Lab Services

PhD students and faculty in the security group have access to a number of computing and software resources to help them conduct research. This page details these resources.

Please note that these resources are not publicly available. These resources are run by and reserved for PhD students working with Christo Wilson, Alan Mislove, and Dave Choffnes. If you are a Northeastern PhD student, and you have a compelling need to access these resources, contact Professor Wilson and we may be able to accommodate your request.

Achtung Compute Cluster

The primary resource available to PhD students in the security group is the Achtung compute cluster. This cluster includes 26 Ubuntu Linux servers that are available for general purpose computation and data storage. The Achtung servers share NFS storage for home directories, so users files are available on any server. They also share access to several RAID arrays that have hundreds of terabytes of available storage. The Achtung servers have standard development tools available, and a robust selection of Python packages pre-installed.

Students who need access to the Achtung cluster should contact Professors Mislove or Wilson. Requests to have software installed should also be sent to Professors Mislove and Wilson.

Real-time information about the status of machines in the Achtung cluster are available via Netdata here. Note that this our Netdata website is only accessible if you proxy your HTTP requests through the Achtung cluster, e.g., using an SSH tunnel to achtung-login or using our Wireguard VPN (see below).

Software Services on Achtung

There are several specialized software services that are available to Achtung users upon request. These services are hosted on the achtung-db server. These services include: a MySQL database, a Redis cache, and a RabbitMQ message queue. Achtung users who wish to make use of these services should contact Professor Mislove or Wilson to receive the appropriate credentials.

Specialty Hardware Resources on Achtung

Several of the Achtung servers have additional, specialized hardware resources.

Distributed Computing Cluster with Hadoop and Spark

Professor Wilson maintains a separate cluster of servers that is dedicated solely to performing large-scale, distributed analysis of massive datasets. This cluster, known as The Decepticons, uses Apache HDFS (part of the Hadoop project) for distributed storage and the Apache Spark framework for distributed computation. Professor Wilson can provide access to the Decepticons cluster for authorized Achtung users. More information about the Decepticons cluster is available here.

Slack Messaging and Chat

We manage a Slack instance for collaboration within the security group, as well as with external collaborators. PhD students use it to coordinate lab meetings, social events, and reading groups. There is also a channel for announcements related to the lab resources, e.g., when Achtung or the Decepticons experience downtime. Contact Professors Mislove, Wilson, or Choffnes if you would like to be receive an invitation to the Slack instance.

Gitlab Version Control

Gitlab is an open source clone of Github. We run an in-house instance of Gitlab for privately and securely hosting source code, manuscripts, and other projects. Our Gitlab instance also has the capability to run Continuous Integration/Continuous Deployment pipelines, which means repositories can be configured to automatically run source code checkers, compilation, and deployment.

Many of the security professors, including Wilson, Mislove, and Choffnes as well as others, have admin access and can make new accounts. We are also happy to make accounts for external collaborators at other universities.

Owncloud File Hosting

Owncloud is an open source clone of Dropbox. Like Dropbox, it creates a special folder on your computer, and all files placed in that folder are automatically backed up to a server in our datacenter, as well as replicated to other computers that you have installed Owncloud on. There are Owncloud clients available for all major desktop and mobile operating systems.

One great way to use Owncloud is as a seamless backup solution: place all of your documents in the Owncloud folder and they will automatically be replicated to our reliable server. Like Dropbox, Owncloud can also be used to securely share files.

If you want an Owncloud account, send a message to Professor Wilson.

Wireguard VPN

We run a Wireguard Virtual Private Network (VPN) endpoint. This is useful for students and faculty who are accessing the internet via on untrusted network (e.g., while you're travelling), or who need to access university resources remotely (e.g., digital library resources). Wireguard is widely support -- there are clients available for all major desktop and mobile operating systems. Send a request to Professor Mislove to request access to the VPN.

Bitwarden Password Manager

We have a self-hosted instance of the Bitwarden password manager service. Like other password managers, Bitwarden is a highly-secure vault that stores passwords for other services. It has desktop, mobile app, command line, and browser extension clients that enable you to unlock your vault, and they will auto-fill passwords for other apps and services. Bitwarden has support for strong two-factor authentication methods like Yubikeys and TOTP one-time-use codes. Send a request with your preferred email address to Professor Wilson if you would like a Bitwarden account.