HackerRank: Identifying key hackers in underground forums

Image credit: Unsplash


With the rapid development of the Internet, cybersecurity situation is becoming more and more complex. At present, surface web and dark web contain numerous underground forums or markets, which play an important role in cybercrime ecosystem. Therefore, cybersecurity researchers usually focus on hacker-centered research on cybercrime, trying to find key hackers and extract credible cyber threat intelligence from them. The data scale of underground forums is tremendous and key hackers only represent a small fraction of underground forum users. It takes a lot of time as well as expertise to manually analyze key hackers. Therefore, it is necessary to propose a method or tool to automatically analyze underground forums and identify key hackers involved. In this work, we present HackerRank, an automatic method for identifying key hackers. HackerRank combines the advantages of content analysis and social network analysis. First, comprehensive evaluations and topic preferences are extracted separately using content analysis. Then, it uses an improved Topic-specific PageRank to combine the results of content analysis with social network analysis. Finally, HackerRank obtains users’ ranking, with higher-ranked users being considered as key hackers. To demonstrate the validity of proposed method, we applied HackerRank to five different underground forums separately. Compared to using social network analysis and content analysis alone, HackerRank increases the coverage rate of five underground forums by 3.14% and 16.19% on average. In addition, we performed a manual analysis of identified key hackers. The results prove that the method is effective in identifying key hackers in underground forums.

In International Journal of Distributed Sensor Networks
Wenbo Guo
Wenbo Guo

My research interests include Open Source Software Security and Software Supply Chain Security.