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Safeguarding critical infrastructure

Energy, water, food, fuel, information, transportation – ensuring a supply of these essential services and commodities is vital for a properly functioning society and economy. Fraunhofer is devising solutions and strategies to safeguard our critical infrastructure.

Safeguarding critical infrastructure

Energy, water, food, fuel, information, transportation – ensuring a supply of these essential services and commodities is vital for a properly functioning society and economy. So essential, in fact, that we only realize their importance when suddenly they are no longer there. The infrastructure and systems that supply us with these assets are increasingly connected and, for this reason, highly vulnerable to natural disasters, accidents and criminal or terrorist attacks. In response, Fraunhofer is devising solutions and strategies to safeguard our critical infrastructure.

Critical infrastructure energy supply

Electricity is the power that drives modern technological society. Earlier this year, inhabitants of the Köpenick neighborhood of Berlin were confronted with what it means when the supply suddenly fails. On February 19, shortly after 2:00 p.m., a major outage plunged the district into darkness. Streetcars ground to a halt. Stores, restaurants, schools and kindergartens were forced to lower the shutters. Stoplights went out, and the police had to direct traffic in order to tame the chaos on the roads. There was no district heating or hot water, because cogeneration plants were forced to shut down. One hospital, despite having an emergency power supply, had to transfer its ICU patients to another clinic. The phone lines went dead – as did all cell networks, since the radio masts require electricity to function. All in all, it took 30 hours to remedy the problem, caused by cable damage, during which time 30,000 households were without power. The synchronous grid of Continental Europe is one of the world’s most reliable electricity networks. Outages of this duration are a rarity, but there is no absolute safeguard, and power failures can happen any time and any place.

Energy infrastructure is part of what is known as critical infrastructure. If any such infrastructure is compromised or destroyed, this has serious implications for the functioning of society. The rapid pace of digitalization means that more and more systems – some completely heterogeneous – are connected to one another. This makes them more vulnerable to disruption. Within this complex nexus of interdependencies, the failure of a single element or system can quickly snowball and trigger an outage in a related supply network. Critical infrastructure therefore requires special protection and must be safeguarded against all kinds of danger: natural disasters, accidents, technical or human error, criminal activity.

Cyber attacks on critical infrastructure operators

The WannaCry ransomware attack first manifested itself on May 12, 2017. It also impacted private individuals, but those principally affected in Germany were large organizations and facilities such as railroad operator Deutsche Bahn and hospitals. WannaCry infected computers with a so-called ransomware cryptoworm, which encrypted data and only decrypted them following payment of a ransom in Bitcoin. What made WannaCry especially treacherous was that it spread from one computer to another without any action on the part of users. Germany’s Federal Office for Information Security was still receiving reports of attacks more than six months later. All in all, over 200,000 computers in 150 countries were infected.

Industroyer, also known as CrashOverride, was a malware that caused a major power outage in the Ukraine capital, Kiev, in 2016. It enabled hackers to hijack the process control systems of Ukraine’s power grid. Although it principally targets power utilities, this sophisticated and highly dangerous malware is designed to attack industrial control systems in any sector whatsoever. Investigators therefore concluded that the hackers evidently had substantial funds and resources at their disposal and that their long-term goal was to sabotage industrial companies and critical infrastructure.


Research and development for enhanced cybersecurity

The importance of IT security continues to grow, not least in the realm of critical infrastructure. In the past, such systems were largely operated as stand-alone facilities and, as such, well monitored and easy to control. Today, digitalization has interconnected them, with the result that they are no longer isolated and insulated against attack. Naturally, this also means they can now be remotely accessed, and their data retrieved for analysis. And this connectivity creates a host of openings for new research and development. For example, technology is required to ensure efficient monitoring and reliable operation of critical infrastructure as well as a rapid response in the event of problems. But it also generates risks: key facilities and processes can be manipulated, and critical infrastructure can be made to crash with devastating consequences for civil security and the supply of essential services.


Analytic tools for evaluating security in critical infrastructure for specific sectors

For many years now, the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied and Integrated Security AISEC has been carrying out research and development projects with and on behalf of operators of critical infrastructure on the regional, national and European level.  Such projects focus on the development and systematic implementation of security concepts specially tailored to the specific requirements of critical infrastructure. Many operators of critical infrastructure simply lack the expertise and the human resources to properly assess the IT security risks they face and to determine the appropriate measures on the basis of a cost-benefit analysis. This is where a lot of Fraunhofer AISEC projects begin.

Within the EU-funded SPARKS (Smart Grid Protection Against Cyber Attacks) project, for example, Fraunhofer researchers have teamed up with a number of municipal utilities in order to develop an easy-to-implement, IT-supported methodology for use with, in particular, smart grids. This enables power grid operators to practice systematic risk management, including threat identification and impact assessment. 


The ECOSSIAN (European Control System Security Incident Analysis Network) project – itself part of the European Programme for Critical Infrastructure Protection (EPCIP) – focused on the development of key technology and reference architecture for delivering secure critical infrastructure. This was designed to enable preventive services such as early warning and anomaly detection across multiple locations, and to improve emergency and disaster management. Processes developed in the course of this project include AI-driven anomaly detection methods and multi-party protocols for the secure transfer of sensitive data between infrastructure operators, thereby enabling them to share general situational awareness information without having to reveal confidential infrastructure details. In addition, researchers devised and implemented hardware-based procedures for authentication and data-protection compliance in conjunction with smart meters and smart meter gateways. This system has been tested in various scenarios involving critical infrastructure in the financial, transportation and energy sectors. Fraunhofer AISEC was also involved in drawing up recommendations for future security standards for smart grids and for an early-warning system that enables information-sharing on current threat levels without the requirement to reveal sensitive data from the jeopardized facilities.

In the course of such projects, Fraunhofer AISEC has acquired a wealth of expertise in critical infrastructure. This is now to be made available to small and medium-sized operators of critical infrastructure, who often face major organizational hurdles in terms of ensuring IT security. This problem was also the focus of the MoSaIK project, which investigated model-based security assessments of ICT-reliant critical infrastructure. Funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), the project spawned a number of innovative approaches that enable operators without specialized IT security know-how to analyze the IT security of their systems.


National Research Center for Applied Cybersecurity ATHENE

Recent advances in areas such as artificial intelligence and quantum technology are generating exciting new opportunities. Yet they also entail risks, which in turn pose major challenges for cybersecurity research. At Germany’s National Research Center for Applied Cybersecurity ATHENE in Darmstadt, some 450 scientists are now investigating how best to safeguard critical infrastructure and provide long-term protection for IT systems. ATHENE is a research facility established by the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft for its two Darmstadt institutes, the Fraunhofer Institute for Secure Information Technology SIT and the Fraunhofer Institute for Computer Graphics Research IGD. It also involves the participation of TU Darmstadt and Darmstadt University of Applied Sciences. ATHENE is funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) and the State of Hesse.

© Fraunhofer SIT

Secure Internet infrastructure

One of the flagship projects at the National Research Center for Applied Cybersecurity ATHENE focuses on the critical infrastructure that supports the Internet. As a participant in this project, the Fraunhofer Institute for Secure Information Technology SIT is developing mechanisms to protect this infrastructure against eavesdropping. The Internet is the largest and most complex communications network ever created and represents the world’s largest piece of IT infrastructure. The Domain Name System (DNS) and corresponding IT protocols, such as the Border Gateway Protocol (BGP), form the backbone of the Internet and ensure that, for example, emails reach their destination. They do this, in effect, by enabling data to autonomously select the path that they take to their destination. Route selection functions provide a means of reacting to unforeseen occurrences such as the failure of nodes or connections, thereby maintaining the availability of the Internet.

Yet routing selection can also be subject to misuse: vulnerabilities and configuration errors can be deliberately exploited in order to reroute data packets via specific Internet nodes, where content can be accessed, read or even manipulated. Criminals exploit these weaknesses in order to launch targeted attacks against companies, often for the purposes of industrial espionage, or against entire countries, to interfere in political processes (cyberwarfare), or even to disable substantial elements of Internet infrastructure.

Scientists at Fraunhofer SIT have been able to identify serious vulnerabilities in Internet infrastructure and, in partnership with leading cybersecurity researchers from Israel and the United States, analyze these weaknesses. They discovered that over 70 percent of the most frequently used DNS servers are vulnerable. This is because there are no security mechanisms in place or these are not being implemented properly. Based on the results of this analysis, Fraunhofer SIT is now developing recommendations for action along with new protocols and cybersecurity solutions.

The takedown of 'Avalanche', the world’s largest botnet web

Avalanche was the name of a cybercrime syndicate that stole hundreds of millions of dollars from online accounts. It involved a global web of so-called botnets, which launched a barrage of attacks over a number of years, causing immense damage. It all came to an end on November 30, 2016. This was the day on which the botnets were taken down in what is still the largest-ever blow in the fight against organized cybercrime.

A botnet is a group of virus-infected computers that are controlled remotely and used for illegal purposes. The Avalanche botnet infrastructure was destroyed at the end of a four-year investigation by an international team that included the Fraunhofer Institute for Communication, Information Processing and Ergonomics FKIE. Avalanche is reckoned to be the world’s largest ever network of botnets and infected hundreds of thousands of computers and mobile devices, in both private and commercial use, with a variety of malware. Police investigations continued until the beginning of 2019. At a Europol press conference held on May 16 of this year in The Hague, investigators put a figure of 100 million U.S. dollars on the damage caused worldwide by Avalanche. Of those losses, at least 8.7 million euros (approximately 9.5 million U.S. dollars) were sustained in Germany.

In the process of this investigation, Germany’s Federal Office for Information Security (BSI) commissioned a systematic review of botnets. In providing technical support for this project, Fraunhofer FKIE played a key role in dismantling the Avalanche group and developing measures to make the Internet more resilient to such threats. Despite such efforts, cyberspace is increasingly at risk. The targets of such attacks have long since widened to include elements of the state such as government networks as well as military installations and subcontractors. It is therefore vital that such work to assess and combat the threat of cybercrime should continue, so that the state and citizenry can continue to enjoy IT security.

New skills in the Cybersecurity Training Lab

Federal legislation to increase the security of IT systems in Germany was enacted in 2015. Operators of critical infrastructure are subject to special IT security standards and regulations. It is therefore vital that such operators have properly trained personnel, since human error is often the vulnerability exploited during a cyber attack.

The Fraunhofer Academy’s Cybersecurity Training Lab offers not only instruction and education to retool skills but also practical, research-based expertise on all the latest developments in the field of cybersecurity. “Alongside our own research and assessment of all the relevant sources of information, we also analyze attack scenarios in consultation with other disciplines within the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft,” explains Steffen Nicolai from the Cybersecurity Training Lab: Energy and Water Supply at the Fraunhofer Institute for Optronics, System Technologies and Image Exploitation IOSB. It proved possible to reconstruct and analyze the kill chain that led to the major outage in Ukraine’s power grid. According to Nicolai, this was triggered by a fake email that led to employees at the power utility downloading a malicious Word document. If malware remains undetected, the actual attack may only occurs weeks later, once the malware has had sufficient time to detect loopholes in the defense system and then, when the time is ripe, seize control of the entire process.

At the Cybersecurity Training Lab: Energy and Water Supply, there are facilities to reconstruct the relevant technical infrastructure of an energy or water utility. This includes not only the IT components of that infrastructure but also those related to energy or water supply. In addition, the training lab’s own technical infrastructure provides a platform for conducting research into the cybersecurity requirements for power and water utilities. Here, the focus is predominantly on AI-based methods for the detection of anomalies in the supply system and thereby the early identification of potential cyber attacks and the prevention of outages. The training courses provide participants with an opportunity to try out what they have learned on the basis of practical exercises with real hardware and infrastructure. The courses also cover the legal requirements governing, for example, the operation of an information security management system (ISMS).

Another Fraunhofer Cybersecurity Training Lab, established by the Fraunhofer Institute for Communication, Information Processing and Ergonomics FKIE in a consortium with the Bonn-Rhein-Sieg University of Applied Sciences, focuses on the areas of high security and emergency response. One area of specialism here is the protection of critical infrastructure, equipment and data against cyber attacks by means of, for example, monitoring routines and procedures to detect anomalies and attacks. Another is the fast and effective implementation of countermeasures in the event of an attack, thereby minimizing damage by the use of, for example, IT forensics and malware analysis. The Cybersecurity Training Lab provides IT security skills enriched by the latest findings from science and research.

The Cybersecurity Training Lab program has been developed by various Fraunhofer Institutes, universities of applied sciences and the Fraunhofer Academy. It is in receipt of funding from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). The training modules cover all the relevant fields – including industrial manufacturing, automotive security, public safety, embedded security, IoT security and IT forensics – and incorporate all the latest findings from research in a practical and applied context.

© Fraunhofer FKIE

Identifying fake news

These days, public opinion is increasingly shaped by politically flavored content posted on social media such as Twitter and Facebook. When such content is shared by a very large number of people, whether unwittingly or for a specific political purpose, fake news, in the form of distorted facts or wholly fictitious stories, can spread like wildfire across the Internet. However, the Fraunhofer Institute for Communication, Information Processing and Ergonomics FKIE has now developed a software tool that can identify false items of news.

The tool is based on machine learning: first of all, algorithms are fed with a sample of genuine and false news items. Afterwards, the software automatically scans items appearing on social media and filters out those that display specific markers. It then displays these results in easy-to-understand graphics.  At no point does the tool automatically designate an item as fake or censor it in any way. It merely flags it as a potential case of fake news. The ultimate decision lies with the user of the software.

When classifying items, the software uses lexical data, such as wording and syntax, and also metadata, which can provide vital indicators as to whether a news item is genuine or false. Such metadata may include information on how often and at what time an item is posted or tweeted. The time of posting, for example, may well indicate the country or time zone in which the poster is sharing the suspect news item. Similarly, a high incidence of reposting can indicate the activity of bots, which in turn increases the probability that the news is fake. Also, an analysis of the accounts and followers linked to the poster can prove highly revealing. As a matter of principle, before an item is classified as potentially fake news, there must always be a minimum number of markers indicating its suspect character. Public bodies and businesses are already using the tool to identify and combat fake news.

Resilience cycle of a technical system with its five phases: Prepare, Prevent, Protect, Respond, Recover.
© Fraunhofer EMI
Resilience cycle of a technical system with its five phases: Prepare, Prevent, Protect, Respond, Recover.

Resilience goes beyond standard definitions of security

Resilience is a concept that originated in the field of developmental psychology. It denotes the capacity to recover from serious setbacks, to bounce back and even to learn from that experience. Germany’s Federal Office of Civil Protection and Disaster Assistance (BBK) defines it as follows: “Resilience is the capability of a system to handle change. It means a robustness in the face of any disruption, an adaptability to new circumstances and a flexibility with regard to change – all with the aim of ensuring that the system concerned, be that an organization or a process, remains operational.”

But what specifically characterizes systems and infrastructure said to be resilient? They are robust and adaptable and able to cope with any kind of stress; and they are constructed in such a way that disruptive events do not trigger a total system failure. Indeed, such an event leaves them even more resilient. In certain cases, however, a chain of technical and organizational factors can lead to disruption spreading to connected structures or systems. This so-called cascade effect is especially severe when power and communication networks fail. If this happens, almost the whole critical infrastructure is affected. Risks can never be entirely eliminated. This is why any engineering project should consider resilience issues right from the planning and design phase onward. The more resilient a network, the less susceptible it is to cascade effects – and the easier, therefore, to uphold the operation of vital functions and restore regular service.

Resilience engineering is a burgeoning field within the engineering sciences. This holistic, interdisciplinary approach investigates the methods and technologies that are required to deal with unexpected or unprecedented events. Prof Stefan Hiermaier, director of the Fraunhofer Institute for High-Speed Dynamics, Ernst-Mach-Institut, EMI, is professor at the University of Freiburg, where he teaches parts of the Master’s program in sustainable systems engineering, including a course on the resilience of technical systems.

As one of the pioneers in the field of resilience engineering, Hiermaier is at pains to emphasize that economic efficiency is a key factor. “Whatever we plan, design and build in order to make a system more resilient, we must always be sure that we have all the stakeholders on board. And that means it has to be cost-effective; otherwise, no company is going to pay for it.”

Analysis of the cascade effects in supply networks – software tool CAESAR

Fraunhofer EMI is a contributor to the EU-funded Snowball project. In this role, the institute has developed CAESAR, a software tool to simulate and analyze interconnected pieces of network infrastructure. CAESAR – the name stands for “Cascading effect simulation in urban areas to assess and increase resilience” – uses simulated disaster events in order to analyze the interdependencies and resulting cascade effects between different supply networks. In the process, it identifies vulnerabilities and assesses the probable damage. Using a geographic information system (GIS), complete with the relevant geodata, these results are then displayed on a website featuring online maps. This provides users with an overview of which sections of infrastructure have gone down and why; or it shows the likelihood of this happening. Colored symbols indicate critical to highly critical sections of infrastructure – where any outage might trigger cascade effects – and show the extent of the anticipated disruption. On this basis, decision-makers can weigh up recommended measures and strengthen infrastructure at precisely the point where such measures can be expected to yield the maximum benefit.

The One World Trade Center in New York
© Fraunhofer EMI
The One World Trade Center in New York
Shock-tube test facility 'BlastStar'
© Fraunhofer EMI
Shock-tube test facility 'BlastStar'
The shock-tube test facility BlastStar is used to simulate and investigate the shock waves caused by bomb and gas explosions.
© Fraunhofer EMI
The shock-tube test facility BlastStar is used to simulate and investigate the shock waves caused by bomb and gas explosions.

Resilient buildings and transportation infrastructure

Exceptional events such as terror attacks, natural disasters and major accidents can happen anywhere and at any time. Research in this field now focuses on how to design and construct buildings and transportation infrastructure in a way that makes them more resilient to such events.

Images of the Twin Towers in New York, collapsing after a terrorist attack with a hijacked aircraft on the World Trade Center in 2001, are etched into our collective consciousness. The One World Trade Center, erected in its place in 2014, has been built according to resilience standards and is designed to be bombproof. It features steel members with a special fireproof coating, doubly secure elevators and stairwells, a separate emergency stairwell, a facade of armored glass, foundations descending 60 meters below the surface and a massive protective coating of special concrete to safeguard against ground attacks. Experts from Fraunhofer EMI were called on to help develop and optimize the special concrete. In partnership with DUCON Europe GmbH & Co KG, the researchers devised a formula that makes it fast and simple to calculate the thickness of a concrete wall, whatever the specific requirements.

This formula was elaborated in the course of testing with BlastStar, a shock-tube test facility. Test items – in the main, safety glass – are mounted within a 25-meter-long steel tube and blasted with compressed air in an exact replication of the shock wave caused by an explosion. The shock tube consists of a compression and expansion segment, separated by a steel diaphragm. Air in the compression segment is pressurized to as high as 30 bar. Once the requisite pressure has been reached, the steel diaphragm is punctured. The compressed air rushes through the hole in the diaphragm into the expansion segment, where its hits the test item as a flat shock front. “We can simulate explosions of varying forces, ranging from 100 kilograms to 2500 kilograms of TNT exploding at distance of between 35 and 50 meters from a building,” explains Dr. Alexander Stolz, head of the Security business unit at Fraunhofer EMI. “And without having to use real explosives.”  


Real explosives are used in tests for the MULTISCHUTZ project. Together with industrial partner Mehler Engineered Defence GmbH and Germany’s Federal Office of Civil Protection and Disaster Assistance (BBK), Fraunhofer EMI is developing modular, variable defense systems made of composite materials. These are designed to protect the population against terrorist attacks. Examples include special facades and partition walls that are bullet-proof or protect against flying shrapnel and debris. Despite such capabilities, they are intended to be unobtrusive and esthetically pleasing. Areas of use include airport terminals and railroad stations. “As well as enhancing security in public areas such as airports or stations, our systems provide additional external security for buildings at risk and can also be incorporated in the construction of new buildings at the planning stage,” says Stolz. Funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi), the project is scheduled to run from December 2018 to May 2021.


Transportation infrastructure is vital to the smooth functioning of society and the economy. Extreme weather events such as floods or landslides can rapidly damage or wipe out this infrastructure, leading to major commercial losses – as a result of supply shortages – or even casualties and fatalities.

FORESEE is a European project to safeguard transport networks against extreme events. It involves 18 partners from eight countries, including the Fraunhofer Institute for Intelligent Analysis and Information Systems IAIS. Researchers from these organizations are now developing an intelligent early-warning system to make transportation networks more resilient. Funded as part of the Horizon 2020 initiative, the project is investigating how to make roads, rail corridors, bridges and tunnels more safe. The ultimate objective is to develop an intelligent early-warning system and risk-assessment toolkit. This involves the collection and software analysis of meteorological, geographic and infrastructure-related data along key sections of the transportation network. On the basis of this data, it will be possible to assess whether and, if so, with what probability, there is a risk of system failure, and how a variety of scenarios might play out.


IOSB.BoB, an autonomous excavator, grabs a drum.
© Fraunhofer IOSB
IOSB.BoB, an autonomous excavator, grabs a drum.

Using robots and artificial intelligence in contaminated environments

Resilience engineering also investigates the use of autonomous machines to protect critical infrastructure. In disaster situations, these can repair damage or hinder even greater harm without placing the lives of the emergency crews in danger.

In the case of chemical spills or nuclear decommissioning work, for example, the need to enter extremely hostile environments necessitates extremely elaborate precautions. Despite such safeguards, there is still a risk to human life, whether from toxic substances, radioactive material or the danger of fire or explosion. In the future, robots could be used to collect samples or measure radiation levels in areas where conditions are too hazardous for humans – because of, for example, extreme heat or the danger of collapsing masonry.

ROBDEKON, a new competence center to investigate the use of robotic systems for decontamination work in hostile environments, was opened in June of this year in Karlsruhe, Germany. This new facility is coordinated by the Fraunhofer Institute for Optronics, System Technologies and Image Exploitation IOSB.

Prof. Jürgen Beyerer, director of Fraunhofer IOSB, spokesperson for ROBDEKON and professor at Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), discusses the concept behind the facility and provides an update: “Since the beginning of funding in 2018, we have been able to create a unique research infrastructure that combines all the necessary technological capabilities and will maintain these for the future.” As Beyerer explains, further partners to the facility contribute key expertise such as robotics and hardware development; elements of artificial intelligence, including environmental perception, orientation, motion planning and decision-making under uncertainty; and human-machine interaction. In addition, partners from industry bring along a precise knowledge of the domains of application.

Fraunhofer IOSB has already developed various off-road robotic vehicles and an autonomous excavator. This scans its environment by means of sensors and is able to retrieve drums containing hazardous substances or remove contaminated topsoil. The excavator carries out the decontamination work autonomously. It is monitored from a safe distance via a control panel, by means of which technicians can intervene during difficult operations. Fraunhofer IOSB is now working to enhance the level of autonomy, making it more variable and effective, and to implement it in further machinery.

ROBDEKON is a competence center for the use of robotic systems in the decontamination of hostile environments. This work has been in receipt of funding from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) since 2018, as part of its civil security research program. The new facility is coordinated by the Fraunhofer Institute for Optronics, System Technologies and Image Exploitation IOSB, which is located in Karlsruhe, Germany. Further research partners are the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), the FZI Research Center for Information Technology, also located in Karlsruhe, and the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI). The partners from industry are Götting KG, Kraftanlagen Heidelberg GmbH, ICP Ingenieursgesellschaft Prof. Czurda und Partner mbH and KHG Kerntechnische Hilfsdienst GmbH. The project is scheduled to run for an initial period of four years. The aim is to establish the center on a long-term basis and to create an expert and user network for the use of robotic systems in decontamination work. 


Fraunhofer Group for Defense and Security

Security is increasingly a global challenge. Fraunhofer researchers are currently working on a whole variety of projects intended to enhance the protection of critical infrastructure and to provide operators as well as public authorities and commercial enterprises with better technological support for dealing with security-related threats. The Fraunhofer Group for Defense and Security VVS brings together the expertise of nine Fraunhofer Institutes in this domain. By joining forces, they are able to meet the challenge of developing smart, all-around solutions to provide society, whether in civil or defense contexts, with enhanced protection against diverse threats of either human or natural origin. In pooling their combined expertise and coordinating their respective research activities, the member institutes of the Fraunhofer Group for Defense and Security VVS have teamed up to develop advanced technology and accompanying methodology required to counteract the full spectrum of existing and emerging threats to our security.

Further projects

Combating climate change: new planning tools help cities adapt to rapidly changing environmental conditions

The unprecedented snowfalls throughout Europe in mid-March showed that extreme weather is becoming less and less unusual. Bratislava, for example, which was still reeling from the shock of icy temperatures, faced an exceptional heatwave as early as the middle of May. RESIN (Climate Resilient Cities and Infrastructures) is a project to develop innovative planning tools that will help cities and their infrastructure adapt to climate change. The international consortium of project partners includes Fraunhofer IAIS.

Analyzing group behavior: pattern-recognition technology helps prevent critical situations in public spaces

Over the past few years, Fraunhofer IIS has been developing a process that enables automatic detection and analysis of objects. As part of the software solution SHORE®, this technology now provides fast and reliable identification of faces that appear in images and videos, including an assessment of each person’s sex, age, facial expression and emotional state. In conformity with the privacy-by-design approach, it does not enable actual identification of the persons concerned. However, it does provide relevant and extremely precise information regarding the number of persons in a group along with their age and emotional state. As such, it is an ideal tool for monitoring public gatherings and identifying critical situations.

Test Center for Explosives Detection Systems, operated on behalf of the German Federal Police

The testing and certification of explosives detection systems in a realistic testing environment is essential for security services and end users such as airport operators who require reliable performance data. The selection of the devices used in the aviation security sector, which is based on these results, ensures a uniform security standard throughout Europe.

Environmental health in public spaces: sensors help detect contamination and dangerous substances

In the future, multisensory digital systems will have the ability to emulate and understand human sensations. Paving the way for such developments, the newly founded Campus of the Senses is to carry out fundamental research into the digitalization of human sensory experiences and base new technologies and services on this knowledge. The Campus of the Senses is a joint initiative of Fraunhofer IIS and Fraunhofer IVV in cooperation with Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU).

Many of the sensory processes involved in taste and smell are unconscious. In the future, new technology may well provide people with an enhanced awareness of their environment and thereby enable them to respond more appropriately to potential risks and dangers. The challenge here consists in designing systems capable of capturing and interpreting human sensory perceptions and rendering them in digital form. The Campus of the Senses addresses precisely these questions.

With the help of digital sensor technology, complete with evaluation algorithms, it should be possible to detect and identify security-relevant incidents such as pollution or contamination from hazardous substances in public spaces. 

ResiWater – secure sensor networks and analysis tools

Water is an essential resource for the human and economic well-being of modern society. Drinking water distribution networks are one of the critical infrastructures with increasing complexity and dependence on other infrastructures. Water distribution networks are at constant risk from deliberate or accidental contamination, e.g. caused by terrorist attacks, technical failure affecting other infrastructures (cascade effects) or natural disasters. These can lead to a partial failure or complete failure of the drinking water supply system. The ResiWater project intent to enable utilities in a position to secure the drinking water supply optimally even under demanding circumstances and to facilitate by the choice of appropriate measures, the re-boot the system to normal operation after a crisis situation.

On-site detection of hazardous substances

Together with partners from research and industry, Fraunhofer IAF has developed a hand-held scanner for hazardous substances within the EU project CHEQUERS. The sensor detects explosive, toxic and other dangerous substances in real time and will help emergency personnel with on-site detections at crime scenes, after accidents or terroristic attacks. On April 25, 2019 the project consortium met for the successful completion of the project.

ELASSTIC: enhanced safety and strength for buildings

ELASSTIC (Enhanced Large Scale Architecture with Safety and Security Technologies and Special Information Capabilities) is a project to improve the safety and resilience of multifunctional buildings in the face of natural and anthropogenic disasters.

Safety assistance system warns of dirty bombs

The threat of terrorism in Europe has been on the rise in recent years, with experts and politicians particularly worried that terrorists might make use of dirty bombs. Fraunhofer researchers have developed a new system that will be able to detect possible carriers of radioactive substances, even in large crowds of people. This solution is one of many defensive measures being realized in the REHSTRAIN project, which is focused on security for TGV and ICE highspeed trains in France and Germany.

At EnRicH, experts practice for an emergency at a nuclear power plant

Accidents in nuclear power plants such as Chernobyl and Fukushima or the decommissioning and dismantling of old nuclear facilities clearly demonstrate how important it is to use robot technologies in the event of radioactive contamination. Robots can operate in places that are clearly too risky and dangerous for humans. They ensure that a picture of the situation is created, radiation sources are identified and even recovered, if necessary, despite the highest levels of radiation. At the second European Robotics Hackathon (EnRicH) in July 2019, robotics experts will practice for a critical situation at the Austrian nuclear power plant in Zwentendorf. Fortunately, this is only a simulated scenario but under real-world conditions.

New center of excellence to drive innovation in rescue robots

The Fraunhofer Institute for Communication, Information Processing and Ergonomics FKIE is one of 13 partners from the fields of emergency response, research and industry involved in the establishment of the German Rescue Robotics Center (A-DRZ) in Dortmund. The project, funded with 11.9 million euros from the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), will officially kick off on 6 December. The mission of the new center is to promote the use of robots in rescue scenarios that pose excessive risks to emergency personnel.

RAWIS protects rescuers during emergencies

Every minute counts when buried and seriously injured people have to be found and rescued in an emergency situation. Thanks to its continuous monitoring ability, RAWIS supports the rescue workers in these highly dangerous situations by providing timely and individual warnings prior to a potential debris collapse.

Drone detection with micro-doppler analysis

Drone detection now plays an instrumental role in security concepts. The use of micro-Doppler analysis to determine additional characteristics of the flying objects, such as the object class, size and weight, facilitates an estimation of the level of risk caused by the drone.

German ministry and research sector join forces to launch major quantum communications initiative

The German federal government will dramatically increase its support for the field of optical quantum communications in the coming years. Speaking at a press conference in Berlin’s Fraunhofer Forum, German Federal Minister of Education and Research Anja Karliczek announced the official launch of “QuNET”, a major new initiative that aims to promote intensive research into photonic technologies for tap-proof quantum-based communication networks. The Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Optics and Precision Engineering IOF will lead the project consortium.

Further information

International Data Spaces

The International Data Spaces initiative (former Industrial Data Space) aims at creating a secure data space that supports enterprises of different industries and different sizes in the autonomous management of data.

The International Data Spaces initiative is not limited by any geographic boundary, but clearly has a European and international ambition.


Defense against drones – the danger on the radar screen

Drones are useful, but they can also be dangerous if misused for terrorism. Fraunhofer is developing technology designed to serve as a defense against unmanned aerial systems.



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Hansastrasse 27c
80686 Munich, Germany

Phone +49 89 1205-1350

Fax +49 89 1205-771350

Contact Press / Media

Caroline Schweitzer

Executive Secretary Fraunhofer Group for Defense and Security

Fraunhofer Institute of Optronics, System Technologies and Image Exploitation IOSB
Gutleuthausstr. 1
76275 Ettlingen, Germany

Phone +49 7243 992-361