Mark Allman / ICSI @mallman_icsi

Tu Ouyang, Soumya Ray, Mark Allman, Michael Rabinovich. A Large-Scale Empirical Analysis of Email Spam Detection Through Network Characteristics in a Stand-Alone Enterprise, Computer Networks, 59, February 2014.
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Spam is a never-ending issue that constantly consumes resources to no useful end. In this paper, we envision spam filtering as a pipeline consisting of DNS blacklists, filters based on SYN packet features, filters based on traffic characteristics and filters based on message content. Each stage of the pipeline examines more information in the message but is more computationally expensive. A message is rejected as spam once any layer is sufficiently confident. We analyze this pipeline, focusing on the first three layers, from a single-enterprise perspective. To do this we use a large email dataset collected over two years. We devise a novel ground truth determination system to allow us to label this large dataset accurately. Using two machine learning algorithms, we study (i) how the different pipeline layers interact with each other and the value added by each layer, (ii) the utility of individual features in each layer, (iii) stability of the layers across time and network events and (iv) an operational use case investigating whether this architecture can be practically useful. We find that (i) the pipeline architecture is generally useful in terms of accuracy as well as in an operational setting, (ii) it generally ages gracefully across long time periods and (iii) in some cases, later layers can compensate for poor performance in the earlier layers. Among the caveats we find are that (i) the utility of network features is not as high in the single enterprise viewpoint as reported in other prior work, (ii) major network events can sharply affect the detection rate, and (iii) the operational (computational) benefit of the pipeline may depend on the efficiency of the final content filter.


    author  =  "Tu Ouyang and Soumya Ray and Mark Allman and Michael Rabinovich",
    title   =  "{A Large-Scale Empirical Analysis of Email Spam Detection Through Network Characteristics in a Stand-Alone Enterprise}",
    journal =  "Computer Networks",
    year    =  2014,
    volume  =  59,
    month   =  feb,
    pages   =  "100--121",
"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit." --Aristotle