Social fingerprinting: detection of spambot groups through DNA-inspired behavioral modeling

  • Cresci S.
  • Di Pietro R.
  • Petrocchi M.
  • Spognardi A.
  • Tesconi M.

Spambot detection in online social networks is a long-lasting challenge involving the study and design of detection techniques capable of efficiently identifying ever-evolving spammers. Recently, a new wave of social spambots has emerged, with advanced human-like characteristics that allow them to go undetected even by current state-of-the-art algorithms. In this paper we show that efficient spambots detection can be achieved via an in-depth analysis of their collective behaviors exploiting the digital DNA technique for modeling the behaviors of social network users. Inspired by its biological predecessor, in the digital DNA representation the behavioral lifetime of a digital account is encoded in a sequence of characters. Then, we define a similarity measure for such digital DNA sequences. We build upon digital DNA and the similarity between groups of users to characterize both genuine accounts and spambots. We show that our technique is capable of discovering significant differences between genuine accounts and spambots using both a supervised and an unsupervised detection technique. We finally evaluate the effectiveness of our technique and we compare it with 3 state-of-the-art detection algorithms. Among the peculiarities of our approach is the possibility to apply off-the-shelf DNA analysis techniques to study online users behaviors and to efficiently rely on a limited number of lightweight account characteristics.

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