5 Years of Excellence: Bochum as the Epicenter of IT Security Research

In April, the Excellence Cluster CASA celebrates its 5th anniversary. Let's review the highlights of this journey.

The CASA-PIs and team of the Excellence Cluster CASA gather together.

The team of the Cluster of Excellence CASA. Copyright: CASA

Five years ago, when the Excellence Cluster "CASA: Cyber Security in the Age of Large-Scale Adversaries" was launched with a gala event, there was something special in the air: Against the backdrop of the venerable Jahrhunderthalle, on the pleasant warmth of the fading first day of spring in 2019, anticipation for something new was palpable everywhere. The ambitious research project CASA, funded with 30 million euros by the German Research Foundation (DFG), would not only strengthen IT security in Bochum but across Europe, as the then Minister of Culture and Science of North Rhine-Westphalia, Isabel Pfeiffer-Poensgen, emphasised in her speech that evening.

Outstanding Research from Bochum
Since then, CASA researchers have been working tirelessly to make CASA a place where outstanding talents are nurtured. The idea of achieving groundbreaking research results through a holistic approach and close interdisciplinary collaboration has been realized more than once. Some of the researchers have been honored with prestigious awards and distinctions such as the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize, 8 ERC Grants, and 10 Best Paper Awards at major conferences in the field. A detailed list of the awardees can be found here.

Under the umbrella of CASA, new ideas have been developed that will shape cybersecurity in the long run: New quantum-secure encryption methods, soon to be deployed worldwide, originating from Bochum. Serious vulnerabilities in protocols have been identified and addressed by CASA researchers. New methods in the defense against backdoors in hardware elements have been developed, providing effective measures against surveillance. And through new insights in human-centered cybersecurity, users are increasingly becoming the focus (LINKS).

Successful Transfer into Industry
To effect sustainable change, collaborations with industry are crucial. Through close exchanges with partners such as Intel, Google, and Apple, research from the Excellence Cluster has found direct transfer into everyday technologies—making internet browsing, telephony, or online shopping safer. In addition to these scientific successes, CASA aims to contribute to raising awareness of cybersecurity issues. Through workshops, lectures, and public events, we have strengthened awareness of the importance of cybersecurity in society over the past 5 years and deepened understanding of the challenges in cyberspace.

Diversity and Teamwork
"We in the team are all proud that CASA is now internationally recognized for the excellent research taking place here," says CASA spokesperson Eike Kiltz, adding, "It has become known that we have a respectful and collegial atmosphere in Bochum—a good team culture. It shows: This also attracts outstanding young researchers."

In its first 5 years, CASA has indeed made an important contribution to strengthening IT security not only within Bochum but across Europe. Much of this is due to the unique team working on the project: Researchers from all over the world come together to benefit from each other's expertise. Equality and diversity are particularly important to CASA: With campaigns like Women in IT Security or the Diversity Mentoring Program, diversity and inclusion are explicitly promoted.

Starting in 2026, the German Research Foundation (DFG) will begin a new funding round for the Excellence Clusters within its Excellence Strategy. CASA will submit a continuation application in the summer to secure continued funding by the DFG for another 7 years—continuing to provide the best possible conditions for outstanding IT security research.

For those interested in learning more about CASA's work, further information can be found on this website.

General note: In case of using gender-assigning attributes we include all those who consider themselves in this gender regardless of their own biological sex.