BAE Systems Applied Intelligence

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Contact: contact Owen Coombs (

Reinfection Monitor

Original suggestion ...

No-hassle internet security

Client: James Dickin, BAE Systems Applied Intelligence

How easy do you find it to set up and maintain internet security on your computer? How about your parents? Or your grandparents? For some people setting up and maintaining anti-virus software, differentiating between real and fake pop-up security warnings, recognising the difference between genuine and phishing emails and keeping their computer malware-free is an insurmountable challenge.

ISPs struggle to differentiate themselves solely though pricing and connection speeds so increasingly look for “value add” features that they can offer their customers. An ISP could offer their customers “no-hassle internet security” in the cloud, in the user’s home router or in the form of a “dongle” that sits between the user’s computer and their home router.

Produce a prototype of this security dongle using a standard desktop computer with two Ethernet interfaces – one internet-facing and one user-facing. The dongle should be zero-maintenance and must protect the user from virus, malware and email threats, taking sensible action to protect the user without confusing them.


From this description, I'm not completely certain of the intended scope, and whether it would be feasible for an undergraduate team to achieve anything along these lines within 7 weeks. The functionality described for the "dongle" seems very close to that of a conventional firewall, but with additional intelligent features that would outperform existing spam filtering services. Have I misunderstood?


Thanks for the feedback. I've received the following from my colleague James Dickin, who proposed the project idea.

"Alan's understanding is correct. I deliberately left the form of the solution in my description quite open however so that the students could propose their own solution to the problem I presented.

I was hoping that the students might, for instance, write code that pipes the user's data through industry tools such as ClamAV (Linux antivirus) and SNORT (Linux intrusion detection system), modifying it as appropriate when threats are detected. They could write stubs for the industry tools to emulate the detection of threats so that they don't have to handle infected data. The data modification in response to detection is the most interesting bit and the place where the students could do the most innovation.

They actually don't need to use a stand-alone machine with two Ethernet ports - if they want to use the university's existing dev systems they could run this either as a VM or just run it on the same machine as the 'user'.

Alan makes a fair point on the feasibility of the students achieving anything in the 30-60 hours they're expected to spend on this project however - I'd guess that even the simplest solution to this problem could take more time than this."

More feedback:

I think you're right - data modification in response to detection would be an interesting challenge, perhaps more than the routing and configuration involved in piping the data through standard Linux tools. I believe that most current firewalls simply block infected content, or at best offer the user a yes/no decision for which the user must pay attention and take responsibility. What kinds of data modification do you think might be feasible, and what threat models would be addressed? I guess we need to think of a scenario in which (say) a phishing email contained some data that might still be of value to the user - or else a situation in which a normal email has been mistakenly classified as a phishing email, but has some other automated action taken.