Doctoral College for Secure and Intelligent Human-Centric Digital Technologies

  • By Claudia Vitt (edt.)
  • 2020-07-13
  • Research
  • PhD School
  • Excellence

With its new interdisciplinary doctoral college, our faculty will establish synergies across three different faculties as well as three research fields.

SecInt will develop the scientific foundations of secure and intelligent human-centric digital technologies.
SecInt will develop the scientific foundations of secure and intelligent human-centric digital technologies.
Picture: Pete Linforth, Pixabay

In the academic year 2020/21, the TU Wien supports excellent young scientists with two structured doctoral programs (duration four years). One of these doctoral colleges will be established at our faculty: The Doctoral College for Secure and Intelligent Human-Centric Digital Technologies (SecInt). Coordinated by Matteo Maffei from our research unit Security and Privacy and Tanja Zseby from the Faculty of Electrical Engineering and Information Technology, the new doctoral college is targeting the digital transformation of our society.

Everyday life becomes more and more dependent on computing platforms and online services. These are built for sensing and processing the environment we live in, and the activities we carry on, with the ultimate goal of returning predictions and taking actions to support and enhance our life. Prominent examples of this trend are autonomous systems such as self-driving cars and robots, cyber-physical systems such as implanted medical devices, and apps in wearable devices, the Coronavirus contact tracing apps, for example.

Despite stakeholders’ interest and the attention of the media, digital technologies that so intimately affect human life are not yet ready for widespread deployment, because key technical and ethical questions regarding trustworthiness, security, and privacy have to be addressed. If these problems are not solved, supposedly intelligent human-centric technologies can lead to death or other undesirable consequences: Learning algorithms of autonomous cars could be fooled and cause crash accidents, implanted medical devices could be remotely hacked to trigger unwanted defibrillations, and contact tracing apps could be misused towards an Orwellian surveillance system or to inject false at-risk alerts.

Across Faculties

The goal of SecInt is to develop the scientific foundations of secure and intelligent human-centric digital technologies. This requires interdisciplinary research, establishing synergies across three faculties as there are Informatics, Electrical Engineering, and Mathematics, as well as the three different research fields, Security and Privacy, Machine Learning, and Formal Methods.

The research team will be completed by faculty members Ezio Bartocci, Thomas Gärtner, Laura Kovacs, Martina Lindorfer and Georg Weissenbacher. Research highlights brought forward by the synergies across projects include the design of machine learning algorithms resistant to adversarial attacks, the design of machine learning algorithms for security and privacy analysis, the security analysis of personal medical devices, the design of secure and privacy-preserving contact tracing apps, and the enforcement of safety for dynamic robots.

Going beyond

The research development is accompanied by a supporting educational and training program, which encompasses the ethics of secure and intelligent digital technologies, interdisciplinary technical knowledge, student-driven dissemination strategies to the broad public, as well as internships in international elite research partners from industry and academy, which expressed their interest to collaborate with and financially support this initiative. SecInt will thus constitute not only a simple doctoral school but the cornerstone of an internationally leading, collaborative research endeavor in a strategic field, with TU Wien at its core.