It’s no surprise that Roland Aigner works on digital solutions for new markets as Manager for Software Development at SKIDATA. But it might surprise you that he's written a book. We talked to him about IT security, the networked home and heavy metal.
Roland, are you a hacker? I grew up with computers. That was at a time when the Internet as we know it today did not exist. An acoustic coupler was the measure of all things networking and hacking was a creative way of working with the computer. Today I limit myself to the positive aspects of hacking – but I am still creative.
You are co-author of the manual "Hacking & Security". What's the book about? It is a comprehensive compendium on all areas of computer security. It is aimed at system administrators as well as private individuals who want to make their home network secure. In this book we describe attacks on local PCs, servers, complete infrastructures and also networked devices – how to recognize them and how to defend oneself against them. For me it is important to show how to develop software that is invulnerable. It's like in Hollywood movies: the invincible are successful in the long run.
And what did you write about in your chapter? I deal with the Internet of Things (IoT), the thousands of devices in households and companies that are directly connected to a network, such as the Internet. Typically, such devices and the associated server infrastructure are more at risk than a standard Internet server because there is usually very little computing power available on them. Simple security measures such as encryption and authentication are hence very difficult to implement. The risk that such an IoT device is hacked is thus quite high – and suddenly the washing machine starts at night or the TV is listening to you. In the worst case, centrifuges explode in a power plant. This is a very interesting field, even if it is not necessarily a matter for every home user. On the other hand, however, it is not so rare that printers in thousands of households, for example, print dubious texts or graphics because the server of a large printer manufacturer has been hacked. In my chapter there is a separate section explaining how to test your printer. However, the IoT chapter is probably more for experts who are building a networked home.
You must have a connected home. Yes, of course. Everything from the awning to the satellite receiver is networked. In my winter garden I have a starry sky of LED lights that I can control as a mood light via the Internet. I can also watch my vacuum cleaner robot cleaning my apartment via the net.
Can your family handle all this? The purpose of the networked home is that it does not make life more complicated or complex, but easier. I succeeded. My daughter grew up with all this, she knows it. But I have to admit that many friends get a culture shock when they visit me in my apartment.
What do you do when you’re not writing books? I am Software Manager at SKIDATA and responsible for a small disruptive development team outside the usual development department. We develop completely new solutions for new markets in a very short time. But I am not only the manager – I also take to the keyboard myself and am a full-fledged software developer within the team. Otherwise the job would be nothing for me. We work in a very heterogeneous environment, using everything from microcontrollers to Linux hardware and Windows servers. It's very comprehensive. That's all I can tell you, our projects are secret.
Sounds like you've got enough to do. Why are you writing on the side? I asked myself that again and again during the busy writing phase. I have learned a lot in software development – also from books. And I'd like to return some of it. Besides, it's a nice ego boost when you read your name as one of the authors of such a really good book.
Does your employer support you? SKIDATA is part of the Swiss Kudelski Group, which specializes in digital security systems. Among other things, the encryption system for the payment channel Sky Deutschland comes from the Kudelski Group. But also safety systems for the automotive industry or IoT. So there is a great deal of knowledge within the Group from which I too have benefited. I have discussed with colleagues and obtained information from them in technical discussions.
How do you schedule your time? I wrote mostly at night and on weekends. When I'm single, I can plan my own time.
And what do you do when you’re not developing software? I am a great festival goer. I myself was a singer in a metal band for many years. We were called "Enemy Inside". In 2006 we released an album on CD and Spotify and played at big festivals ourselves, but today we don't have the time. I spend my summer holidays with my daughter at festivals like Wacken, Rock im Park and Metal on the Hill. My daughter is 22 and also works in technical documentation at SKIDATA. So she also writes books. Otherwise I am a motorsport fan and travel to races all over the world from Red Bull Ring to Texas and from Daytona to Monza and Monaco. I'll be there this weekend. So I have enough things to do besides sit at the computer.
The book: Hacking & Security - Das umfassende Handbuch, by Michael Kofler, André Zingsheim, Klaus Gebeshuber, Markus Widl, Roland Aigner, Thomas Hackner, Stefan Kania, Peter Kloep and Frank Neugebauer, published 2018 by Rheinwerk Computing, 1067pp, 49.90 EUR (e-book: 44.90 EUR).