Fatima Anwar

1762 Boelter Hall · 420 Westwood Plaza · Los Angeles CA 90095 · fatimanwar(at)ucla(dot)edu

I am a 5th year Ph.D. student in Electrical & Computer Engineering (ECE) department at UCLA. I am advised by Professor Mani B Srivastava - a joint faculty in ECE and CS departments - and conduct my research at Networked and Embedded System Lab (NESL). My research interests lie in the intersection of system design, security, and quality of time in distributed Cyber-Physical Systems and Internet of Things. Earlier, I used to work at Samsung Electronics on the Smart Health project (SHealth), and developed sensor service framework for mobile devices. I volunteer for Los Angeles Computing Circle (LACC) and Engineering day for Girls at UCLA. I was Qualcomm Innovation Fellowship finalist in 2018, and Grace Hopper Scholar in 2017.

Research Interests

  • Design secure service architectures for applications running in the cloud or at the edge leveraging trusted execution environments such as Intel SGX, ARM TrustZone, and Trusted Platform Module.
  • Devise operating system abstractions and implement API to enable quality of time in system stack.
  • Build programming tools for high precision time support over commodity platforms and operating systems in uncertain environments.
  • Enable spatiotemporal awareness for distributed applications – such as swarms – in the presence of intermittent network connection and adversarial scenarios.
  • Design systems that mask the high latency for end users in a secure fashion using speculative execution with machine learning models.
  • Investigate side channel attacks notably timing and micro-architectural side channels attacks.


Graduate Student Researcher

Networked & Embedded Systems Lab (NESL), UCLA
The following projects highlight my contributions in designing secure systems:
  • TimeSeal develops the first trustworthy clock that cannot be manipulated by a privileged attacker – the OS. My work provides security guarantees against this powerful attacker. I discovered three key challenges that must be addressed to secure time i.e (i) find a trusted timer that no adversary can manipulate (defeat timer attacks), (ii) provide a secure path to that trusted timer (overcome delay attacks), and (iii) maintain timekeeping software that is unaffected by attacks (thwart scheduling attacks). I leveraged TEE for hardware timer protection in TimeSeal design, and exploited the structure of TEE to construct high resolution counters that detect attacks when they occur. I showed that TimeSeal secures time using only software based changes on TEE.
  • Feedforward protects time transfer packets from man-in-the-middle attacks. Time Transfer packets share global time among physically or geographically separated entities. Malicious network elements can replay, pre-play, and delay these packets. Most of these attacks are mitigated by cryptographic mechanisms, but delay attacks violate packet timeliness and considered too strong to protect against. In contrast to approaches that focus on mitigating malicious network delays, my approach uses these malicious delays to its own advantage. The key intuition is finding those consecutive packets that are almost equally delayed, and preserve relative frequency difference. My approach synchronized frequencyand time of distributed devices using feedforward controllers in the presence of a powerful network attacker capable of attacking all packets in the network
The following projects highlight my contributions in designing systems around abstractions:
  • Quality of Time Architecture based on Timeline: I devised a completely new way of acquiring time information, and redesigned the hardware, OS and network interfaces that help timing information flow between applications and systems. I introduced the notion of Quality of Time (QoT) that collectively captures various time metrics such as resolution, accuracy, stability, and integrity. Analogous to Quality of Service (QoS) in networking, QoT treats time as a controllable OS primitive with observable uncertainty. To provide required QoT, I proposed timeline, the first OS abstraction that reacts to application timing demands, and exposes QoT to applications in an easy-to-use, secure, and scalable way. This degree of richness of information had never been available to coordinated applications whose activities are choreographed across time and space. This was immediately relevant to the larger field of CPS addressing the emerging temporal use cases for applications at the cloud and the edge. As such, this work has motivated follow-up research in geo-distributed CPS, virtualization, and coordinated manufacturing and driving.
  • OpenClock extends the above approach and provides the first testbed of multiple disciplinable clocks on a single platform for fair algorithmic comparison under failures, and adversarial attacks. It features a rich set of clock abstractions by virtualizing time related resources for modular and extensible design, and an attack simulator for testing algorithmic resilience. Researchers leverage the attack capability to find vulnerabilities, and test the resilience of synchronization algorithms. I prototype OpenClock on an embedded platform and x86 desktop.
  • Wireless Precise Hardware Clock (wPHC) was the first to bring precision time support to wireless personal area networks with full backward compatibility for protocols and platforms. This work also served as a guideline for precise timestmping via Linux sockets on a wide variety of network interfaces, processors, and co-processors.
  • Cyclops lays the foundation for CPS applications that enjoy high-level features with low-level determinism for time-critical operations. It provides automated configuration, a high-level programming language, and a library to interface a real-time unit with the OS. I proposed that a real-time unit paired with an OS should provide the best of both worlds: the real-time unit handles time-sensitive aspects, and the OS provides the filesystem, scheduling, and networking. In practice, I used Cyclops in smart grid research to develop a Phasor Measurement Unit (PMU) to detect and isolate grid faults in a timely manner.

I am a part of NSF project, RoseLine: Enabling Robust, Secure and Efficient Knowledge of Time Across the System Stack, which is revolutionizing how we keep track of time in Cyber Physical Systems. It involves researchers from CMU, UCLA, UCSB, UCSD, and the University of Utah.

Sep 2014 - Present

Teaching Assistant

EE department, University of California, Los Angeles
Logic Design of Digital Systems, (EL ENGR M16-1)
  • Prepared assignments, solutions, and design projects covering concepts such as number systems, combinational and sequential logic, moore and mealy FSMs, parallelism and pipelining.
  • Conducted honorary part of the class by giving 10 students hands-on experience on Verilog programming and Vivado (Xilinx FPGA design environment) development. The final project was to design FSMs for Morse code and display LED patterns for Morse code on the FPGA.
  • Taught 2 hours long two discussion sections along with weekly office hours.
  • Got 8/10 average student rating.
Spring quarter 2017

Software Engineer

Samsung Electronics, Mobile Communication Division
  • Developed services for Smart Health project (SHealth) by leveraging pedometer, sensor service framework and communication of mobile devices with galaxy gear.
  • Implemented WiFi Direct and Location based WiFi auto-connection.
  • Designed Music Hub's albums display and music streaming application.
  • Gained experience of Android multi-threaded application design, UX design, and software testing.
March 2011 - December 2013

Graduate Student Researcher

Internet Lab, Ajou University

Design protocols for load-aware routing, reliability in communication, and automatic service discovery in Wireless Sensor Networks. Implement on network simulators such as ns-2 and Qualnet.

March 2009 - February 2011

Lecturer & Lab Instructor

EE department, University of Central Punjab

Co-taught weekly classes, and associated labs that covered concepts from circuits theory, analog electronics, and control systems in different classes. Conducted office hours for students to guide them voluntarily in robotics projects. Got 9/10 average student rating.

September 2008 - February 2009

Undergraduate Researcher

Electronics Lab, UET

Hands-on experience on robotics sensing, control, and actuation leveraging off-the-shelf microcontrollers, sensors, and motors. Design efficient sensor sampling, and fuzzy logic controller for an autonomous robot.

September 2007 - August 2008


University of California Los Angeles

PhD, Electrical & Computer Engineering
GPA: 4/4
  • Advisor: Professor Mani Srivastava, Joint faculty in ECE and CS, UCLA
  • Research: Trustworthy and high performance systems for IoT applications under timing variations and vulnerabilities
  • Awards: Qualcomm Innovation Fellowship Finalist 2018, Grace Hopper Scholar 2017, Departmental Fellowship 2014
September 2014 - Present

Ajou University, South Korea

Masters in Computer Engineering
GPA: 4.44/4.5
  • Thesis: Spherical Mapping based load-aware Routing for Wireless Sensor Networks
  • Awards: BK21 - Brain Korea 21 Scholarship Program for Leading Universities and Students
March 2009 - February 2011

University of Engineering & Technology Lahore, Pakistan

Bachelors in Electrical Engineering
GPA: 3.85/4.0 (Honors Distinction)
  • Senior Project: Autonomous Chasing Robot
  • Class Rank: top 10 among 350 students
September 2004 - August 2008


Under Review:
  • Securing Time in Untrusted Operating Systems with TimeSeal
    Fatima M. Anwar, Luis Garcia, Xi Han, Mani Srivastava.

    16th USENIX Symposium on Networked Systems Design and Implementation (NSDI), Feb 2019, Boston USA.

  • Mitigating Time Transfer Attacks with a Feedforward Approach
    Fatima M. Anwar, Mani Srivastava.

    ACM Transactions on Privacy and Security (TOPS).


Awards & Certifications

  • Qualcomm Innovation Fellowship (QInF) Finalist, 2018
  • Received best lightning talk award at N2Women Workshop Sigcomm, 2017
  • Selected as Grace Hopper Scholar, 2017
  • University of California Los Angeles EE Departmental Fellowship, 2014
  • Performace based promotion at Samsung Electronics, 2013
  • Korean Govt. Scholarship, Brain Korea (BK21) for Masters Studies, 2009-2011
  • Received 2nd prize in robotics project competition in SOFTEC, 4th International Event, 2008
  • Recipient of HSS Bright Students Scholarship from Government of Pakistan, 2004