Andrew Wintenberg awarded Predoctoral Fellowship to support research impacting the safety of smart systems

Wintenberg is developing computer algorithms and tools to improve the security of cyber and cyber-physical systems.
Andrew Wintenberg

Andrew Wintenberg received a Rackham Predoctoral Fellowship to support his research in the areas of computer and network security for both cyber and cyber-physical systems.

Cyber-physical systems (CPS) refers to dynamic systems composed of a physical component along with a software component, both tightly intertwined. Typical examples include smart power grids, autonomous vehicles, medical devices, robotic systems, and industrial control systems. It is easy to understand the importance of protecting the integrity of these systems, many of which we rely on for our personal health and safety.

“As we observe an unprecedented explosion in communication between humans and technology, there is a growing need for formal guarantees of the privacy and security of our communication networks,” says Wintenberg. “Understanding how sensitive information can leak as systems evolve over time is critical in creating these guarantees.”

To protect this sensitive information, Winterberg first accounts for the complex ways information can leak in dynamic systems, and then finds ways to ensure its safe, private, and unadulterated delivery. 

To do this, Wintenberg is developing computer algorithms and tools for understanding when existing systems are secure (verification), and how to automatically design systems to be secure (enforcement). 

Wintenberg’s research is centered on two key goals. The first revolves around the technical term, opacity. According to Wintenberg, opacity expresses plausible deniability, meaning, an eavesdropper is unable to deduce sensitive information from their observations of the system’s behavior. He is creating a framework to unify the plethora of different notions of opacity. 

The second goal is to enforce a system’s opacity by obfuscation, which means by altering the outputs of a system to mislead or confuse eavesdroppers. He has already developed an open source software library, M-DESops, which analyzes discrete event systems with an emphasis on security. 

Wintenberg has served as a graduate student instructor for ROB 501 (Mathematics for Robotics), and has also been mentoring several undergraduate students involved in his research project.

Wintenberg received his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering and mathematics from The University of Tennessee, Knoxville. His proposed dissertation title is “Privacy and Utility in Dynamic Systems: Verification and Enforcement.” He is advised by Necmiye Ozay and Stéphane Lafortune.