Today marks the presentation of the new Josef Ressel Center for Blockchain Technologies & Security Management at the St. Pölten University of Applied Sciences. The research center explores IT security aspects relating to the use of Blockchains, develops new areas of application for the technology and advises companies in its introduction.
The St. Pölten UAS coordinates the center and collaborates with its partner companies SEC Consult, Blockchain Solutions and CPB Software (Austria).
More Than a Technology for Cryptocurrencies
The Blockchain technology is most well-known as the basis of cryptocurrencies but it can do much more than that. It offers various possibilities for practical use, for example for managing large data volumes or securing databases and server systems.
The new center researches the basics necessary to make Blockchains suitable for use in the traditional IT systems of companies. Another objective is to open up new fields of application for the technology. The research topics include security management, the integration of Trusted Computing (especially ensuring correct programme execution) and secure access control systems for Blockchains. The new center is financed by the Federal Ministry for Digital and Economic Affairs (BMDW) and the partner companies.
“In order to make digitalisation work, it is essential that we trust in secured transactions”, emphasises Elisabeth Udolf-Strobl, Federal Minister for Digital and Economic Affairs. “Blockchain is a promising innovation for several areas – we are already developing new business models using this technology. Austria plays a leading role in the research, as the development of the Josef Ressel Center for Blockchain at the St. Pölten UAS has proven once again.”
Blockchains are structures for data storage that make it possible to save data in a virtually forgery-proof manner: data blocks are connected using cryptographic processes, so that any subsequent changes can be detected. Every new data block in the data chain contains a cryptographically secure ‘fingerprint’ (hash) of the previous block, a timestamp and transaction data. Subsequent changes to old data sets in the chain are thus visible to everyone because the ‘fingerprint’ of the data is not right anymore.
“Thanks to their strong protection against forgery, Blockchains make it possible to create highly decentralised systems. This means that data are distributed over many computers instead of being centrally managed. The new center allows us to improve the underlying basics of the technology, to enhance the security of the systems, and support companies in using them”, explains Peter Kieseberg, Head of the Institute of IT Security Research at the St. Pölten UAS as well as the Josef Ressel Center.
“With the new center, we clearly reinforce our research focus on the topic of cyber security and IT security. The fact that this is the second Josef Ressel Center at our university shows the quality and innovative drive of our researchers”, says Hannes Raffaseder, Chief Research and Innovation Officer at the St. Pölten UAS.
Security, Data Protection and Quantum Computer
The main problems of the current Blockchain technologies are related to security and data protection. However, these aspects are particularly important due to new guidelines such as the Directive Concerning Measures for A High Common Level of Security of Network and Information Systems across the Union as well as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
“In this context, we need to consider new requirements for the management of sensitive data. Questions pertaining to the security management of large and widely distributed systems such as Blockchains have not been sufficiently dealt with to date. On the other hand, Blockchain technologies could offer a solution to GDPR-related challenges, for example the management of consent of a large number of users”, states Kieseberg.
Due to research successes in the field of the quantum computer, IT security will also face new requirements in the future. At the moment, many cryptographic processes are based on mathematical methods that quantum computers can solve very efficiently. This makes these processes insecure provided that useable quantum computers become a reality within the next ten years, which is particularly relevant when data are supposed to be stored in decentralised storage facilities for many years. The new research center is already dedicated to the basics of IT security and Blockchain technology which will be needed then.
Josef Ressel Centers: Joint Research of Companies and Universities of Applied Sciences
At Josef Ressel Centers, experts carry out application-oriented research at the highest level. Excellent researchers cooperate with innovative companies. The Christian Doppler Research Association is considered a best practice example for the promotion of this collaboration. Josef Ressel Centers are jointly financed by the Federal Ministry for Digital and Economic Affairs (BMDW) and the companies involved.
Back in 2015, the St. Pölten UAS already launched the Josef Ressel Center for Unified Threat Intelligence on Targeted Attacks (TARGET) which explores methods for the defence against targeted IT attacks.