Researching, developing and teaching for IT security


Cyber security  and defense is one research topic for the CODE institute of the Universität der Bundeswehr in Muncih. Photo: Fly/Unsplash

The CODE research institute welcomes a new dual leadership team: the governing body of the Universität der Bundeswehr München (UniBw M) has appointed Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Hommel as the new Executive Director and Prof. Dr. Michaela Geierhos as the new Technical Director. Hommel takes over from Prof. Dr. Gabi Dreo Rodosek, who will focus more on new research areas, including the topic of network security through artificial intelligence (AI). Geierhos succeeds Hommel in his previous role: "For the future, it is important to further sharpen CODE's profile," says the new leadership duo commenting on the further expansion of CODE. The research institute is dedicated to topics from cyber and IT security and smart data, but also wants to open up quantum computing for the German armed forces and authorities. The leadership duo is well equipped for this new task: Hommel has held the professorship for IT security of software and data at UniBw M since 2016, and his colleague Geierhos has been appointed professor for data science in 2020. Their expertise is complemented by the CODE professorship with colleagues from other sub-areas of IT security: in 2022, for example, CODE is setting up new research groups in the areas of privacy and applied cryptography. In the LRZ interview, the CODE leadership team explains its plans, tasks and goals.

Congratulations for the leadership at the CODE research institute - what is CODE and what does it do? Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Hommel: At CODE, 13 research groups are currently working together on the topics of IT security, artificial intelligence, smart data and quantum technologies. We have grown to more than 100 employees in recent years and are housed in interim quarters in Munich-Neuperlach until we can move into the new building on the campus of Universität der Bundeswehr München. In addition to basic university research, CODE also aims to conduct application-oriented research and technology development. In this context, the transfer of results and new technologies into practice is a priority, especially with our partners from the German Armed Forces and federal authorities, but also from industry. Prof. Dr. Michaela Geierhos: In addition to research, our core tasks also include teaching and further education, the latter especially for IT officers of the Bundeswehr and reservists. Among other things, CODE is responsible for the Master's programme in Cyber Security at UniBw M, which was introduced in 2018, and is intensively involved in the Master of Intelligence and Security Studies, which will be introduced in 2019. Hommel: CODE was also founded to network experts in our subject areas from science, the Bundeswehr, authorities and industry more closely. Within this framework, we are contributing, for example, to the establishment of the still quite young National Coordination Centre for Cyber Security, Technology and Research (NKCS).

Will you both be setting new priorities at CODE? Hommel: As a still quite young and growing research institute, we are continuously opening up new areas of activity. This year we will establish new research groups in the areas of privacy and applied cryptography as well as open source intelligence at CODE and expect to be reinforced by new professors in the next few years: the appointment procedures are already underway. Geierhos: Within the framework of a German-Israeli cooperation, one of CODE's research focuses is on the detection of fake news campaigns. In quantum computing, on the one hand, we are increasingly researching quantum machine learning, in particular quantum convolutional neural networks, quantum generative adversarial networks and quantum auto encoders. On the other hand, we want to show how current quantum computers and annealers can already support complex logistics processes in the German Armed Forces, for example. Hommel: Our range of hands-on training and further education courses will also be expanded in the direction of Internet-of-Things security and control systems for industry. Furthermore, it is planned that we will increasingly integrate our teaching offers into international, cooperative study programmes.


The new directors of CODE: Prof. Dr. Michaela Gewierhos and Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Hommel. Photo: FI CODE

What do you both bring to CODE personally and professionally? Hommel: First of all, of course, our own research groups - IT security of software and data and data science. We complement each other very well in terms of our professional backgrounds. In addition, we have both been actively involved in shaping the CODE research institute over the past few years, in part already on the board of directors. We are now using our experience with successful project cooperations as well as our contacts to support research groups in taking advantage of the diverse opportunities that arise from the networking of university research, the German armed forces, authorities and industry, which is unique in Germany.

What is your personal concern in leading CODE - what do you particularly want to advocate for? Geierhos: We are certainly not running out of work. :-) However, I would like to mention two current points: Firstly, the new building that is being constructed together with two federal authorities on the university campus is a major topic. Here we can provide an infrastructure that will accommodate our growth. Secondly, we want to tap into the potential uses of quantum computing for public authorities and for processes in the German Armed Forces, as well as build up our own expertise in this field and network even more closely with research groups and other initiatives in the Munich area.

Cybercrime and security are CODE's topics - do you also rely on supercomputing and the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre, LRZ, for this? Hommel: Of course we always enjoy working with the LRZ, and not only because of personal ties - I came to the LRZ as a student assistant, became a research assistant and finally a group leader for several years - and often use LRZ services in the context of projects. However, our basic funding also enables us to build and operate our own modernly equipped labs and compute resources up to a "red area", which is required for certain projects with the German Armed Forces and federal authorities. Especially for publicly funded research projects like CONCORDIA, in which the LRZ as well as other institutions from the Munich Scientific Network are involved, it is much more convenient and efficient to use existing LRZ services than to build a project-specific infrastructure ourselves.

CODE is responsible for the European security project CONCORDIA, will it remain so? Geierhos: CONCORDIA is one of about 40 projects currently funded by third parties and is currently one of the largest joint projects running at CODE. It coordinates a huge network of experts and continues to be led by Prof. Dr. Gabi Dreo Rodosek. We are very confident that it will continue as successfully as before and contribute to the networking of science and industry at the European level.

What are CONCORDIA's next plans, also with the cyber ranges of the Czech Masaryk University installed in the LRZ Cloud for this project? Geierhos: A major technical challenge in the operation of hands-on training environments like Cyber Ranges is the vendor lock-in effect - training units or so-called scenarios have to be realised specifically for the software provided by the manufacturer of a Cyber Range product. CONCORDIA is working on concepts that enable an easier exchange of scenarios between different operators of cyber ranges with a correspondingly heterogeneous software infrastructure. Hommel: But at least as important as the technology and the scenarios offered are competent trainers who accompany participants didactically and adapt scenarios dynamically to the course of the exercise - for example, if teams find strategies particularly difficult or can tolerate additional challenges. Hopefully, more Cyber Range offers will be created in the Munich area so that the portfolio of scenarios grows in breadth and there will also be many opportunities for an exchange about courses and content for trainers and participants. (vs)