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Graphing Internet Interaction To Spot Spammers 53

Gunkerty Jeb writes "Spammers, it turns out, aren't like everyone else: they have fewer friends. 'Social Graphs for Online Service Security,' a study done by researchers Yinglian Xie and Fang Yu, uses studies of legitimate and malicious social network usage to spot bogus email accounts that are used to push spam, malware, and otherwise malicious links. The researchers are analyzing natural social connections between users on the Web that are difficult for attackers or botnets to replicate. Spotting a spammer isn't hard, they say, when you look at his or her patterns of communication."
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Graphing Internet Interaction To Spot Spammers

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  • by JLennox ( 942693 ) on Wednesday June 22, 2011 @02:44PM (#36532754)

    I used to run a 200~400+ user IRC channel on DALnet over a decade ago and we would get spammers in there.

    So I made a bot that would rejoin the channel at a set interval and ban anyone who messaged it.

    Then they made them detect that it was an op's ip, even though the bot wasn't op. So I started using a different host name.

    Then they made it so that the bot used 2 connections, one to send the message and wasn't in the channel, and one to sit in the channel to tell the other connection who to spam. So I made my bot detect the identical hosts.

    Then they started using different hosts. So I made it log who has and hasn't talked in the channel and notify me. I'd whois those people and join the other channels they were in waiting to find a common channel getting spammed. I'm assuming if they realized the weak link in the chain was me detecting who has and hasn't talked, they'd of made it say hurf durf randomly.

    Once you require the spam bots to have friends, they'll have friends. Your solution is a temporary one.

    • by rm999 ( 775449 ) on Wednesday June 22, 2011 @02:55PM (#36532930)

      I work in preventing fraud, and I completely agree with your point. In any kind of maliciousness detection, there will be patterns you can find that will immediately stop a large % of the bad guys. But the bad guys won't retire, they will run to another corner, and you will have to chase them.

      That isn't to say it's not worth trying to stop them. Quite the opposite: the more you chase them around, the more robust your system becomes, and the harder it will be for casual bad guys to attack your system.

    • by Nerdos ( 1960936 )
      This reminds me of a short story by Cory Doctorow (what ever you might think of him) called "I, rowboat". It's mentioned in the story that AI emerged from the arms race between more and more sophisticated spamming and anti-spam software duking it out.
    • I've had various Slashdot spammers (posting binspam articles to the firehose) friend me, maybe they're more ahead of the curve than we know...

  • Slippery slope (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Tsar ( 536185 ) on Wednesday June 22, 2011 @02:45PM (#36532774) Homepage Journal
    I'm starting to think that a social graph is going to be the 21st century version of the fingerprint, except it will describe WHAT you are rather than WHO you are. Botnet, AI, Muslim, Baptist, college-educated straight Irish-American middle-child female... Who'd like to guess what the total annual budget is already for this kind of research? How much money and manpower would the Department Homeland Security be willing to invest to keep Facebook et al popular with their target audience, so the cheap social graph data keeps flowing?
    • It's called marketing, in one guise. The annual marketing budget in 2008 was roughly 412 billion dollars, as per one site. I highly doubt that takes into consideration the money spent on government uses, such as the Census (14.7 billion dollars), the alphabet soup - FBI, DOD(incl. NSA), CIA, DHS, et cetera (annual budget of 7.9 billion, 664 billion, 44 billion in 2005, 85.2 billion, respectively). I'd feel confident saying that this barely touches the amount of money that is actually thrown at demographi
  • by Anonymous Coward

    I'm just socially awkward is all...

    • Or You can have a personality dissorder that makes you avoid any social interaction, maybe you joined Facebook with the hope of finding some friends and old classmates, but you quickly lose all interest in FB, Your social network fingerprint now depicts you as a Spammer?.

      I'm just waiting for the study (duh-science FTF) showing that top criminals are not in Facebook, hence, anybody not in Facebook is a potential criminal.

      "You must post at least 3 updates/hour in you FB wall to deserve our Victory Gin, citizen"

    • by Ihmhi ( 1206036 )


  • by Solandri ( 704621 ) on Wednesday June 22, 2011 @02:50PM (#36532856)
    Except applied to email addresses instead of websites? It works great at first. Then the spammers start creating artificial networks between their bots and fake sites/emails, to make them look more like legit sites/email addresses. And soon you need a multi-billion dollar company constantly working to refine it to keep it one step ahead of the spammers.
  • by ackthpt ( 218170 ) on Wednesday June 22, 2011 @02:51PM (#36532872) Homepage Journal

    Perhaps another way of looking at it is it, some entrepeneurs are asocial - they don't mind enriching themselves at the expense of others - i.e. I'll sell "Hydrolizing Cream" to you to make money for myself, not minding that the stuff I bottle, label and sell is just a bulk cream containing lanolin and/or glycerin. If you're so stupid to buy it, I'm not going to lose sleep over it.

  • "Spammers, it turns out, aren't like everyone else: they have fewer friends.

    Spammers are assholes, assholes don't have as many friends as non assholes. It wasn't that hard to put together.

  • by fatphil ( 181876 ) on Wednesday June 22, 2011 @02:56PM (#36532946) Homepage
    Spam will be a thing of the past in two years' time.
            * BBC News (24 January 2004)
    • With Google g-mail and many other "Cloud" based email servers Spam isn't nearly as much of a problem as it was back in 2004. Sure they are still spammer but the stuff really gets filtered away into the Spam bucket very well now. The biggest Spam gettters are people who think they should host their own email server because they figure they can do it much better then Google.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      I know. They are a thing of thfoot massage centrale past, we shoulnd't be worrying about it anBuy Hangover 2 DVDymore, now that us humans are smabuy rift platinumrt enough to not fall for their traps.

      Unless i'm of coGet Your University of Phoenix Degree Onlineurse, wrong and that we're headed toward a idiocracy benefitting these con artiVIZAGRAsts.

  • by psithurism ( 1642461 ) on Wednesday June 22, 2011 @03:22PM (#36533304)

    Don't you think this might incorrectly flag people who send out lots of chain emails to all their friends?

    I, for one, hope so.

  • Is it really that big of a mystery?
    • I'd like to know who buys from spammers. I know old grannies fall for 419s but WHO BUYS FROM SPAMMERS!?

  • ...because email is a tool of creating abundance (a better world), but spammers are still caught up with fighting over scarcity, and so they damage the system (email) that coudl bring material and social abundance to all (even the spammers).

  • no shit
  • For a long time now there's been speculation that "getting" someon'es social graph will be valuable. In practice it hasn't yet played out. The value of IPOs like Facebook is largely based on the suspicion that having all that information on how people network will be valuable. This looks like an attempt to prove the info can be valuable. But they haven't exactly done an overwhelming job of convincing us, if this is the best they can do.

Karl's version of Parkinson's Law: Work expands to exceed the time alloted it.