Fraunhofer SIT Alumnus Dr. Sigfried Rasthofer receives the renowned Curious Mind Award

Even when he was a teenager, Dr. Sigfried Rasthofer experimented with harmless self-programmed viruses. Today he is manager of the insurance company Munich Re and assists major clients suffering cyberattacks. For his research into IT security and his developments, which he implements at, among other places, Fraunhofer Institute for Secure Information Technology, he has now received the Curious Mind Award in the category “Digitalization and Robotics”.

Dr. Siegfried Rasthofer is one of two recipients of the 2020 Curious Mind Award, which is awarded together with the distinction “Hall of Fame of German Research”.
© Fraunhofer SIT
Dr. Siegfried Rasthofer is one of two recipients of the 2020 Curious Mind Award, which is awarded together with the distinction “Hall of Fame of German Research”.

“The Curious Mind Researcher Award also demonstrates that Germany is a research location that offers superb framework conditions for cutting-edge research”, said Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel in congratulating the award recipient and Fraunhofer SIT Alumnus Dr. Siegfried Rasthofer, whose research is aimed at providing greater IT security for companies and individuals.

The Curious Mind Award honors researchers up to 40 years old in Germany. The award, which is endowed with EUR 7,500, has been awarded since 2018 jointly by the technology and research company Merck and manager magazin as part of the “Hall of Fame der deutschen Forschung (German research)” awards. This year the Nobel Prize recipient in chemistry, Emmanuelle Charpentier, was inducted into the “Hall”, in which the former director of the Fraunhofer IDMT, Karlheinz Brandenburg, is also represented for his Audiocodec MP3.

Curious Mind award winner Dr. Sigfried Rasthofer has concentrated on the automatic recognition of weak points or threats in programs and apps. “At Fraunhofer SIT we have developed programs that analyze the software for security-critical programming defects. But, naturally, we also examine whether a malicious code – such as a backdoor – was inserted.” The idea for this analytical tool arose early on during work on his dissertation.

The Curious Mind Award is not the first distinction for Rasthofer. The young researcher can also point to the 2018 Hugo Geiger Award, the 2018 Software Engineering Award from the Ernst Denert Foundation, the 2017 Fraunhofer ICT Dissertation Award, and, among others, the 2016 German IT Security Award. In addition, the TeamSIK he designed at Fraunhofer SIT Rasthofer produced several eye-catching discoveries of security gaps. He also regularly presented these discoveries at renowned hacking conferences. “For me as a student it was obviously very impressive to be presenting at a conference with 30,000 participating security experts and hackers.”

Initially working as a security researcher at Fraunhofer SIT, Rasthofer encountered “many really good experts” as colleagues. From 2017 to 2019 he headed the Department for Secure Software Engineering. In this position he was SIT’s global contact person in the event of IT security threats to corporate clients. At the SIT, working together with Fraunhofer experts and students, he developed the CodeInspect software tool, which is still being licensed and sold through Fraunhofer SIT.

Programming the tool was one thing; using it to rigorously test software products was another: “With the ethical TeamSIK hacking group we engaged very intensively with various subjects and, for example, analyzed different anti-virus software.” In doing to, the young security experts at Fraunhofer SIT discovered some “interesting things”, such as security breaches in Amazon’s software or at Google, which were taken very seriously by the companies in question. Rasthofer made repeated trips to the USA to present these results and security breaches to those in charge.

In another case, Rasthofer stopped a banking Trojan that had already infected 30,000 users in Korea. Naturally, such discoveries and successes did not go unnoticed and the Fraunhofer SIT in Darmstadt thus also profited from the work of the young researchers. But Rasthofer constantly emphasizes: “It was always a team accomplishment. We worked on these projects for weeks, and sometimes months.” For outsiders the motivation to take part in such projects is perhaps difficult to comprehend. But “when you have penetrated a system, it gives you an indescribable feeling of happiness.”

But how does one become an IT security expert? Even during his childhood in Bavaria, Rasthofer busied himself with computers and the Internet. After high school he obtained a bachelor’s degree from the University of Applied Sciences in Landshut. His interest in computer security started during his master’s program at the University of Passau. For his dissertation in 2016 he switched to the Technical University of Darmstadt.

As a software engineer for Siemens CERT he worked for about a year in Princeton. While completing his doctorate he also worked for one year in 2014 as an IT security researcher at Microsoft in Redmond, WA. As he himself says today, this posting was not only professionally very enriching. “To work on IT security for Microsoft products such as Office or Windows – even if only on small segments – was really impressive.”

Today the Fraunhofer alumnus advises major clients of the reinsurer Munich Re on IT security issues. The subject of cyber insurance is a booming market. More and more companies want to or must safeguard themselves against risks associated with IT breakdowns. In his most recent work Rasthofer has been analyzing attacks on companies and supporting these companies in dealing with them. Nevertheless, the field of cyber insurance is still relatively new. Rasthofer: “There are still many challenges and here once again I am working to some extent as a researcher.”


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Ready for the digital transformation of your company

© Fraunhofer / C. Floritz

Digital business models, the degree of digitization of your own company or the planning and implementation of assistance systems in your company - Fraunhofer Austria currently offers online seminars for these three topics. Thanks to a cooperation with Fraunhofer-Alumni e.V. we can now offer our members a 10 percent discount on these seminars.

Fraunhofer Austria's research areas include human-centered work system design, MRK, logistics, maintenance, Industry 4.0, automation and data evaluation. Parallel to the research, the oldest Fraunhofer foreign society also maintains an extensive congress, seminar and training program. Due to the corona crisis, the colleagues and digitization experts in Austria offer online seminars.

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»Easy enough for 12-year-olds« IPT alumnus Carl Toller

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Fraunhofer IPT alumnus Carl Toller is a Design Engineer and a winning marathon runner.

Carl Toller is a design engineer at the Gothenburg engineering firm Forma. The company gained fame for its contribution to the interior of the Volvo CX40, the car of the year 2018. The travel-loving mechanical engineer is involved in the Swedish Rheumatism Society and has been president of the student union of his alma mater, the Chalmers University of Technology. For his many different projects he still uses a self-developed framework based on a project of the Fraunhofer Institute for Production Technology IPT. He spends most of his free time with marathon competitions and training. Running, as he puts it, is the best way to develop new creative ideas.

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"Future is a good Word” - IFU-Alumna Dr. Edeltraud Leibrock

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Dr. Edeltraud Leibrock is "proud to be part of the Fraunhofer Community, because Fraunhofer uses innovation and cutting-edge technology to move forward."

Dr. Edeltraud Leibrock loves the opera, the mountains, a range of sports, and this physicist has been supporting businesses with her IT expertise ever since she was 16 years old. It all started with a holiday job working on programs for capturing production data and analyzing cement at a lime manufacturing plant near Regensburg. For her doctoral dissertation, the triathlete swapped Regensburg for the Alps, so that she could perform atmospheric research work at the Fraunhofer IFU in Garmisch-Partenkirchen. After that, she was appointed to the executive board of KfW Bankengruppe as CIO, where she was responsible for IT. But as a Fraunhofer alumna it is only natural for her to ask - #WHATSNEXT. Since 2016, as partner and managing director of Connected Innovations, one of the digital and KI consulting firms co-founded by her, she advises cross-sector enterprises on the complex issues concerning digital transformation.

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German interview: »Nicht nur schöne Dinge, sondern Produktionsunterlagen«

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Prof. Dr.-Ing. Hans-Jürgen Grallert, ehemaliger Institutsleiter Fraunhofer HHI.

Prof. Dr.-Ing. Hans-Joachim Grallert joined the Fraunhofer Institute for Telecommunications, Heinrich Hertz Institute, HHI in 2004 as head of the institute.  Prior to this, he was Senior Vice President of Optical Networks at Siemens Information and Communications Group, where he was responsible for research and development worldwide. He transformed the HHI from a pure research organization into an application-oriented and industry-oriented institute.

At the alumni meeting at the Netzwert Symposium we had the chance to talk to Prof. Grallert about the dynamic time at HHI and his commitment to Fraunhofer Alumni e.V.. We had a conversation in German with him.

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A new career with the Fraunhofer-Alumni e.V.

The main focus of this service is to support departing Fraunhofer employees in their further career development outside the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft.

It addresses Fraunhofer employees who will be leaving Fraunhofer within the next 6 months due to the termination of a temporary contract and offers them a platform to post their own applicant profile.

The good news is: Registred members of our alumni-association can also use this portal. Only Fraunhofer-Alumni e.V. funding agencies interested in highly qualified professionals have access to these application profiles.

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