A year ago, I stepped into Heilbronn University of Applied Sciences with a clear vision. Today, as I reflect on my journey over the past year, I can say with certainty that reality had other plans, and they were nothing short of an incredible experience.
At first, my goals were simple: create well-structured and engaging lectures, work on great resarch projects and delve deeper into collaborative research with my fellows. But things changed quickly.
Merely a month into my lectures, the university faced an unprecedented challenge - a massive cyber attack that paralyzed our digital platforms. It was at this turbulent time that I was asked to take on the role of the Chief Information Security Officer. This was an unforeseen curveball, especially for someone newly appointed.
Handling the incident, analyzing logs, reverse engineering malware and ensuring the IT infrastructure’s safe restoration became my full-time occupation, overshadowing my primary role as a professor. Although this wasn’t part of the original plan, it gave me the opportunity to contribute to the new digital landscape of our university. Today, as a result of our collective efforts, our university boasts security improvements in several forms, including a centralised login portal with mandatory multi-factor authentication, FIDO2 keys for all employees, enhanced endpoint protection, a revamped network design, and regular vulnerability scanning, among many other improvements.
The journey was far from smooth. Navigating unfamiliar territory, understanding the intricacies of a previously unknown organisational structure and building relationships from scratch was daunting. But the silver lining? The amazing colleagues and acquaintances who made this tumultuous period an unforgettable one. A special note of gratitude goes out to everyone involved, with particular thanks to Martin Haag, Richard Zowalla and Simon 🪡 Schweizer!
The impact of this challenging journey extends well beyond mere technical accomplishments. The experiences I’ve gained and the valuable relationships I’ve formed — with investigative or law authorities to service providers — promise to enrich my lectures and research for many years to come.
While my lectures last year may not have followed the traditional structure, they were certainly not lacking in excitement or educational value. In a real-world twist, students had the unique opportunity to witness a cyber attack and its subsequent mitigation in real-time. This is applied teaching at its finest. 😊
As I close this chapter, I remain optimistic. We still have a very long way to go, but my hopes are high for a calmer year ahead, one where I can revisit and fulfill my initial plans of being a professor. And yes, I aim to share all my reflections, learnings, and experiences – hopefully, before the close of my second year.
“It’s not our challenges that define us, but rather how we rise above them.”