Fuzzy logic helps detect redirection spam

June 16, 2016, Inderscience Publishers

Web browsers might soon use fuzzy logic to spot redirection spam and save users from being scammed, phished or opening malicious sites unwittingly, according to researchers in India writing in the International Journal of Electronic Security and Digital Forensics.

Redirection spam occurs when a user opens a link in an email that leads to an unexpected and often malicious page, or when they open a page that has been hacked or injected with malware, which then redirects to a malicious page. Often the redirection occurs instantaneously and transparently without the user being aware until it is too late and login details or have been divulged to the criminal third party. Frequently, there will be a malware payload that infects the user's computer at the same time.

According to Kanchan Hans of Amity University, in Noida, India, and colleagues, legitimate web page redirections are a ubiquitous part of the web used for server load balancing, link logging and URL rewriting and shortening. Detection of illicit redirections is a difficult task as blocking them would block legitimate redirections too. Nevertheless, while redirection spam was originally little more than a "switch and bait" black hat (SEO) technique, today it interferes with the performance of search engines, leads to wastage of network bandwidth and disrupts user trust, as well as leading to fraudulent activity, identity theft and the spread of malware.

Most modern have security tools in place that will alert the user to the presence of malware on a site they attempt to visit. Unfortunately, this relies on the developers of the browser having access to a continuously updated database of flagged sites. If a site has not yet been flagged as malicious, the unwary user may stumble on to a page and be the victim of a wide range of scams and problems. Hans and colleagues have developed a system that could be used in conjunction with such conventional alert systems and provide an extra layer of security against redirection spam.

The team's detection system analyses the characteristics of a given web address based on known spammy links and applies to add a layer of probability to whether or not the suspicious link is likely to be a problem. Various different criteria are applied in terms of whether the link to be followed might be spam including the number of redirection hops that would take place after the user clicks or enters an address, the presence of a refresh delay, whether or not there are JavaScript redirects on the page, whether there is a meta tag redirection in place. All such characteristics are exploited by spammers to mask the true destination of a link from anti-malware and other security tools used by browsers and the search engines and so avoid the true destination site being detected and flagged as malware.

The application of fuzzy logic allows a probability to be calculated with looser rules based on the different criteria, so that a confidence level can be assigned to a given link as to whether it is safe or spam. In an actual browser implementation this might give users a red, amber or green signal to let them know whether they should proceed to visit a site. In practice, only red and amber sites would generate an alert, sites given the green light could be set to open and so reduce the need for users to make a decision when a site is almost certainly safe to visit, but give them a chance to think twice before visit a putatively hazardous page. Tests on the system show a high level of accuracy in flagging safe and spam sites from a known database without significant false positives or negatives, the team reports.

Explore further: Hacked emails slice spam fast

More information: Hans, K., Ahuja, L. and Muttoo, S.K. (2016) 'A fuzzy logic approach for detecting redirection spam', Int. J. Electronic Security and Digital Forensics, Vol. 8, No. 3, pp.191-204.

Related Stories

Hacked emails slice spam fast

November 26, 2014

Spam spreads much faster and to more people when it is being propagated by hacked, or otherwise compromised, email accounts rather than legitimate accounts, according to research published in the International Journal of ...

Closing a malware security loophole

December 7, 2015

An add-on for antivirus software that can scan across a computer network and trap malicious activity missed by the system firewall is being developed by an international team. Details are reported in the International Journal ...

Facebook, Washington state target online spam

January 27, 2012

Facebook is partnering with Washington state to combat a type of spam called "clickjacking" that is plaguing the social networking site, company and state officials announced Thursday.

Recommended for you

Nanoscale Lamb wave-driven motors in nonliquid environments

March 19, 2019

Light driven movement is challenging in nonliquid environments as micro-sized objects can experience strong dry adhesion to contact surfaces and resist movement. In a recent study, Jinsheng Lu and co-workers at the College ...

OSIRIS-REx reveals asteroid Bennu has big surprises

March 19, 2019

A NASA spacecraft that will return a sample of a near-Earth asteroid named Bennu to Earth in 2023 made the first-ever close-up observations of particle plumes erupting from an asteroid's surface. Bennu also revealed itself ...

The powerful meteor that no one saw (except satellites)

March 19, 2019

At precisely 11:48 am on December 18, 2018, a large space rock heading straight for Earth at a speed of 19 miles per second exploded into a vast ball of fire as it entered the atmosphere, 15.9 miles above the Bering Sea.

Levitating objects with light

March 19, 2019

Researchers at Caltech have designed a way to levitate and propel objects using only light, by creating specific nanoscale patterning on the objects' surfaces.


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.