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TU Vienna and TÜV AUSTRIA Aim to Make Industry More Secure

At the TÜV AUSTRIA Security-in-Industry Research Lab, important security issues for industry are being researched in the framework of nine dissertations.

von links nach rechts: Christopg Wenninger, Geschäftsführer TÜV TRUST IT; TUW-Rektorin Sabine Seidler; TÜV AUSTRIA CEO Stefan Haas

v.l.n.r.: Christoph Wenninger, CFO TÜV AUSTRIA; TUW-Rektorin Sabine Seidler; TÜV AUSTRIA CEO Stefan Haas (Copyright: Saskia Jonasch)

It sounds wonderful: Everything is connected in the industrial plants of the future, from the company’s own computers to the electronic control elements for high-pressure valves. The electronics in production plants are linked to the IT network, which allows machines to automatically exchange information and adapt to one another. This opens up new possibilities for more efficient and at the same time more people-friendly production, but it also entails new dangers, especially when such systems are linked to the Internet. In the era of cyber-physical systems and Industry 4.0, security aspects are becoming ever more important.

To provide industry with the tools it needs to deal with security issues, TU Vienna and TÜV AUSTRIA have joined forces to launch the TÜV AUSTRIA Security-in-Industry Research Lab. An important role is also being played by TU Vienna’s Pilot Factory, where questions relating to the topic of Industry 4.0 are researched in a practice-oriented manner using real production facilities. The project was officially presented at a press conference on 18 November by Prof. Sabine Seidler, president of TU Vienna, and Dr. Stefan Haas, CEO of TÜV AUSTRIA: “We think of research in terms of value-added dimensions, i.e., from basic research to use-oriented research and application, the latter in particular in cooperation projects with companies.” Seidler: “These cooperation projects, such as those with TÜV AUSTRIA, which we are presenting to you today, are a prerequisite for perceiving innovation as a joint task of the University and companies.”

Innovation as a joint task of the University and companies

In recent years, strategic pooling of resources at TU Vienna has led to a focus on Industry 4.0 production research, ranging from the Pilot Factory to Christian Doppler Laboratories and COMET Centers. “This broad interdisciplinary expertise is being incorporated into our cooperation project with TÜV AUSTRIA,” explained Prof. Seidler: “The TÜV AUSTRIA Security-in-Industry Research Lab will supplement this expertise with the security aspect. Findings gained at the Research Lab are transferred directly into application, enabling TÜV AUSTRIA to provide its customers and partners with practical, state-of-the-art advice”.

TÜV AUSTRIA CEO Dr. Stefan Haas stressed the role of the independent Austrian TÜV as a companion to industry in digitally transforming its corporate landscape: “We supplement our own expertise with the know-how of our partners from science and research. With the TÜV AUSTRIA Security-in-Industry Research Lab in cooperation with Austria’s leading technical university, we are launching a red-white-red initiative with international appeal for industrial safety & security.”

The TÜV Austria Security-in-Industry Research Lab initiative is scheduled to run for five years. The direct investment of TÜV Austria Group amounts to two million euros. In addition, the in-kind investment made by both sides amounts to more than five million euros.

Three faculties of TU Vienna are participating in the TÜV AUSTRIA Security-in-Industry Research Lab
Connected industrial production operations need new IT security tools, and adaptive work systems require agile security concepts, Dr. Haas continued. Safety & security architectures and supporting tools are to contribute substantially toward providing more integrative security: “Why all of this? To get faster from ideas to products and services. And to help make basic research more application-oriented and competitive as well as to massively support technology transfer to business”.

Nine dissertations are being advertised, which will focus on important safety and security aspects for industry. Equal consideration is to be given to safety (no danger must arise from operating a system) and security (protection against unauthorized manipulation). As this is a particularly complex, interdisciplinary field of research, three faculties of TU Vienna are involved in this project: the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering and Management Sciences, the Faculty of Electrical Engineering and Information Technology, and the Faculty of Computer Science.

 From cloud server all the way down to temperature sensors

 A distinction is still made between information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT). IT is responsible for data processing and communication, whereas OT is responsible for the machinery level, controlling actuators, regulating valves, reading data from sensors and monitoring processes. “The sharp dividing line between IT and OT is becoming increasingly blurred,” explained Prof. Wolfgang Kastner, one of the project managers at the new Research Lab. “In industrial parlance, this is often referred to as IT/OT convergence, or the buzzword Industrial Internet of Things is used.

 Data streams and the physical actions of machines can no longer be viewed separately anymore – especially where security aspects are concerned. Is it possible to penetrate into sensitive areas through attacks from outside? Could one perhaps even be able to manipulate a company’s own hardware in such attacks? Questions in this regard are difficult to answer with the IT/OT interconnectivity we have now, which links together a large number of processors, sensors and actuators.

 These problems are to be examined from various angles simultaneously at the TÜV AUSTRIA Security-in-Industry Research Lab. Simulation models are being created that provide an overview of data streams and possible security holes. This also allows you to determine what data has to be accessible to what parts of the system at what time – and under what conditions it would be better to stop the dataflow. Potential targets in automation technology are identified. Methods are developed to monitor the communication between machines as well as communication by machines to the outside world. Criteria can be found to detect suspicious data streams and sound the alarm when something unusual happens.

 Over and beyond that, this is also intended to improve cooperation between man and machine – there are now prescribed protection zones around certain devices within which people are not allowed to be. “That barrier falls when collaborative robots are used which, when used correctly, already now allow work systems to be designed much more efficiently and flexibly,” explained Christoph Schwald, Innovation Manager at TÜV AUSTRIA Group and responsible for TÜV AUSTRIA’s Research Lab. “To enable more widespread use of collaborative work systems in industry, automated safety and security assessment procedures are needed to allow machines to be used flexibly for a variety of different working steps and to make permanent software updates possible. We intend to jointly develop solutions suitable for industrial use that enable continuous monitoring of both security and safety aspects.

 Clean solutions instead of whack-a-mole

 “Many of the systems used in industry today have grown over the years,” said Wolfgang Kastner. “Some safety and security mechanisms date back to a time when development in the direction of Industry 4.0 was not even foreseeable.” So, it is high time to not just improve existing implementations in whack-a-mole fashion by constantly plugging the worst holes, but rather to create comprehensive, new safety and security systems that are sustainable, fit for the future and take an integrated approach to safety and security. That is the aim of this collaboration between TU Vienna and TÜV AUSTRIA.

Further information

TU Wien
Ao.Univ. Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Kastner
Treitlstraße 1–3/Stock 4, 1040 Wien
T +43 1 58801–18391

DI Christoph Schwald
TÜV AUSTRIA-Platz 1, 2345 Brunn am Gebirge
T +43 5 0454-6576, opens an external URL in a new window