Challengers ORC 2015

The Chair for Informatics (IT security infrastructures)

Applied Forensic Computing Group

The Applied Forensic Computing Group (AFC), led by Dr.-Ing. Andreas Dewald, is settled at the Chair for Informatics and IT security infrastructures (Prof. Felix Freiling) at the Friedrich-Alexander University Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU). The group proposes a separation of what is currently demanded of practitioners in digital forensics into a rigorous scientific part on the one hand, and a more general methodology of searching and seizing digital evidence and conducting digital investigations on the other in order to mark out the route for computer forensics to turn into a true forensic science as elaborated here. To this end, research topics of the AFC focus on methodology and terminology with respect to forensic computing in its core as well as applied techniques for its more general portion.

The entire chair performs research in many areas of applied IT security (fundamental and systems research). The overall research roadmap is structured around the landscape of cybercrime with its three main groups of actors (attackers, users and investigators) and their main activities and deficits: attack and evasion for attackers, awareness and education for victims, evidence extraction and analysis for investigators.

The landscape of cybercrime and its actors

The amount of crime involving digital systems is steadily increasing. This involves both more traditional crime in which digital systems are merely used as tools (e.g. different types of fraud, blackmailing, hidden communication) as well as new forms of crime in which digital systems are an enabling technology (e.g., computer abuses, malicious software, malicious remote control networks like botnets).

Current and future research areas can be structured according to three research goals, which correspond to the classes of actors mentioned above:

  • Develop and cultivate offensive technologies (à attackers)
    This comprises “penetration testing”, an approach to assess the security of real-world systems by attacking them. The penetration tester tries to actively push the system to an insecure state by accessing it in a way that was not foreseen by the system’s designer. Current research also includes anti-forensic protection techniques or malware analysis systems.
  • Awareness and education (à users)
    While technical means for achieving IT security have been steadily improving, the main weak point in securing computer systems is shifting from the technology to the psychology. We examine what people think and feel about computer security and find out how security goals and methods be communicated in an appealing and understandable way.
  • Foundations of forensic computing (à investigators)
    This research stream stresses the link of forensic computing to other forensic sciences: establishing hypotheses about previous actions based on traces of actions left at the scene of crime. In this context we develop tools and techniques in evidence collection: the examination of traces of volatile information in RAM, dumping and analyzing tools for smartphones like ADEL, or “selective imaging”, the creation of partial forensic images by selectively acquiring only relevant data from digital devices.
    We also develop techniques to better educate and train investigators, for instance by the Forensic Image Generator tool (Forensig), which is also a very handy tool for open research questions – like the one presented in the Challenge here.


  • Zinaida Benenson, Andreas Dewald, Hans-Georg Eßer, Felix C. Freiling, Tilo Müller, Christian Moch, Stefan Vömel, Sebastian Schinzel, Michael Spreitzenbarth, Ben Stock and Johannes Stüttgen: Exploring the Landscape of Cybercrime. In: Markatos, Evangelos ; Zanero, Stefano (Hrsg.): Proceedings of the First SysSec Workshop (SysSec 2011 Amsterdam 6.7.2011). Amsterdam: Free University, 2011, S. 69-72.
  • Andreas Dewald, Felix C. Freiling: From Computer Forensics to Forensic Computing: Investigators Investigate, Scientists Associate. Erlangen: University of Erlangen-Nuremberg. 2014 (CS-2014-04). - Internal Report. 10 Pages (Technical Reports Bd. 2014) ISSN 2191-5008
  • Andreas Dewald, Felix C. Freiling: Forensische Informatik. 1. ed. Norderstedt: Books on Demand, 2011. - 132 Pages. ISBN 978-3-8423-7947-3

Our Challenge: Digital Forensics

More and more data is stored and shared by digital devices in our networked world. How secure is this information and how can potential hacks be proven and investigated? This is your chance to help advance digital Crime Scene Investigation methods.

Go to the forensics challenge!

The Chair of EDOM (Economics – Discrete Optimization – Mathematics)

Discrete Optimization has become an important component in modern applied mathematics over recent years. Many challenging problems from business and industry can be modeled as discrete optimization problems. The study and solution of these problems is the main focus of our research group. This includes the development of mathematical models for real-world problems, their theoretical analysis (mainly using methods from graph theory, polyhedral combinatorics, and integer programming), and the design and implementation of fast algorithms as well as their evaluation in practice.                       

The Chair, held by Professor Alexander Martin, involves one additional, one guest and one junior professorship, a junior research group leader and more than 20 research associates. Our group possesses vast experience in topics including – but not limited to – logistics, optimization in physics, engineering and energy, see projects or thesis for details.

From 2000 to 2010, the research group was located at Technische Universtität Darmstadt. There it was engaged, inter alia, in the Collaborative Research Center SFB 666 Integral sheet metal design with higher order bifurcations - Development, Production, Evaluation, the SFB 805 "Control of uncertainty of load carrying systems in mechanical engineering", the TU Darmstadt focal research area "Computational Engineering" and the BMBF network on "Decentralized Regenerative Energy Supply: Innovative Modeling and Optimization".

After moving to the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg in 2010, we started research within the BMBF networks "Life-cycle oriented optimization for a resource- and energy-efficient infrastructure", "Complex optimization strategies for mobility and transport in railways" as well as in the Energy Campus Nuremberg EnCN and several more projects from industry, see our projects. Currently, we also coordinate the Cooperative Research Centre TRR 154 „Mathematical Modelling, Simulation and Optimization using the Example of Gas Networks“ as well as two BMBF research networks „Energy Management System Water Supply Networks (EWave)“ and „Energy-efficient Mobility (E-Motion)", of which the latter is the motivation for this challenge.

Our Challenge: Discrete Optimization

The global community is searching for new ways to mitigate its growing energy demands and offer sustainable solutions for a rapidly developing world. This challenge focuses on the crucial aspect of electric rail transportation, specifically: how can rail timetables be optimized to prevent costly fluctuations, or peaks, in power consumption?

Go to the optimization challenge!

The Institute of Photonic Technologies (LPT)

The potential of light seems to be unlimited. In basic research the amount of knowledge is growing rapidly, qualifying Photonic Technologies for more and more fields of application.  In order to investigate optical phenomena as well as processes and to make them valuable for industrial applications, the LPT was founded at the Friedrich-Alexander University of Erlangen-Nürnberg headed by Professor Michael Schmidt, within the Department of Mechanical Engineering.

The aim of our institute is to establish a link between scientific progress and industrial application in the field of Photonics and Laser Technology. Topics with academic and technological relevance are emphasized so that e.g. production and medicine may benefit from our achievements. Our current research is divided into five subgroups: additive manufacturing, simulation & modelling, sensing & control, photonics in medical engineering and ultrashort pulse laser technologies. The latter group will also organise the Challenge.

The development of ultrashort pulse laser technologies within the last ten years did not only create new perspectives for basic scientific research, but has also led to the realization of new technologies and applications. While some of these technologies are already being used in industrial processes and medicine (e.g. Optical Coherence Tomography, femtosecond ophthalmology, high precision micro-machining as well as variable light sources), most of today’s ultrafast technologies are still in the state of development and can only be applied in highly specialized research facilities.

Because of their novelty and complexity, the transfer of ultrashort pulse laser processes into industrial solutions remains challenging. Our group of "Ultrashort Pulse Laser Technologies" wants to overcome that gap and build a bridge between basic research and industrial application. Its main fields of activity are research and development of material machining using femtosecond and picosecond lasers. These beam sources are suitable for micro and nano structuring as well as for machining of transparent materials (e.g. welding and volume structuring of glass), direct wave guide writing and micro adjusting of mechanical and optical components. Furthermore, biomedical applications of ultrafast laser will be the topic of future collaborations with other research facilities and institutes.

The LPT collaborates with both national and international groups. Amongst our international collaborators is the group around Martin Booth (University of Oxford), which deals with laser beam shaping for applications in microscopy and micro fabrication.

The city of Erlangen is located in the Mittelfranken administration region, which is one of the regions of the state of Bavaria. Erlangen is dominated by the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg. Research groups of the Institute of Fraunhofer and the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Light as well as many branches of Siemens AG are also situated in Erlangen. Take the chance and experience state of the art optical techniques in one of the most beautiful cities of Germany.

Our Challenge: Photonic Technologies

Modern technology makes the life of counterfeiters increasingly difficult. Lasers allow us to create complex Holograms as a security measure. Can you decode the message hidden in a seemingly random pattern? Join the challenge and try to crack the hologram!

Go to the photonics challenge!