TraffickStop: Detecting and Measuring Illicit Traffic Monetization Through Large-scale DNS Analysis presented at IEEEEuroS&P 2019

by Xiaofeng Wang, Shuang Hao, Haixin Duan, Kai Chen, Yaoqi Jia, Sumayah Alrwais, Zhou Li, Ying Liu, Yiming Zhang, Baojun Liu, Chaoyi Lu, Peiyuan Zong, Zaifeng Zhang,

Summary : Illicit traffic monetization is a type of Internet fraud that hijacks users' web requests and reroutes them to a traffic network (e.g., advertising network), in order to unethically gain monetary rewards. Despite its popularity among Internet fraudsters, our understanding of the problem is still limited. Since the behavior is highly dynamic (can happen at any place including client-side, transport-layer and server-side) and selective (could target a regional network), prior approaches like active probing can only reveal a small piece of the entire ecosystem. So far, questions including how this fraud works at a global scale and what fraudsters' preferred methods are, still remain unanswered. To fill the missing pieces, we developed TraffickStop the first system that can detect this fraud textit{passively}. Our key contribution is a novel algorithm that works on large-scale DNS logs and efficiently discovers abnormal domain correlations. TraffickStop enables the first landscape study of this fraud, and we have some interesting findings. By analyzing over 231 billion DNS logs of two weeks, we discovered 1,457 fraud sites. Regarding its scale, the fraud sites receive more than 53 billion DNS requests within one year, and a company could lose up to 53K dollars per day due to fraud traffic. We also discovered two new strategies that are leveraged by fraudsters to evade inspection. Our work provides new insights into illicit traffic monetization, raises its public awareness, and contributes to a better understanding and ultimate elimination of this threat.