Systematic Mining of Associated Server Herds for Malware Campaign Discovery Conference Paper uri icon


  • 2015 IEEE. HTTP is a popular channel for malware to communicate with malicious servers (e.g., Command & Control, drive-by download, drop-zone), as well as to attack benign servers. By utilizing HTTP requests, malware easily disguises itself under a large amount of benign HTTP traffic. Thus, identifying malicious HTTP activities is challenging. We leverage an insight that cyber criminals are increasingly using dynamic malicious infrastructures with multiple servers to be efficient and anonymous in (i) malware distribution (using redirectors and exploit servers), (ii) control (using C&C servers) and (iii) monetization (using payment servers), and (iv) being robust against server takedowns (using multiple backups for each type of servers). Instead of focusing on detecting individual malicious domains, we propose a complementary approach to identify a group of closely related servers that are potentially involved in the same malware campaign, which we term as Associated Server Herd (ASH). Our solution, SMASH (Systematic Mining of Associated Server Herds), utilizes an unsupervised framework to infer malware ASHs by systematically mining the relations among all servers from multiple dimensions. We build a prototype system of SMASH and evaluate it with traces from a large ISP. The result shows that SMASH successfully infers a large number of previously undetected malicious servers and possible zero-day attacks, with low false positives. We believe the inferred ASHs provide a better global view of the attack campaign that may not be easily captured by detecting only individual servers.

name of conference

  • 2015 IEEE 35th International Conference on Distributed Computing Systems

published proceedings

  • 2015 IEEE 35th International Conference on Distributed Computing Systems

author list (cited authors)

  • Zhang, J., Saha, S., Gu, G., Lee, S., & Mellia, M.

citation count

  • 18

complete list of authors

  • Zhang, Jialong||Saha, Sabyasachi||Gu, Guofei||Lee, Sung-Ju||Mellia, Marco

publication date

  • January 2015