Detecting spammers with SNARE: spatio-temporal network-level automatic reputation engine

TitleDetecting spammers with SNARE: spatio-temporal network-level automatic reputation engine
Publication TypeConference Papers
Year of Publication2009
AuthorsHao S, Syed N A, Feamster N, Gray AG, Krasser S
Conference NameProceedings of the 18th conference on USENIX security symposium
Date Published2009///
PublisherUSENIX Association
Conference LocationBerkeley, CA, USA

Users and network administrators need ways to filter email messages based primarily on the reputation of the sender. Unfortunately, conventional mechanisms for sender reputation--notably, IP blacklists--are cumbersome to maintain and evadable. This paper investigates ways to infer the reputation of an email sender based solely on network-level features, without looking at the contents of a message. First, we study first-order properties of network-level features that may help distinguish spammers from legitimate senders. We examine features that can be ascertained without ever looking at a packet's contents, such as the distance in IP space to other email senders or the geographic distance between sender and receiver. We derive features that are lightweight, since they do not require seeing a large amount of email from a single IP address and can be gleaned without looking at an email's contents--many such features are apparent from even a single packet. Second, we incorporate these features into a classification algorithm and evaluate the classifier's ability to automatically classify email senders as spammers or legitimate senders. We build an automated reputation engine, SNARE, based on these features using labeled data from a deployed commercial spam-filtering system. We demonstrate that SNARE can achieve comparable accuracy to existing static IP blacklists: about a 70%detection rate for less than a 0.3%false positive rate. Third, we show how SNARE can be integrated into existing blacklists, essentially as a first-pass filter.