Dartmouth Internet Security Testbed (DIST)

DIST is an ISTS-funded project, operated in cooperation with Kiewit Computing Services, that concerns itself with studying campus network usage patterns and with developing systems for automatically detecting malicious attempts to disrupt or degrade the network. To support these activities, DIST has been installing wireless monitors at various locations around the campus.

The DIST wireless monitors look a lot like the Kiewit access points that are deployed around the campus to support wireless Internet access at Dartmouth. In fact, both the Kiewit access points and the DIST wireless monitors are Aruba AP70s, and they differ only in the way they are deployed.

One of the differences is physical: the Kiewit access points have no external antennas (they transmit and receive through antennas embedded in their antenna flaps), while the DIST wireless monitors are deployed with twin blade antennas mounted at their sides. A few of the DIST wireless monitors are mounted with their flaps closed. Another difference, albeit an invisible one, lies in the software that is deployed on these devices. The Kiewit access points run proprietary Aruba software for managing communication on a wireless network; if you have a laptop computer or other wireless device and are within range of a Kiewit access point, you can associate with it and use it to access the Internet. By contrast, the DIST wireless monitors run our own research software, which monitors wireless network traffic with the goal of detecting anomalies that suggest malicious activity. The DIST wireless monitors play no direct role in supporting Internet communication, and your laptop cannot associate with them.

A Kiewit access point
An open-flap DIST wireless monitor
A closed-flap DIST wireless monitor

Each DIST wireless monitor is deployed with a label that reads DIST-XXX, where XXX is a three-digit number. These labels help the DIST project to identify individual DIST wireless monitors in case any problems or questions arise in connection with them.

The Dartmouth College Office of Public Affairs has issued a press release about the DIST project.

See also the DIST privacy statement and the DIST Frequently Asked Questions.

For more information, contact

DIST is a research program in the Institute for Security Technology Studies at Dartmouth College, supported by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security under Grant Award Number 2006-CS-001-000001. The views and conclusions resulting from DIST research are those of the authors and should not be interpreted as necessarily representing the official policies, either expressed or implied, of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Sun Microsystems is a contributor to the DIST project.

Last modified: Thu Apr 9 16:53:57 EDT 2009