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Intention and Origination: An Inside Look at Large-Scale Bot Queries

Junjie Zhang, Yinglian Xie, Fang Yu, David Soukal, and Wenke Lee


Modern attackers increasingly exploit search engines as a vehicle to identify vulnerabilities and to gather information for launching new attacks. In this paper, we perform a large-scale quantitative analysis on bot queries received by the Bing search engine over month-long periods. Our analysis is based on an automated system, called SBotScope, that we develop to dissect large-scale bot queries. Specifically we answer questions of “what are the bot queries searching for?” and “who are submitting these queries?”. Our study shows that 33% of bot queries are searching for vulnerabilities, followed by 11% harvesting user account information. In one of our 16-day datasets, we uncover 8.2 million hosts from botnets and 13,364 hosts from data centers submitting bot queries. To the best of our knowledge, our work is the first large-scale effort toward systematically understanding bot query intentions and the scales of the malicious attacks associated with them.


Publication typeProceedings
Published inthe 20th Annual Network and Distributed System Security Symposium (NDSS) 2013, to appear
PublisherInternet Society
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