National Research Center for Applied Cybersecurity ATHENE

ATHENE accompanies and supports the digital transformation of society, the economy and the public sector to improve cybersecurity and data protection. In a unique and innovative cooperation model of university and non-university research, ATHENE conducts application-oriented top-level research for the benefit of the economy, society and the state.
ATHENE develops security solutions, regularly advises industry and public administration and supports company founders and start-ups. In doing so, the knowledge gained from the basic research carried out at universities is incorporated into further application-oriented research. With its research and development work, ATHENE covers a very wide range of expertise relevant to various technologies and application areas, such as the security of systems, software, applications, processes, hardware, data or Internet infrastructures. The research centre works in an agile and efficient manner, enabling it to respond quickly to new challenges and changing threat situations.

ATHENE is a research center of the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft with the participation of the Fraunhofer Institutes SIT and IGD as well as the TU Darmstadt, the Goethe University Frankfurt and the Darmstadt University of Applied Sciences. The centre is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) and the Hessian Ministry of Higher Education, Research, Science and the Arts (HMWK) and is located in the city of science Darmstadt, Germany's top address for cyber security research.

Visual Analysis of Software Vulnerabilities

Today’s software systems are created in complex software development processes that naturally induce mistakes, some of which can be exploited by attackers and are therefore called vulnerabilities. Automatic software scanners enable developers to analyze their applications to detect, verify and resolve vulnerabilities.

Our interactive visualization further supports developers and security experts in gaining an overview of the security state of their application and to prioritize the correction of vulnerabilities.

Our team has proven expertise in user studies, consulting and development projects in the area of visualization and visual analytics for cybersecurity and privacy. Our visualization solutions combine specific users’ needs, data and tasks to create a specific customer solution. We provide our skills in applied research, applying the principles of user-centered design. Contact us to learn more.

General information


Keeping a watchful eye on your network

A six-hour outage on the part of Facebook, Instagram and co. translated into a massive loss of revenue for their US-based parent company.

What causes these infrastructure failures? And how can the root cause be detected and resolved as rapidly as possible?


Visual Analytics for Cybersecurity and Privacy

Interactive forensics play a key role when analyzing new, unknown vulnerabilities. This requires large volumes of data to be processed and visualized. In this context, visual analytics methods have proven effective, as they combine automatic data analytics algorithms with new visualization methods, thereby allowing experts to interact with this data.

Research Areas

As a partner in ATHENE, the National Research Center for Applied Cybersecurity in Darmstadt, Fraunhofer IGD researches and develops solutions, strategies and technologies for the visualization of decision-relevant data in cybersecurity and privacy protection.

Our research in action

Visual and interactive analysis of network data

The analysis of network data is highly relevant for network administrators and security experts. Such data typically has to be laboriously analyzed with tools such as Wireshark. Our technology NetCapVis allows the visual and interactive analysis of this data for a more effective and faster workflow. It allows interactive working with massive PCAP data, while providing the means for effectively identifying anomalies supported by AI methods.

Visualization of global Geo-IP routes

When assessing network connections, it is useful to leverage geographic information. Currently, there are only online services that indicate the current location for a specific IP address. Our proBGP technology makes it possible to identify and visualize an IP block and follow its changes over time. Moreover, the routing between IP blocks can be analyzed to detect anomalous diversions from typical routes.

Analysis of privacy data for users of online services

Online services are used for a variety of activities such as messaging, conversations or content sharing. These possibilities create a range of new privacy threats - e.g. due to facilitation of surveillance or through databases with personal data.  In most cases, users have relatively little overview over their personal data which are collected during their usage of online services.

With our TransparencyVis technology, users can explore their GDPR downloads from many online services and gain such an overview.

Current challenges and projects


Embedded biometrics

Modern biometric solutions require a lot of computing power, but digital systems are getting smaller and more compact in today’s world. For biometric recognition systems to work on low-end devices, efficient solutions are needed. What might these efficient solutions look like, without compromising on accuracy and thus security?


Fairness and bias

Biometric systems are increasingly finding applications in critical areas, such as border control or forensic science, where they can directly affect people’s lives. Unfortunately, studies have consistently shown that biometric systems do not necessarily behave fairly. So why are some biometric models discriminatory, and what is needed to ensure that systems are designed to be fair?

Research areas

Fraunhofer IGD is a partner in ATHENE, the National Research Center for Applied Cybersecurity, in Darmstadt, Germany, developing solutions, strategies, and technologies for next-generation biometric systems to enhance cybersecurity.


Biometric sample quality

Not every image is equally fit for use in automated face recognition. The suitability of biometric samples for recognition is also referred to as “biometric quality”. Determination of biometric quality is an essential step in the avoidance and prevention of errors. So, how exactly can the quality be established, and what are the factors that influence biometric quality?


Explainability and interpretability in biometrics

The accuracy of biometric systems is driven by current advances in deep learning. However, this progress comes with the inherent disadvantage that the internal relationships of these highly complex models are difficult to understand. But in order to build trust and security in biometric decisions, transparency is essential. So, how can highly complex models be made more explainable and interpretable?


Identification of historical figures in portrait paintings

With the passage of time, information about the person depicted in a painting often becomes forgotten. Today, we can only guess which historical person was immortalized by an artist in a painted portrait. How can modern biometric facial recognition help to recover information that was long believed to have been lost?


Detection of presentation attacks

Time and again, attempts are made to overcome biometric systems. In so-called “presentation attacks,” criminals try to spoof the relevant system with the help of artifices such as face masks, videos or fake images. So, how can such attacks be detected and unauthorized access denied? 


Face morphing

We interviewed Dr. Naser Damer about current research at the ATHENE Center into face morphing.


Study: Biometric Recognition Systems – Benefits and Obstacles in Everyday Consumer Life

Biometric Recognition Systems – Benefits and Obstacles in Everyday Consumer Life is a study based on a structured overview of biometric recognition systems currently used by consumers and very likely to be offered for use in the next five years. An online survey was conducted to determine consumer views on biometric recognition systems.


Evaluation of biometric systems for the identification of persons

Working on behalf of the Federal Criminal Police Office (Bundeskriminalamt), we evaluated four of the facial identification systems currently available on the market with regard to their recognition performance in forensic investigations.


Facial recognition where surgical masks are worn?

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has raised the profile of hygienic and contactless identity verification. At the same time, however, it has led to widespread wearing of face masks, which are considered essential to keep the transmission of the virus under control. The impact of mask wearing on facial recognition in a collaborative environment is a sensitive but currently neglected topic.

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