Resilient Rail – Resilient sensor infrastructure in railroads

Introduces resilient systems for sensor technology used in the rail sector.


The integration of Operational Technologies (OT) in railroads is a compelling example of how the development of information technologies simultaneously drives the development of other technology areas. A perfect example for this  are high speed trains. They benefit from sensors on the tracks that communicate with interlockings, thereby enabling faster but also safer operations. Also, intervals can be reduced and denser timetables  are possible. In the case of subways, a combination of sensor technology and modern IT paves the way for the use of self-propelled trains.

Project content

Security is  a key requirement with regard  to railroad systems. The protection of human life has highest priority when it comes to new developments, thus, aspects of IT security, such as the defense against malicious attacks on IT systems, have also become increasingly important in recent years. Currently, it is still common practice to seal off the systems in the best ways possible through perimeter security approaches. This is becoming increasingly difficult due to the integration of cloud services for data exchange. Traditional security approaches are prone to underperform in such cases making it an urgent need to develop new security concepts such as resilient systems. Resilience refers to the ability of a system to continue operating despite disruptions. Resilient systems therefore do not simply block attacks, but are built in such a way that enables them to adapt and stay in operation even during a successful attack.


The aim of the project is to increase the resilience of railroad-typical systems and to develop counter-measures against attacks that are widely applicable and work under real world conditions. A crucial factor for the success of the project is scrutinizing aspects of security and resilience on all integration levels of the systems (including the sensor technology, individual control levels, and the overall control systems).

The main research objectives of the project are....

  • implementing Security and Resilience by Design for the entire system.
  • detecting new and unknown attacks on sensor and object controller level.
  • arming the network against the infiltration of manipulated information.
  • maintaining operationality in the event of an attack through resilient sensor networks.
  • processing information in real time within a specialized Cyber Defence Center (CDC).
  • evaluating the developed methods with use cases based on axle counting (counting wheel sets of passing trains).


In order to achieve the set goals, structured requirements analyses for railroad sensor networks, as well as a safety analysis at the OT level for railway-specific hardware and the associated software protocols are carried out. On this basis, a safety architecture for railroad sensor systems is developed, taking into account several integration levels. Development steps will be evaluated based on use cases employing axle counting. Testbed runs are performed to improve the research methods in iterative loops. Methods for the detection of anomalies on the level of control units, as well as on the level of object controllers are tested and improved, plus methods for the design of resilient systems are applied to the sensor networks used in the railroad sector. Setting-up suitable interfaces, creating methods for data collection, enrichment and analysis, as well as the establishment of a Cyber Defense Center for the railroad sector are also important work steps.


The integration of security and resilience measures in the sensor cascades, in particular, at the level of the sensors and the object controllers, but also with regard to the overall control system (i.e., Cyber Defense Center) constitutes the central innovative leap of the project. Considering different system levels makes it possible to efficiently detect different categories of attacks. Special attention is given to the transfer of existing techniques from Resilient Design to the OT world of railroad  systems, but also to the development of new methods in this area. An essential element of the project is the verification of the developed methods through a use case. This ensures that the project results not only meet academic standards, but also have practical relevance.


The research leading to these results has received funding from the Mobility of the Future programme. Mobility of the Future is a research, technology and innovation funding programme of the Republic of Austria, Ministry of Climate Action. The Austrian Research Promotion Agency (FFG) has been authorised for the programme management.

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Head of Josef Ressel Center for Blockchain-Technologies and Security management
Senior Researcher Institute of IT Security Research
Department of Computer Science and Security
Location: B - Campus-Platz 1
P: +43/2742/313 228 696
External project manager
Frauscher Sensor TechnologyGmbH
  • Frauscher Sensor Technology GmbH (lead)
FGG (Mobilität der Zukunft)
07/01/2021 – 12/31/2022
Involved Institutes, Groups and Centers
Carl Ritter von Ghega Institute for Integrated Mobility Research
Forschungsgruppe Secure Societies
Institute of IT Security Research