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Refereed Papers

Track: Security, Privacy, Reliability and Ethics

Paper Title:
Learning to Detect Phishing Emails


  • Ian Fette (Carnegie Mellon University)
  • Norman Sadeh (Carnegie Mellon University)
  • Anthony Tomasic (Carnegie Mellon University)

Each month, more attacks are launched with the aim of making web users believe that they are communicating with a trusted entity for the purpose of stealing account information, logon credentials, and identity information in general. This attack method, commonly known as "phishing," is most commonly initiated by sending out emails with links to spoofed websites that harvest information. We present a method for detecting these attacks, which in its most general form is an application of machine learning on a feature set designed to highlight user-targeted deception in electronic communication. This method is applicable, with slight modification, to detection of phishing websites, or the emails used to direct victims to these sites. We evaluate this method on a set of approximately 860 such phishing emails, and 6950 non-phishing emails, and correctly identify over 96% of the phishing emails while only mis-classifying on the order of 0.1% of the legitimate emails. We conclude with thoughts on the future for such techniques to specifically identify deception, specifically with respect to the evolutionary nature of the attacks and information available.

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