WSTnet Lab Profile: Fraunhofer FOKUS

Fraunhofer FOKUS is an internationally renowned research institute in the area of information and communication technology. Emphasis is on applied research to facilitate digital transformation. Since 1988, Fraunhofer FOKUS has supported commercial enterprises and public administration in shaping digital transformation through research services ranging from requirements analysis to consulting, feasibility studies, technology development right up to prototypes and pilots. 

With its business segments: Digital Public Services, Future Applications and Media, Quality Engineering, Smart Mobility, Software-based Networks, Collaborative Safety and Security, Visual Computing and Analytics, Fraunhofer FOKUS covers the main areas that are necessary for the development of ICT based infrastructures in networked environments.

With more than 400 employees in Berlin and an annual budget of 33.7 million Euros, Fraunhofer FOKUS is one of the largest ICT institutes of the Fraunhofer Society. Around 80 percent of its budget is generated through projects from industry and the public domain.

FOKUS is managed by Prof. Manfred Hauswirth who has been the executive director of the Institute since October 2014 and holds the chair of “Open Distributed Systems” at the Technische Universität Berlin. Since October 2019 Prof. Hauswirth has been co-spokesman for the field of quantum computing at the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft. In addition, from 2016 to 2018 he was spokesman of Fraunhofer’s Berlin Center for Digital Transformation.  He previously served as Deputy Director of the Digital Enterprise Research Institute (DERI) in Galway, Ireland which was previously a member of WSTnet.  

We asked Manfred about his take on Web Science …  

 “The extension of the traditionally computer science focused Web research to the much broader notion of Web Science has established the Web as a topic of broad research across all disciplines. In Fraunhofer FOKUS we do a lot of research and projects that fall under this umbrella, for example the Weizenbaum Institute and the European Data Portal. We have understood that only a broad and multi-faceted understanding of the Web brings its benefits to fruition for society.”

  • The Weizenbaum Institute is a joint project of Freie Universität Berlin, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Universität der Künste Berlin, Technische Universität Berlin, Universität Potsdam, Fraunhofer Institute für Open Communication Systems (FOKUS) and WZB Berlin Social Science Center to investigate the social changes brought about by ongoing digitalization, with a budget of 50 million euros. The aim is to better understand the dynamics, mechanisms and implications of digitalisation. To this end, the Weizenbaum Institute investigates the ethical, legal, economic and political aspects of digital change. This creates an empirical basis for responsible digitalisation. On the basis of the research findings, action options are developed for government, the economy and civil society, in order to shape the digital transformation in a responsible interdisciplinary manner.
  • The European Data Portal (EDP) is the central access point for metadata of Open Data published by public authorities in Europe and offers close to one million datasets, acquired from more than 80 national data providers. We apply a wide range of state-of-the-art web technologies to deliver a sustainable and scalable platform. This includes a microservice architetcure, container technologies, Semantic Web specifications and modern, responsive web frontends.

Prof. Hauswirth engages particularly with distributed information systems, the internet of things, data stream processing and artificial intelligence. He has won several international awards for his work and is active in many scientific and political committees around digitization: He is Director at the Weizenbaum Institute for the Networked Society (the German Internet Institute), Principle Investigator in the Einstein Center Digital Future (ECDF), the Berlin Big Data Center (BBDC) and the Helmholtz-Einstein International Berlin Research School in Data Science (HEIBRiDS). He is also associate editor of the IEEE Transactions on Services Computing and of the ACM Transactions on Internet Technology (TOIT), member of the IEEE Computer Society Conference Advisory Committee, on the supervisory board of the EIT ICT Labs Germany (European Institute of Technology) and, last but not least (!), a Lab Director in the Web Science Trust Network of Laboratories (WSTNet) .

The services of Fraunhofer FOKUS include:

  • development of communication and information technologies, components, platforms and services for digital transformation (specifically for applications domains and also cross-domain)
  • integration, networking and analysis of systems and organizations
  • quality assurance and certification of networked systems and organizational processes
  • practical demonstration, piloting and evaluation of the latest technologies
  • customization of proprietary interfaces and systems to industrial, national and international standards
  • methods and tool development for secure and efficient development for software- based systems


WSTnet Student Profile: Amir Javed

Amir, thanks for agreeing to be interviewed. Can you tell us where you are based and what your main research interests are..
I’m based at Cardiff University and my focus is on a particular type of cyber attack called “drive-by downloads” which are typically combined with social media posts on platforms like Twitter
How are these different from typical viruses or other attacks?
A Drive-By download involves one or more malicious scripts which execute without  requiring the user to specifically download or click a suspicious object – the act of visiting the URL is enough to infect the host machine.
How does the social media element play out here?
Social media platforms often host/distribute click-bait in the form of a message which provokes interest and/or an emotional reaction in the user and encourages them to follow a (typically shortened and hence unrecognisable) URL to respond to it.
So what angle is your research taking on this?
Rather than attempting to look at the vast range of topic/ideas that might prompt a user to follow click bait we are looking at the types of stimulus like Events (e.g. Sports matches) which have a specific date/time around which the click-bait and URLs may be focused. If we can work to specific events as a focus we may be able to analyse patterns of (social) attack discovering which users and sites are involved, how these are structured in terms of topics and social vectors and work to dampen the scale of the retweet network which is generated and ultimately predict where attacks may happen and find ways to inoculate against them.
What has your research shown so far?
We analysed tweets from several events and  categorised them as malicious or benign and within the malicious group the type of emotion (we discovered eight) that the tweets were trying to elicit to get a click-through or retweet. We found that fear-provoking tweets were most likely to be retweeted and persisted longer than other emotions.
We then analysed the effect of the different drive-by download scripts on the machine state of a test machine in order to subject these to a machine learning process. We were able to identify activities/patterns that the scripts attempted to execute on visiting the infected site and attempted to match/recognise these patterns within a short window as the script starts to execute. Success here would facilitate developing a “kill-switch” protocol that could potentially save the machine/network from infection. Our current model is identifying malicious URLs about 86% of the time which is very promising.
Where are you going next with the work?
We are keen to build a better profile of the influential users, the common topics, the infected sites (though these shift) and to be able to create an efficient and scalable method to scan for attacks/attackers using various factors (e.g. tweets from users created only hours/minutes before) such that we can weaken/disrupt the scale of the attack and ultimately inoculate users through an efficient combination of blacklisting and real-time detection processes.
How useful has the Web Science perspective been on this work?
Traditionally Cybersecurity has focused on machine impacts and technical networks but whilst the idea of the social exploit is far from new, social media enables social attacks and trust exploits on a scale we’ve never seen before and so understanding how social networks function and how they can be managed/influenced for better security is vital.
Where would you like to see Web Science go next as a discipline?
With a growing war between hackers and cybersecurity specialists there is not only a need to understand each specific attack in terms of machine learning/pattern matching but also to understand the broader social process of deliberate deception (feinting) in order to avoid detection. How do we filter for “noise”, fake data and other methods designed to fool automated detection and make our model resilient against such noise.
Amir has submitted his Thesis at Cardiff University and is shortly to be appointed a lecturer at Cardiff
Here are link to two of Amir’s related papers

Phil Howard – Tomorrow’s Leviathan

Phil Howard is the new WSTnet Lab Director for Oxford’s OII (Oxford Internet Institute) and recently gave a distinguished lecture at Southampton’s Web Science Institute (WSI).

Tomorrow’s Leviathan:  Intelligent Machines in a Political World

When will an Artificial Intelligence run for elected office? This may seem like a strange provocation– just an invitation to futurism and speculation. Yet AI systems are rolling out across economic, cultural and political life. Professor Philip Howard explores how AI is changing our experience of politics and rewriting democracy’s “terms of service”.

Click here to watch a replay of Phil’s talk

Philip Howard is the Director of the Oxford Internet Institute and a Statutory Professor at Balliol College, Oxford. His research has demonstrated how new information technologies are used in both civic engagement and social control in countries around the world. His research and opinion writing has been featured in the New York Times, Financial Times, and many other international media outlets. Recently, he was awarded the National Democratic Institute’s 2018 “Democracy Prize” and Foreign Policy magazine named him a “Global Thinker” for pioneering the social science of fake news.

Summer 2019 Newsletter

Following a successful ACM Web Science conference in Boston, we would like to welcome you to the first edition of the Web Science Trust (WST) Newsletter. We will be bringing you a summary of notable news and upcoming events at WST HQ and throughout the WST Network.

Our goal is to help WST supporters get the most from our service by providing news and information about publications and opportunities to meet up.

In this edition, we will be featuring our newest WSTNet Lab and meeting one of our PhD students who will talk about her work. We’ll be looking at coverage of the Web’s 30th anniversary, reviewing recent publications, including an important new book on Social Machines. We’ll sketch out recent and upcoming events, looking back at the recent ACM Web Science Conference in Boston and forward to ACM WebSci 2020 which will be hosted in the UK by the Web Science Institute at the University of Southampton.

In this issue:

ACM Web Science Conference
The 30th Anniversary of the Web
Professor Susan Halford on Digital Futures
WSTNet Lab Profile: IIT Madras
PhD Profile: Ipek Baris, WeST University of Koblenz-Landau
Recent Publications
Recent and Upcoming Events

ACM WebSci Conference

ACM WebSci 2019 has just wrapped up at Northeastern University and we want to congratulate everyone who put in so much work to make it possible and also everyone who delivered papers, posters and workshops during the conference. 

It was a great event in beautiful Boston and we are pleased to announce that the 12th WebSci conference is coming to the UK in 2020 with next year’s event to be hosted by the Web Science Institute at the University of Southampton.

30th Anniversary of the Web

Tim Berners-Lee ambitiously called his fledgling system a “world-wide” web even though at the start it probably didn’t feel very global. 30 years on, his vision of connecting information across servers, networks and locations has become nearly as indispensable for government, business and academia as power and light. We can read Tim’s own account in his book “Weaving the Web” including the famous anecdote of his boss’ pithy summary of the original proposal for the Web: “Vague…but exciting!!”

How fortunate, Tim commented at a recent 30th Anniversary talk, that he hadn’t chosen instead to write “Exciting …but vague!!. Click here for more links to 30th Anniversary pieces.

Professor Susan Halford on Digital Futures

In a world where society and technology interact to create rapid change, writers, scientists and individuals alike continue to ask how exactly will this affect our futures? This question is one of the core principles of Web Science and was the focus of a recent presentation at Southampton from Susan Halford (Professor of Sociology at the University of Bristol). To read more about the presentation follow this link.   

WSTNet Lab: IIT Madras

Our new feature series profiling the labs of WSTNet kicks off with a look at the Indian Institute of Technology at Madras. IIT Madras is the latest lab to join WSTNet. Head over to the website to read more about the lab or read about the Web Science Symposium held in Madras earlier this year   

PhD Profile: Meet Ipek Baris

Meet Ipek Baris – a first year PhD student at WeST University of Koblenz-Landau, who is part of our new series showcasing the work of Web Science PhD students across the globe. Ipek’s research is sponsored by the Co-Inform project of the European Union. The project aims to research and develop tools and methodologies for combating online misinformation. Read about Ipek’s research here   

Recent Publications

  • Halford, Susan, Hendler, James A., Ntoutsi, Eirini, Staab, Steffen (2019). 10 Years of Web Science: Closing The Loop (Dagstuhl Perspectives Workshop 18262). Schloss Dagstuhl (vol 8, issue 6) 173-198pp.

Head over  to see more Web Science publications

Recent and Upcoming Events 

11th ACM Conference on Web Science 2019 – (June 30th – July 3rd), Boston, MA, USA

Brave Conversations – (July 16th), London, UK

WSTNet Web Science Summer School 2019 – (September 9th – 13th), University of Southampton, UK

Thank you for subscribing to the WST Newsletter. We look forward to seeing you in the next edition. If you have any events, courses and news that you would like to share across the WST network please do get in touch.

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Best wishes,

Web Science Trust Team


Meet the Labs: IIT Madras

Welcome to our new series on Web Science Lab profiles. In this series we’ll be visiting WSTnet labs across the globe and showcasing their unique research in Web Science.

In our first profile, we’ll be showcasing the Robert Bosch Centre for Data Science and AI (RBC-DSAI) at the Indian Institute of Technology at Madras (IIT Madras) – a new member of the WSTNet. The campus of IIT Madras is located in the city of Chennai, previously known as Madras. Chennai is the state capital of Tamilnadu, a southern state in India where a beautiful 630-acre campus is home to around 3,000 students as well as the families of members of faculty and staff.

The history of Madras is rich and originates back to 1956, where Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru of India was offered assistance by the Government of the Federal Republic of Germany to set up a higher technological institute in India. This resulted in the signing of the first Indo-German Agreement in Bonn in 1959, for the establishment of an Indian Institute of Technology at Madras as an institute of national importance.

The activities of the Institute in various fields of Technology and Science are carried out in 16 academic departments and several advanced interdisciplinary Research Academic Centres. The Institute offers undergraduate and postgraduate programmes leading to the B.Tech., M.Sc., M.B.A., M.Tech., M.S., and Ph.D., degrees in a variety of specialisations. IIT Madras is a residential institute with more than 580 faculty and 9,500 students. Students from 18 countries are enrolled here. IIT Madras fosters an active entrepreneurial culture with strong curricular support and through the IIT Madras Incubation Cell.

As a “Technological Enterprise at the Service of the Nation”, IIT Madras belongs to the genre of next-generation institutes of national importance in higher technical education. Madras explains that “the Institute has grown from strength to strength ever since it obtained its charter from the Parliament of India in 1961 and has established itself as a premier centre of research, consultancy and technological development”.

IITM has been ranked No.1 in the Overall Institutions category in India Rankings 2019 released by National Institutional Ranking Framework, Ministry of Human Resources Development, Govt. of India. The Institute has also been ranked No.1 in the Engineering Institutions category in the same Rankings for four consecutive years – 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019. It was also adjudged as the ‘Top innovative Institution’ in the country in the Atal Ranking of Institutions on Innovation Achievements (ARIIA) 2019 launched by Innovation Cell of MHRD.

RBC-DSAI was founded in August 2017, in IIT Madras with a vision to expand and further the research, education and outreach activities in the areas of Data Science and Artificial Intelligence. RBC-DSAI comprises faculty from several departments across the Institute, who carry out research in various areas of data science and artificial intelligence. The RBC-DSAI will undertake foundational research in many areas of AI and Data Science, namely deep learning, reinforcement learning, network analytics, interpretable machine learning, and domain aware AI. The areas of activity include research projects, knowledge management and dissemination, outreach projects, and setting up collaborative facilities and laboratories.

Prof. B. Ravindran, Head, RBC-DSAI, IIT Madras, said, “There are many India-specific challenges that need to be addressed by Web Science. While India has a nascent Web Science community, we need much larger nation-wide efforts to develop solutions tailored to Indian society. We will be organizing a series of Web Science symposia in an attempt to bring both Indian academia and industry together to enable more active focus on web science research for India.

The mission of RBC-DSAI includes enabling and studying the societal impact of AI and Data Science. The web is the vehicle through which much of AI reaches society at large. It is imperative for us to be involved in web science research and enablement.”

We are delighted to welcome RBC-DSAI at IIT Madras as the newest WSTnet Lab, IITM having produced a long list of notable alumni including our own WST Trustee Professor Noshir Contractor, Director of the Science of Networks in Communities (SONIC) Research Group at Northwestern University. We look forward to collaborating with RBC-DSAI, IIT Madras further in the near future.