Uncovering Social Network Sybils in the Wild

Zhi Yang
Christo Wilson
Xiao Wang
Tingting Gao
Ben Y. Zhao
Yafei Dai

ACM Transactions on Knowledge Discovery from Data (TKDD), Vol. 8, No. 1, February 2014

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Paper Abstract

Sybil accounts are fake identities created to unfairly increase the power or resources of a single malicious user. Researchers have long known about the existence of Sybil accounts in online communities such as file-sharing systems, but they have not been able to perform large-scale measurements to detect them or measure their activities. In this article, we describe our efforts to detect, characterize, and understand Sybil account activity in the Renren Online Social Network (OSN). We use ground truth provided by Renren Inc. to build measurement-based Sybil detectors and deploy them on Renren to detect more than 100,000 Sybil accounts. Using our full dataset of 650,000 Sybils, we examine several aspects of Sybil behavior. First, we study their link creation behavior and find that contrary to prior conjecture, Sybils in OSNs do not form tight-knit communities. Next, we examine the fine-grained behaviors of Sybils on Renren using clickstream data. Third, we investigate behind-the-scenes collusion between large groups of Sybils. Our results reveal that Sybils with no explicit social ties still act in concert to launch attacks. Finally, we investigate enhanced techniques to identify stealthy Sybils. In summary, our study advances the understanding of Sybil behavior on OSNs and shows that Sybils can effectively avoid existing community-based Sybil detectors. We hope that our results will foster new research on Sybil detection that is based on novel types of Sybil features.