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BABELTOWER: How Language Affects Criminal Activity in Stolen Webmail Accounts

Bernard-Jones, E; Onaolapo, J; Stringhini, G; (2018) BABELTOWER: How Language Affects Criminal Activity in Stolen Webmail Accounts. In: (Proceedings) The Web Conference. ACM Green open access

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Abstract

We set out to understand the effects of differing language on the ability of cybercriminals to navigate webmail accounts and locate sensitive information in them. To this end, we configured thirty Gmail honeypot accounts with English, Romanian, and Greek language settings. We populated the accounts with email messages in those languages by subscribing them to selected online newsletters. We also hid email messages about fake bank accounts in fifteen of the accounts to mimic real-world webmail users that sometimes store sensitive information in their accounts. We then leaked credentials to the honey accounts via paste sites on the Surface Web and the Dark Web, and collected data for fifteen days. Our statistical analyses on the data show that cybercriminals are more likely to discover sensitive information (bank account information) in the Greek accounts than the remaining accounts, contrary to the expectation that Greek ought to constitute a barrier to the understanding of non-Greek visitors to the Greek accounts. We also extracted the important words among the emails that cybercriminals accessed (as an approximation of the keywords that they possibly searched for within the honey accounts), and found that financial terms featured among the top words. In summary, we show that language plays a significant role in the ability of cybercriminals to access sensitive information hidden in compromised webmail accounts.

Type: Proceedings paper
Title: BABELTOWER: How Language Affects Criminal Activity in Stolen Webmail Accounts
Event: The Web Conference
Location: Lyon, France
Dates: 23 April 2018 - 27 April 2018
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Publisher version: https://www2018.thewebconf.org/program/
Language: English
Additional information: This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons license, unless indicated otherwise in the credit line; if the material is not included under the Creative Commons license, users will need to obtain permission from the license holder to reproduce the material. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Engineering Science
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Engineering Science > Dept of Computer Science
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10044599
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