Being anonymous online may become more challenging for those who wish to be unknown. A new data mining technique is being developed to reveal identities of people by writing style.
Imagine that the social networks which require real names will be used as a standard to delve the deep dark alleys of the internet. Although it appears there may be ways to add white noise to a writing style, if indeed one is that concerned about being revealed.
Up to 80 percent of certain anonymous underground forum users can be identified using linguistics, researchers say.The techniques compare user posts to track them across forums and could even unveil authors of thesis papers or blogs who had taken to underground networks. “If our dataset contains 100 users we can at least identify 80 of them,” researcher Sadia Afroz told an audience at the 29C3 Chaos Communication Congress in Germany.”Function words are very specific to the writer. Even if you are writing a thesis, you’ll probably use the same function words in chat messages.”Even if your text is not clean, your writing style can give you away.” The analysis techniques could also reveal botnet owners, malware tool authors and provide insight into the size and scope of underground markets, making the research appealing to law enforcement.
to achieve their results the researchers used techniques including stylometric analysis, the authorship attribution framework Jstylo, and Latent Dirichlet allocation which can distinguish a conversation on stolen credit cards from one on exploit-writing, and similarly help identify interesting people.
The analysis was applied across millions of posts from tens of thousands of users of a series of multilingual underground websites including thebadhackerz.com, blackhatpalace.com, www.carders.cc, free-hack.com, hackel1te.info, hack-sector.forumh.net, rootwarez.org, L33tcrew.org and antichat.ru.
It found up to 300 distinct discussion topics in the forums, with some of the most popular being carding, encryption services, password cracking and blackhat search engine optimisation tools.
While successful, the work faces a series of challenges. Analysis could only be performed using a minimum of 5000 words (this research used the “gold standard” of 6500 words) which culled the list of potential targets from tens of thousands to mere hundreds.