PRINCETON, NJ -- The international software manufacturer COPA-DATA has launched a unique project to study data security, in co-operation with the University of Applied Sciences, Salzburg. Two students have six months in which to complete penetration tests of the control system, zenon, which is distributed in over 50 countries, in order to call the manufacturers` attention to possible security breaches.
Under the direction of Dominik Engel, Peter Kischel and Christoph Mairinger are testing COPA-DATA`s automation software at their University laboratory around the clock. The two students, in co-operation with the program developers of the Salzburg-based company, built a real-life network structure, which allows them to have external access into the software as in a real `hacker attack`. They can then try to retrieve or manipulate important user data such as, for example, production figures or machine temperatures.
"The project is about protecting the sensitive process data of the machines, which are in use in large companies around the world”, Reinhard Mayr, Product Manager at COPA-DATA explains. “In automation software the security aspect in comparison with a `normal` PC program is often underestimated. But in industrial plants valuable data - especially for the competition - could be open to theft or manipulation. This is why for years COPA-DATA has been giving the topic of data and network security particular attention and is supporting related research projects.”
In order to ensure the security of zenon, the project was started with the University. “We have had a very positive co-operation with the local institute for a long time,” Mayr emphasizes. It is a profitable relationship for both sides: the University and its students receive financial and practical support in their academic work and COPA-DATA profits from the results of the studies and can let findings directly flow into software development.
The two students assigned to the project still have until the end of January to complete their intensive software tests. They will introduce the results into their Master’s Theses which fall under the framework of the `Information Technology and System Management` (ITS) study path. ”After that, the chances of the two zenon experts finding a position in a renowned Salzburg software company, if they desire, are not too bad”, says Mayr, COPA-DATA product Manager, grinning.