Published on 19 Mar 2024

Surfers of the machine revolution: Prof Lam Kwok Yan

Prof Lam Kwok Yan's research spans cyber security, privacy-preserving technologies and digital trust.

High-profile insider data breaches – from leaked confidential government documents online to stolen corporate trade secrets – have gained attention recently for posing a serious threat.

One way to overcome insider leaks is to develop systems that spot suspicious employee activities in an organisation’s networks, such as the downloading of unusually large numbers of documents from a company’s shared drive.

“It’s about figuring out whether employees are doing what they are allowed to do but with a different behavioural pattern. Such abnormal behaviour may warrant an investigation by the system administrators,” says Prof Lam Kwok Yan, Associate Vice President (Strategy and Partnerships) at NTU and a professor in the School of Computer Science and Engineeringwho studies this area of behaviour analytics in cyber security.

Prof Lam, who is also Director of the University’s Centre for Smart Platform Infrastructure Research on Integrative Technology, is applying behaviour analysis to Internetconnected or Internet of Things (IoT) devices and vehicles, like self-driving cars, to check if they have been hacked.

His team is developing ways to identify unusual patterns in IoT devices’ sending and receiving data, which may indicate a cyber attack, and help organisations prioritise resources for securing those devices.

Prof Lam has been researching cyber security for over 30 years and has worked with law enforcement agencies, government regulators, telcos and financial institutions in this field.

Since 2020, he has been a consultant for Interpol, advising the global police agency on how novel technologies, like new mobile communication networks, can help improve policing or be abused by criminals.

For his exceptional contributions to cyber security, Prof Lam was conferred the Hall of Fame accolade at The Cybersecurity Awards 2022 by Singapore’s Association of Information Security Professionals.

He was also named “Asia’s most influential scientist” in business magazine Fortune Times’ 2022 Fortune Times Awards for his outstanding contributions to Asia’s development through science and technology.

Prof Lam is also studying how information can be shared and analysed without disclosing the private data of individuals and organisations. At a time when AI is making recommendations to consumers, from online shopping to medical diagnostics, Prof Lam is looking at ways to improve trust in these online services.

Such research on privacy-preserving techniques and digital trust is being led by Prof Lam at NTU’s Strategic Centre for Research in Privacy-Preserving Technologies and Systems, where he is Director, and at Singapore’s national Digital Trust Centre, where he is Executive Director.

“It’s not just about security but also about fairness, whether we can trust decisions made by AI, and if those recommendations can be explained,” says Prof Lam.

The article appeared first in NTU's research & innovation magazine Pushing Frontiers (issue #22, August 2023).