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Vorarlberg IT specialists train in defence against cyber attacks on supply chains

The Vorarlberg Chamber of Commerce, the Digital Factory Vorarlberg and the AIT Austrian Institute of Technology are preparing Vorarlberg companies for cyber attacks in the best possible way.

Initiated by the Information and Consulting division of the Vorarlberg Chamber of Commerce, a cyber security training course was held in Dornbirn on 5 and 6 June by Digital Factory Vorarlberg and the AIT Austrian Institute of Technology. 32 IT experts from Vorarlberg and the Lake Constance region trained on the AIT Cyber Range, a state-of-the-art exercise and simulation platform, on how to respond to a series of serious cyber attacks carried out simultaneously by two different hacker groups on a supply network of four companies. This fictitious scenario resulted in the complete failure of the IT systems, ransom demands, media coverage that the company management could no longer keep track of and the complete loss of food supplies to the population. The aim of the exercise was to restore the systems to normal operation by the end of the exercise using emergency plans and communication strategies developed to respond to these challenges, which the exercise participants successfully achieved.


Interfaces in supply chains as points of attack

Cyber attacks on supply chains are particularly dangerous. They are not only used by profit-oriented hacker groups, but also by political actors, for example, as a means of destabilising society and state structures, spying on top-secret information or even in modern warfare with corresponding life-threatening consequences. At the same time, in order to survive in international competition, companies today have to produce their products quickly and to a high standard of quality and ensure proper delivery to end customers. In order to efficiently organise and distribute the necessary tasks and processes, various companies are highly interconnected via their supply chains, which also entails extensive branching of the necessary digital systems of the companies involved. Instead of attacking companies directly, criminals therefore use the more easily penetrable weak points along the supply chains as a gateway. They use third-party security architectures to gain access to company networks. Practical experience shows that companies are increasingly falling victim to such attacks. If a supply chain comes to a standstill as a result of such an attack, the existence of the affected company is often jeopardised and the supply of essential goods to the population is also threatened; large production projects also suffer long and cost-intensive downtimes with devastating economic consequences.


"Just like the professionals in football or skiing - regular training is the most important basis for ensuring that we can continue to cope with the increasingly professional attacks on our infrastructures and IT systems in the future," says Horst Kasper, spokesman for the Vorarlberg IT Security Experts Group. "It is therefore extremely important that the Vorarlberg Chamber of Commerce is able to utilise the expertise of Digital Factory Vorarlberg and AIT in the best possible way for the location in order to enable the best possible preparation for emergencies." In addition to training the technical measures for detecting and stopping attacks and restoring systems, the implementation of the necessary organisational measures was also practised as part of a defined incident response process based on the legal framework.



Robert Merz, CEO of Digital Factory Vorarlberg, shares Horst Kasper's opinion. "Operating digitalised companies requires specially trained IT experts. The complexity of an emergency is often underestimated and, in addition to technical skills, roles and responsibilities must be clearly defined in the event of an emergency so that decisions can continue to be made in the best possible way. Training using realistic scenarios is an important means of testing processes and reactions and recognising which skills are lacking to defend against a cyberattack. Together with the AIT, we support companies in Vorarlberg to be optimally prepared for an emergency."



The programme and content of the exercise were designed by Digital Factory Vorarlberg in cooperation with the AIT Austrian Institute of Technology. The "AIT Cyber Range", which is used worldwide for training IT experts to protect critical IT infrastructures, e.g. on behalf of the Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), was used as the exercise platform. In the "AIT Cyber Range", IT and control technology as well as communication processes are simulated realistically in order to effectively train the defence against cyber attacks for companies, organisations, but also for production facilities or critical infrastructures. Realistic attacks are simulated, which would be impossible during the ongoing operation of a company in a real environment for security reasons.


"The AIT Cyber Range is one of the most modern training platforms for cyber security, with which we have already taken on a leading role internationally," emphasises Helmut Leopold, Head of Center for Digital Safety & Security at AIT. "Together with the Digital Factory Vorarlberg, we can offer cyber security solutions that are constantly adapted to the current threat situation and the needs of the Vorarlberg economy."


"AIT's cutting-edge expertise is a key factor for the competitiveness and future viability of our business location. By working closely with partners such as Digital Factory Vorarlberg, we are able to develop and implement customised cyber security solutions that set the highest security standards both locally and internationally," emphasises Brigitte Bach, Managing Director and Spokesperson of the Management Board, AIT.


About the Digital Factory Vorarlberg

The Digital Factory Vorarlberg is a non-university competence and research centre that supports technology-oriented companies in the implementation of digital innovations. DFV develops customised solutions for complex tasks in globally networked production, the optimisation of manufacturing processes, data science and artificial intelligence, wireless networking with private 5G and other radio systems, as well as cyber security. As a special feature, the "AIT Cyber Range" is available at the DFV as a training and simulation platform. The Digital Factory Vorarlberg is a joint venture between the Vorarlberg University of Applied Sciences and the AIT Austrian Institute of Technology.


Further information about the AIT Cyber Range: https://cyberrange.at/

Further information on the Digital Factory Vorarlberg: https://vactory.at

Report on orf.at:" https://vorarlberg.orf.at/stories/3260174/