At this year’s Innovation Awards of Lower Austria, the St. Pölten University of Applied Sciences won first prize in the research category with a project for the secure exchange of information via satellite cryptography.
Further projects of the St. Pölten UAS that received recognition prizes. The prizes were awarded on 1 October during a gala at the Burg Perchtoldsdorf.
New Keys to More Security
Digitalisation and globalisation require secure communication and safe, encrypted data. Existing procedures encode data using mathematical methods that are difficult to crack for attackers. Increasingly powerful computers, however, could gradually render these methods transparent.
“Once we have powerful quantum computers, today’s methods definitely won’t be safe enough. This is why researchers have been trying for decades to find physical methods of key generation. It all began with quantum cryptography, a method using entangled particles that can be implemented with a high degree of security. Unfortunately, this solution is very expensive and thus not fit for global, large-scale use”, explains UAS lecturer and IT security researcher Ernst Piller.
Together with his colleagues, Piller is developing physical methods for encrypting data at the Institute of IT Security Research at the St. Pölten UAS. One of these methods has now won the Innovation Award of Lower Austria in the category of research institutions.
Radio Signals and Satellite Communication
In addition to the complex method of quantum cryptography, scientists all over the world are working on cost-effective procedures which use the features of radio channels to create and distribute keys – and the St. Pölten UAS is one of the institutes doing research in this field. So far, however, these methods can be used to cover short distances only (up to approx. 20 km). For one and a half years now, Piller and his project team have been working on making this solution suitable for far distances and for communication around the globe within the framework of their research project “KIF – Hochsichere, langzeitige Kryptografie für kabellose Kommunikation mit Integration von Funkmessdaten” (highly secure and durable cryptography for wireless communication integrating radio data).
Their approach uses satellite communication without regard for the data. “This is why we call this kind of cryptography ‘satellite cryptography’. In contrast to quantum cryptography, this solution can be used on a large scale thanks to the low costs of satellite communication”, explains Piller.
The phase angles of signals are measured in two places (sender and recipient). Due to the fast movement of the satellites and to environmental influences (signal refraction in particular), the measured values are the same in these two places only, and otherwise random. This allows for the generation of random data which can – in combination with mathematical procedures – be used to generated keys and cannot be intercepted by potential attackers.
Patents, Recognition for Projects and Keynote Speech on Blockchain
Piller and his team have filed three patent applications for the new technology. “This will enable us to remain the leaders in this technology and the research results will strengthen Lower Austria in general and St. Pölten in particular as centres for research. It will make them more visible in the research areas of cryptography and space applications at an international level”, says Piller.
Further projects of the St. Pölten UAS that received recognition prizes at the Innovation Awards of Lower Austria 2019:
SoniTalk uses ultrasound signals to exchange data between the microphone and speakers of smartphones, thus creating a completely new communication channel for location-based services and protecting the users’ privacy through its innovative architecture. IntelliGait explores and designs methods for the visualisation and analysis of clinical gait measurement data. DALICC develops LegalTech software for companies for the digital rights clearance of external data sources.
“The Innovation Award for one of our projects and the recognition of another three projects are proof of the key role of the St. Pölten UAS as an important centre of research and science which numerous contributions to the promotion of the innovative power of our country have earned us. These awards encourage and inspire us to put even more effort into working on solutions for current social challenges in close collaboration with various disciplines and in developing new approaches for the business sector and the industry”, says Hannes Raffaseder, Chief Research and Innovation Officer of the St. Pölten UAS.
Franz Fidler, Deputy Head of the Department of Media and Digital Technologies, held a keynote speech on Blockchain basics at the gala, while Thomas Moser, Head of the Research Group Digital Technologies, talked about Mixed Reality.
The special prize for Artificial Intelligence went to the company MBIT Solutions GmbH where Thomas Ederer, a graduate of the UAS study programme Digital Media Technologies, works.
Project “KIF – Hochsichere, langzeitige Kryptografie für kabellose Kommunikation mit Integration von Funkmessdaten“
The research project is financed by the Federal Ministry for Transport, Innovation and Technology within the framework of the Austrian Security Research Programme KIRAS. Project partners are Cryptas it-Security GmbH, the Federal Ministry for Europe, Integration and Foreign Affairs (BMEIA), ASFINAG, and the Federal Ministry of Defence (BMLVS).
This summer, the project on satellite cryptography already won first prize in the category “brilliant research” of the Lower Austrian riz up GENIUS award.
Innovation Awards of Lower Austria
The Innovation Award of Lower Austria is organised by the technology and innovation partners, the joint innovation service of the federal state of Lower Austria and the Lower Austrian Chamber of Commerce. It takes place with the support of EVN AG and Raiffeisenlandesbank Lower Austria-Vienna.