Using Lexical Features for Malicious URL Detection – A Machine Learning Approach

10/14/2019 ∙ by Apoorva Joshi, et al. ∙ 0

Malicious websites are responsible for a majority of the cyber-attacks and scams today. Malicious URLs are delivered to unsuspecting users via email, text messages, pop-ups or advertisements. Clicking on or crawling such URLs can result in compromised email accounts, launching of phishing campaigns, download of malware, spyware and ransomware, as well as severe monetary losses. A machine learning based ensemble classification approach is proposed to detect malicious URLs in emails, which can be extended to other methods of delivery of malicious URLs. The approach uses static lexical features extracted from the URL string, with the assumption that these features are notably different for malicious and benign URLs. The use of such static features is safer and faster since it does not involve crawling the URLs or blacklist lookups which tend to introduce a significant amount of latency in producing verdicts. The goal of the classification was to achieve high sensitivity i.e. detect as many malicious URLs as possible. URL strings tend to be very unstructured and noisy. Hence, bagging algorithms were found to be a good fit for the task since they average out multiple learners trained on different parts of the training data, thus reducing variance. The classification model was tested on five different testing sets and produced an average False Negative Rate (FNR) of 0.1 accuracy of 92 the FireEye Advanced URL Detection Engine (used to detect malicious URLs in emails), to generate fast real-time verdicts on URLs. The malicious URL detections from the engine have gone up by 22 model into the engine workflow. The results obtained show noteworthy evidence that a purely lexical approach can be used to detect malicious URLs.

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