"For my topic I am on fire"

inIT employee Marco Ehrlich on his way to a doctoral degree

Marco Ehrlich from the district of Höxter started on the path to a Dr.-Ing. degree last year. He is a research assistant at the Institute for Industrial Information Technology (inIT) at TH OWL and is supervised there by Professor Dr.-Ing. Jürgen Jasperneite. His doctoral supervisor is Professor Dr.-Ing. Christian Diedrich from Otto von Guericke University Magdeburg. In his dissertation with the working title "Automation of Industrial Security", Marco Ehrlich deals with the developments of Industry 4.0 in the area of attack and information security.

"When it comes to the topic of risk management in industrial production, we distinguish between safety and security. Safety refers to the area of operational safety for people, machines and the environment, while security refers to the area of information security in networked systems," explains Ehrlich. "In the area of safety, there have been legal regulations for decades. A good example is the CE mark, which shows that a product or machine has been tested for operational safety. In the area of security, there is nothing comparable for industry to date. Ideally, however, at some point you will also get a certificate, an attestation or something similar that shows how well the system is protected against hacker attacks, for example, and that automatically and in real time." In his dissertation, Marco Ehrlich is investigating what information is relevant for this and how it must be prepared so that a machine can process it automatically. This information should serve as the basis for an automated risk assessment that is comparable to that of a human. "This could make this process of risk assessment in the field of security faster, more efficient and less resource-intensive," says the doctoral student.

In his master's thesis, he already dealt with the subject area around which his dissertation now revolves. The 31-year-old initially studied electrical engineering at TH OWL and completed vocational training as an electronics technician for industrial engineering. Parallel to his master's degree in Information Technology at the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Engineering at TH OWL, Marco Ehrlich started as a research assistant at the Institute for Industrial Information Technology (inIT). "At that time, I explicitly decided on a dual bachelor's degree and a part-time master's degree in order to have the greatest possible practical relevance. The fact that this was followed by a dissertation only came about because I had the feeling that I hadn't yet finished the subject area that interested me," Ehrlich explains.

He also works for a Cologne-based company, GmbH, which offers IT security consulting. He is also financing his doctoral project with a scholarship from the Phoenix Contact Foundation. "Being able to do a doctorate in such a practical and industry-oriented way in a subject area that I'm really passionate about is just great. With the close connection to industrial companies in the region and the SmartFactoryOWL, the conditions at TH OWL are very good," says Ehrlich.

Currently, he has about a third of the content of his dissertation together. "When I started, I was coming out of the master's thesis for which I had immersed myself in the topic, and I thought I was already relatively far along and knew quite a bit. Then, in the last few months, reality caught up with me a bit and I adapted my working style to the requirements of a dissertation. As with every project, there are good and bad phases. But it is and remains an exciting topic and I'm still well on time." However, the Corona pandemic has also made many things more difficult - Marco Ehrlich, for example, lacks the exchange with partners with whom he can evaluate and discuss findings. He meets with his doctoral advisor every few months, and he also has to take mandatory courses at the university in Magdeburg. Marco Ehrlich does not yet know what will happen after his doctorate. "Of course, there are already a few ideas, but there is nothing concrete there yet. First of all, I hope that this will end successfully with the doctorate, in order to then have a solid basis for everything that comes after that."

As a rule, doctoral students at TH OWL need four to five years to complete their doctorate. Marco Ehrlich is no exception - his goal is to be awarded the title of Dr.-Ing. in 2023.

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