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ELTE-OTP CyberLab: Students Explore Cyber Defense in Renewed Environment

Innovation

From left, Roland Kovács, the head of cybersecurity at OTP Gábor Bucsek, managing director of OTP Bank’s IT and Bank Security Directorate.

Students of the Faculty of Informatics of Eötvös Loránd University (ELTE) can now research the prevention of financial fraud in the modern environment of a renovated research lab set up in partnership with OTP. The financial institution will use the results to improve its own security systems. Could banking be made safer in the future as a result?

The security research development laboratory was established last year at ELTE in cooperation with OTP Bank and uses scientific methods to investigate means of preventing financial abuse. OTP says it attaches great importance to imparting high professional knowledge to the younger generation, and this initiative is one of its pillarsto do just that.

The renovation of the offices at the ELTE-OTP CyberLab faculty, which was established last December, has just been completed.

The lab focuses on researching the risks of the digital world. Its main objective is to investigate possibilities for preventing financial fraud and OTP Group’s own protection solutions. Engineers and staff from the bank will assist in the research, while university lecturers will also be involved in the project.

As part of the collaboration, OTP Bank experts will also give guest lectures on banking and cybersecurity at the university. In the second semester of this academic year, 18 students are working in the lab on 11 research topics. Master’s and doctoral students are the main participants, although undergraduates also show increasing interest.

Research topics include phishing, one of the most well-known and common topics in cybersecurity. The student researchers will also analyze the positive and negative aspects of using artificial intelligence and large language models in the sector.

ELTE Rector László Borhy.

Cybersecurity is Business Security

“Cybersecurity is paramount,” emphasized Gábor Bucsek, managing director of OTP Bank’s IT and Bank Security Directorate. “Identifying and managing cyber risks are crucial aspects of any organization’s operations; it’s no longer solely an IT concern but should be embedded within an organization’s broader business strategy,” he explained.

“Continuous assessment of external vulnerabilities and weaknesses in IT systems that support core business and operational activities is essential,” Bucsek said. “Protecting entrusted customer data and assets while ensuring resilience against cyber threats is a top priority for OTP Group. We believe involving young programmers in this research and integrating their findings into our developments holds immense value,” he added.

The financial institution says it considers it a critical issue to involve even the youngest programmers in research in these areas. Moreover, it would like to incorporate the results of this research into future developments, provided that they are carried out on an appropriate sample and validated.

At ELTE’s Faculty of Informatics, computer programming students can join the research as a credit-bearing subject, thus learning about the challenges facing banking infrastructure and financial informatics. As part of the collaboration, OTP has also offered scholarships for up to six of the most talented students per semester.

“ELTE embodies the rich tradition of research excellence within Hungarian higher education,” stated Rector László Borhy. “Our ability to innovate and adapt to social needs and advancements has been instrumental in our enduring success for centuries. The ELTE-OTP Bank partnership exemplifies this perfectly,” he said.

Leveraging Potential

“Not only does it integrate industry needs into education and research, but CyberLab also leverages the innovative potential of interdisciplinary collaboration between the university’s faculties, including informatics and law,” Borhy noted.

“Cybersecurity and financial system security are rapidly evolving and highly challenging fields. To create a safer and more predictable world for all, harnessing the university’s knowledge base, from fundamental research to applied research and IT development, is crucial,” the rector added.

According to Roland Kovács, the head of cybersecurity at OTP, the main goal of the cooperation is to ensure a long-term supply of IT security specialists. The aim is to focus on researching topics that will bring business benefits to the financial institution.

Kovács added that social responsibility is essential to OTP, which is why it is trying to improve the cyber and banking security situation as much as possible.

“For the time being, it is a domestic cooperation, but the program may later grow into an international one,” Kovács hinted.

This article was first published in the Budapest Business Journal print issue of March 22, 2024.

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