enterprise when he began working with the girls. “It gave me an opportunity to teach some of the material that I was already familiar with, while also learning new things along the way,” he said. “We worked together to get familiar with CAD modeling, for instance.

In the process, Arthur learned a lot about working with younger students, something he hadn’t ever done. “The fact that the team members are all good friends made for an interesting group dynamic, because was easy for them to distract each other while working on the project.” Even so, the girls persevered. Throughout the fall, the team completed their research and designed their reflector. They took their preliminary design to their 7th grade science classes for feedback. Based on that, they updated the design, completed the circuit board and went back to the school for more feedback, this time visiting both 7th and 10th grade science classes, asking the students to compare their LED reflector to a plain reflector. After receiving more valuable feedback, the team modified their design.

At that point, they began testing their LED reflector—calling it the “Yooper Light”, and themselves, the Yooper Lights.

Outdoor testing was completed on a straight, flat road near their school, over a distance of 170 feet. Pedestrians (students grades 7-9), and drivers (students grades 10-12, plus college students and adults) were asked to report when they could see a person walking and wearing either the plain reflector or the Yooper light LED reflector.

Due to weather conditions, only the college students and adults tested outside. The remaining tests were completed inside the school, in a dark hallway lit only by security lights. The Yooper Lights found that everyone could both see the LED reflector and the person wearing it over the entire testing distance.

They decided to conduct another, independent test to see just how far their LED reflector was visible. The maximum visibility was found to be 91.3 meters—over twice the previous testing distance.

Yooper Lights submitted their report to eCYBERMISSION, learning in March that they had made it to the virtual regional competition. Once again, Michigan Tech helped them out. The girls presented to judges at the Jackson Center for Teaching and Learning with help from Associate Director Jeff Toorangian.

In late April, Yooper Lights became the first place 7th grade team in Michigan—and a finalist in the North Central Region. In a word: Success! They were going to compete in Washington, DC at the national competition.

During the weeklong event in DC last June, the Yooper Lights team bonded with their eCYBERMISSION mentor, Michigan Tech alumna Sasha Teymorian, now a chemist in the US Army Research Laboratory. Teymorian graduated with her doctorate in Chemistry from Michigan Tech in 2015. Together they enjoyed a bevvy of cool activities, including one called “Houston, We Have a Problem,” that tasked the girls with engineering a solution to the Apollo 13 mission. They worked with radio-controlled cars and conducted ballistics on balloons, and even designed autonomous vehicles at the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

While in DC, Beaudoin, Daniels, Lyons and Shank also visited their Congressional representatives. They first met with Representative Jack Bergman, and then with Robert Curis, a staff member in Senator Debbie Stabenow’s office, sharing just how they used engineering to develop their LED light.

Finally, the Yooper lights presented their project to a team of eCybermission judges. “Although the team did not win the national competition, they gained a great deal from the experience,” said advisor Gretchen Hein.

What’s next for the team? Something they’re calling “Yooper Power”. Collaborating again with students from the Blue Marble Security Enterprise, as well as Michigan Tech student chapter of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE), the girls, now in 8th grade, will develop outreach activity kits for fifth and sixth graders. Their new mission: introduce more young students to the field of electrical and computer engineering.

Chloe Daniels and Rebecca Lyons learn how to solder, with help from electrical engineering major John Robinault, a member of the Blue Marble Security Enterprise at Michigan Tech.
With more help from volunteers, the Yooper Lights team also tested their LED reflectors in a long, dimly lit hallway at Lake Linden-Hubbell High School.
Yooper Lights team member Olivia Shank models the casing of the LED reflector using Siemens NX software.
The Yooper Lights team used the Design Thinking process to develop their Yooper Lights. Design Thinking training is offered on campus through the Pavlis Honors College.
The team created two sizes and colors of 3D printed cases to test with their LED reflectors.

Laura Monroe to Speak About High-performance Computing, Tues. Sept. 24

Dr. Laura Monroe

The Department of Mathematical Sciences and the College of Computing will present a lecture on high-performance computing by Dr. Laura Monroe from the Ultrascale Systems Research Center (USRC) at Los Alamos National Laboratory on Tuesday, September 24, from 5:00 to 6:00 p.m., in Fisher Hall, Room 133. The lecture is titled “The Mathematical Analysis of Faults and the Resilience of Applications.” Discussion will follow the lecture, and pizza and refreshments will be served.

Abstract: As the post-Moore’s-Law era advances, faults are expected to increase in number and in complexity on emerging novel devices. This will happen on exascale and post-exascale architectures due to smaller feature sizes, and also on new devices with unusual fault models. Attention to error-correction and resilience will thus be needed in order to use such devices effectively. Known mathematical error-correction methods may not suffice under these conditions, and an ad hoc approach will not cover the cases likely to emerge, so mathematical approaches will be essential. We will discuss the mathematical underpinnings behind such approaches, illustrate with examples, and emphasize the interdisciplinary approaches that combine experimentation, simulation, mathematical theory and applications that will be needed for success.

Dr. Monroe has spent most of her career focused on unconventional approaches to difficult computing problems, specifically researching new technologies to enable better performance as processor-manufacturing techniques reach the limits of the atomic scale, also known as the end of Moore’s Law. Dr. Monroe received her PhD in the theory of error-correcting codes, working with Dr.Vera Pless. She worked at NASA Glenn, then joined Los Alamos National Laboratory in 2000. She has contributed on the design teams on the LANL Cielo and Trinity supercomputers, and originated and leads the Laboratory’s inexact computing project that is meant to address Moore’s Law challenges in a unique way. She also provides mathematical and theoretical support to LANL’s HPC Resilience project.

Download the event flyer

Tim Havens Quoted in The Enterprise Project Blog

Timothy Havens

Timothy Havens (CC/ICC), the William and Gloria Jackson Associate Professor of Computer Systems and director of the Institute of Computing and Cybersystems (ICC), was quoted extensively in the article “How to make a career switch into AI: 8 tips,” which was published September 5, 2019, on The Enterprisers Project blog.

Bo Chen Receives $250K NSF Award for Mobile PDE Systems Research

Bo Chen, CS

Bo Chen, assistant professor of computer science and member of the Institute of Computing and Cybersystems Center for  Cybersecurity, is the principal investigator on a project that has received a $249,918 research and development grant from the National Science Foundation. The project is entitled, “SaTC: CORE: Small: Collaborative: Hardware-Assisted Plausibly Deniable System for Mobile Devices.” This is a potential three-year project.

Abstract: Mobile computing devices typically use encryption to protect sensitive information. However, traditional encryption systems used in mobile devices cannot defend against an active attacker who can force the mobile device owner to disclose the key used for decrypting the sensitive information. This is particularly of concern to dissident users who are targets of nation states. An example of this would be a human rights worker collecting evidence of untoward activities in a region of oppression or conflict and storing the same in an encrypted form on the mobile device, and then being coerced to disclose the decryption key by an official. Plausibly Deniable Encryption (PDE) has been proposed to defend against such adversaries who can coerce users into revealing the encrypted sensitive content. However, existing techniques suffer from several problems when used in flash-memory-based mobile devices, such as weak deniability because of the way read/write/erase operations are handled at the operating systems level and at the flash translation layer, various types of side channel attacks, and computation and power limitations of mobile devices. This project investigates a unique opportunity to develop an efficient (low-overhead) and effective (high-deniability) hardware-assisted PDE scheme on mainstream mobile devices that is robust against a multi snapshot adversary. The project includes significant curriculum development activities and outreach activities to K-12 students.

This project fundamentally advances the mobile PDE systems by leveraging existing hardware features such as flash translation layer (FTL) firmware and TrustZone to achieve a high deniability with a low overhead. Specifically, this project develops a PDE system with capabilities to: 1) defend against snapshot attacks using raw flash memory on mobile devices; and 2) eliminate side-channel attacks that compromise deniability; 3) be scalable to deploy on mainstream mobile devices; and 4) efficiently provide usable functions like fast mode switching. This project also develops novel teaching material on PDE and cybersecurity for K-12 students and the Regional Cybersecurity Education Collaboration (RCEC), a new educational partnership on cybersecurity in Michigan.

Publications related to this research:

[DSN ’18] Bing Chang, Fengwei Zhang, Bo Chen, Yingjiu Li, Wen Tao Zhu, Yangguang Tian, Zhan Wang, and Albert Ching. MobiCeal: Towards Secure and Practical Plausibly Deniable Encryption on Mobile Devices. The 48th IEEE/IFIP International Conference on Dependable Systems and Networks (DSN ’18), June 2018 (Acceptance rate: 28%)
[Cybersecurity ’18] Qionglu Zhang, Shijie Jia, Bing Chang, Bo Chen. Ensuring Data Confidentiality via Plausibly Deniable Encryption and Secure Deletion – A Survey. Cybersecurity (2018) 1: 1.
[ComSec ’18 ] Bing Chang, Yao Cheng, Bo Chen, Fengwei Zhang, Wen Tao Zhu, Yingjiu Li, and Zhan Wang. User-Friendly Deniable Storage for Mobile Devices. Elsevier Computers & Security, vol. 72, pp. 163-174, January 2018
[CCS ’17] Shijie Jia, Luning Xia, Bo Chen, and Peng Liu. DEFTL: Implementing Plausibly Deniable Encryption in Flash Translation Layer. 2017 ACM Conference on Computer and Communications Security (CCS ’17), Dallas, Texas, USA, Oct 30 – Nov 3, 2017 (Acceptance rate: 18%)
[ACSAC ’15] Bing Chang, Zhan Wang, Bo Chen, and Fengwei Zhang. MobiPluto: File System Friendly Deniable Storage for Mobile Devices. 2015 Annual Computer Security Applications Conference (ACSAC ’15), Los Angeles, California, USA, December 2015 (Acceptance rate: 24.4%)
[ISC ’14] Xingjie Yu, Bo Chen, Zhan Wang, Bing Chang, Wen Tao Zhu, and Jiwu Jing. MobiHydra: Pragmatic and Multi-Level Plausibly Deniable Encryption Storage for Mobile Devices. The 17th Information Security Conference (ISC ’14), Hong Kong, China, Oct. 2014

Link to more information about this project:

Keith Vertanen and Scott Kuhl Awarded $499K NSF Grant

Scott Kuhl
Scott Kuhl
Keith Vertanen
Keith Vertanen

Keith Vertanen, assistant professor of computer science (HCC), and Scott Kuhl (HCC), associate professor of computer science, are principal investigators of a recently funded three-year National Science Foundation grant for their project, “CHS: Small: Rich Surface Interaction for Augmented Environments.” The expected funding over three years is $499,552.00.

Vertanen and Kuhl are members of Michigan Tech’s Institute of Computing and Cybersystems (ICC) Center for Human-Centered Computing. A 2018 ICC research seed grant funded by ECE Alumnus Paul Williams was used to produce some of the preliminary results in the successful proposal. More info about the Williams Seed Grant can be found here:

A related video can be found here:

Abstract: Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) head-mounted displays are increasingly being used in different computing related activities such as data visualization, education, and training. Currently, VR and AR devices lack efficient and ergonomic ways to perform common desktop interactions such as pointing-and-clicking and entering text. The goal of this project is to transform flat, everyday surfaces into a rich interactive surface. For example, a desk or a wall could be transformed into a virtual keyboard. Flat surfaces afford not only haptic feedback, but also provide ergonomic advantages by providing a place to rest your arms. This project will develop a system where microphones are placed on surfaces to enable the sensing of when and where a tap has occurred. Further, the system aims to differentiate different types of touch interactions such as tapping with a fingernail, tapping with a finger pad, or making short swipe gestures.

This project will investigate different machine learning algorithms for producing a continuous coordinate for taps on a surface along with associated error bars. Using the confidence of sensed taps, the project will investigate ways to intelligently inform aspects of the user interface, e.g. guiding the autocorrection algorithm of a virtual keyboard decoder. Initially, the project will investigate sensing via an array of surface-mounted microphones and design “surface algorithms” to determine and compare the location accuracy of the finger taps on the virtual keyboard. These algorithms will experiment with different models including existing time-of-flight model, a new model based on Gaussian Process Regression, and a baseline of classification using support vector machines. For all models, the project will investigate the impact of the amount of training data from other users, and varying the amount of adaptation data from the target user. The project will compare surface microphones with approaches utilizing cameras and wrist-based inertial sensors. The project will generate human-factors results on the accuracy, user preference, and ergonomics of interacting midair versus on a rigid surface. By examining different sensors, input surfaces, and interface designs, the project will map the design space for future AR and VR interactive systems. The project will disseminate software and data allowing others to outfit tables or walls with microphones to enable rich interactive experiences.

Soner Onder Presents Talk in Barcelona, Spain

Soner Onder is pictured on the right in the front.

Sonder Onder (SAS), professor of computer science, presented an invited talk at “Yale:80: Pushing the Envelope of Computing for the Future,” held July 1-2, 2019, in Barcelona, Spain. The workshop was organized by Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya in honor of the 80th birthday of Yale Patt, a prominent computer architecture researcher. Onder was one of 23 invitees to give a talk. His lecture was titled, “Program semantics meets architecture: What if we did not have branches?”

View the slides from Onder’s talk: Yale80-in-2019-Soner-Onder

Yale Patt is a professor in the Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin, where he holds the Ernest Cockrell, Jr. Centennial Chair in Engineering. He also holds the title of University Distinguished Teaching Professor. Patt was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 2014, among the highest professional distinctions bestowed upon an engineer. View Patt’s faculty webpage at:

Link to the workshop’s website here:

Visit the workshop’s Facebook page here:

Soner Onder, Barcelona, Spain
Soner Onder at Sagrada Família, Barcelona, Spain

Soner Onder Presents Keynote at SAMOS XIX

Soner Onder
Soner Onder

Soner Onder (SAS), professor of computer science, presented a keynote lecture July 8, 2019, at the International Conference on Embedded Computer Systems: Architectures, Modeling and Simulation (SAMOS XIX) on Samos Island, Greece, which was held July 7-11. Onder’s talk was titled, “Form Follows Function: The Case for Homogeneous Computer Architectures.” Onder also participated in the conference’s “The Annual Open Mike Panel.”

Keynote Lecture Abstract: ”Form follows function” is a principle associated with 20th-century modernist architecture and industrial design which says that the shape of a building or object should primarily relate to its intended function or purpose”[2]. For best performance in computer architecture, form must follow function as well. What are form and function in computer architecture? Form is easy to understand and interpret in its dictionary meaning; Function is not so clear-cut. In this talk, I will start with a simple problem, an algorithm, and a basic program representation that will be interpreted by the machine, and show that delivering high performance rests on solving only a handful, but fundamentally difficult problems. I will argue that the mere existence of domain specific solutions that general purpose computing cannot match in performance is a testament that the general purpose computing is ”not general enough”. What makes an architecture ”not general enough” is not the architecture itself, but rather the mismatch between the function its form had followed and the actual semantics of programs. To illustrate the point, I will challenge the widely understood interpretation of instruction-level parallelism (ILP) as ”single-thread performance”, and show that this interpretation is too short-sighted. We can efficiently exploit all types of available parallelism, including process-level, thread-level and data level parallelism, all at the instruction-level, and this approach is both feasible and necessary to combat the complexity that is plaguing our profession. I will then discuss why an executable single-assignment program representation [1] may be the ultimate function whose implementations may result in homogeneous general purpose architectures that can potentially match the performance of accelerators for specific tasks, while exceeding the performance of any accelerator traditional architecture combination for general tasks. I will conclude by discussing our results with Demand-driven Execution (DDE), whose form follows this single-assignment program representation.

About SAMOS (from SAMOS is a unique conference. It deals with embedded systems (sort of) but that is not what makes it different. It brings together every year researchers from both academia and industry on the quiet and inspiring northern mountainside of the Mediterranean island of Samos, which in itself is different. But more importantly, it really fosters collaboration rather than competition. Formal and intensive technical sessions are only held in the mornings.A lively panel or distinguished keynote speaker ends the formal part of the day, and leads nicely into the afternoons and evenings — reserved for informal discussions, good food, and the inviting Aegean Sea. The conference papers will be published by Springer’s Lecture Notes in Computer Science – LNCS and will be included in the DBLP Database.

Samos Island, Greece
Samos Island, Greece

Ali Ebnenasir is Co-author of Article in ACM Transactions on Computational Logic

Ali EbnenasirAli Ebnenasir (SAS/CS), professor of computer science, is co-author of the article, “On the verification of livelock-freedom and self-stabilization on parameterized rings,” published in the July 2019 issue of the journal ACM Transactions on Computational Logic. The article is co-authored by Alex Klinkhamer of Google.

Abstract: This article investigates the verification of livelock-freedom and self-stabilization on parameterized rings consisting of symmetric, constant space, deterministic, and self-disabling processes. The results of this article have a significant impact on several fields, including scalable distributed systems, resilient and self-* systems, and verification of parameterized systems. First, we identify necessary and sufficient local conditions for the existence of global livelocks in parameterized unidirectional rings with unbounded (but finite) number of processes under the interleaving semantics. Using a reduction from the periodic domino problem, we show that, in general, verifying livelock-freedom of parameterized unidirectional rings is undecidable (specifically, Π10-complete) even for constant space, deterministic, and self-disabling processes. This result implies that verifying self-stabilization for parameterized rings of self-disabling processes is also undecidable. We also show that verifying livelock-freedom and self-stabilization remain undecidable under (1) synchronous execution semantics, (2) the FIFO consistency model, and (3) any scheduling policy. We then present a new scope-based method for detecting and constructing livelocks in parameterized rings. The proposed semi-algorithm behind our scope-based verification is based on a novel paradigm for the detection of livelocks that totally circumvents state space exploration. Our experimental results on an implementation of the proposed semi-algorithm are very promising as we have found livelocks in parameterized rings in a few microseconds on a regular laptop. The results of this article have significant implications for scalable distributed systems with cyclic topologies.

Citation: Klinkhamer, A., & Ebnenasir, A. (2019). On the verification of livelock-freedom and self-stabilization on parameterized rings. ACM Transactions on Computational Logic, 20(3), 16:1-16:36.

MTU Digital Commons link:

ACM link:

Computer Science Faculty Students Attend Innovation and Technology Conference

Computer Science doctoral candidate Briana Bettin

The College of Computing and the Computer Science Department were well represented at the 24th Annual Conference on Innovation and Technology in Computer Science Education  (ITiCSE 19), July 14-17, at University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, Scotland.

Senior Lecturer Leo Ureel, along with  James Heliotis,  professor of computer science at Rochester (New York) Institute of Technology, led a working group titled, “Towards an Ability to Direct College Students to an Appropriately Paced Introductory Computer Science Course.” Professor Linda Ott and Associate Professor Charles Wallace participated in the working group, “1.5 Degrees of Separation: Computer Science Education in the Age of the Anthropocene.”

PhD student Briana Bettin presented her paper, “More Effective Contextualization of CS Education Research: A Pair-Programming Example,” co-authored with Linda Ott and Leo Ureel.  Charles Wallace presented his poster, “A Prototype MATLAB Code Critiquer,” co-authored with Leo Ureel and undergraduate computer science student Marissa Walther.  Associate Professor Jean Mayo (ICC/CyberS) presented, ” Teaching Integer Security Using Simple Visualizations,” co-authored with Lecturer James Walker, recent PhD graduate Man Wang, Adjunct Professor and Professor and Chair of Computer Science at Western Michigan University Steven Carr, and Professor Ching-Kuang Shene.  Also attending the conference was computer science undergraduate Miriam Eikenberry-Ureel.