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phishGILLNET—phishing detection methodology using probabilistic latent semantic analysis, AdaBoost, and co-training

Venkatesh Ramanathan* and Harry Wechsler

Author Affiliations

Department of Computer Science, George Mason University, Fairfax, VA 22030, USA

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EURASIP Journal on Information Security 2012, 2012:1  doi:10.1186/1687-417X-2012-1

Published: 26 March 2012


Identity theft is one of the most profitable crimes committed by felons. In the cyber space, this is commonly achieved using phishing. We propose here robust server side methodology to detect phishing attacks, called phishGILLNET, which incorporates the power of natural language processing and machine learning techniques. phishGILLNET is a multi-layered approach to detect phishing attacks. The first layer (phishGILLNET1) employs Probabilistic Latent Semantic Analysis (PLSA) to build a topic model. The topic model handles synonym (multiple words with similar meaning), polysemy (words with multiple meanings), and other linguistic variations found in phishing. Intentional misspelled words found in phishing are handled using Levenshtein editing and Google APIs for correction. Based on term document frequency matrix as input PLSA finds phishing and non-phishing topics using tempered expectation maximization. The performance of phishGILLNET1 is evaluated using PLSA fold in technique and the classification is achieved using Fisher similarity. The second layer of phishGILLNET (phishGILLNET2) employs AdaBoost to build a robust classifier. Using probability distributions of the best PLSA topics as features the classifier is built using AdaBoost. The third layer (phishGILLNET3) further expands phishGILLNET2 by building a classifier from labeled and unlabeled examples by employing Co-Training. Experiments were conducted using one of the largest public corpus of email data containing 400,000 emails. Results show that phishGILLNET3 outperforms state of the art phishing detection methods and achieves F-measure of 100%. Moreover, phishGILLNET3 requires only a small percentage (10%) of data be annotated thus saving significant time, labor, and avoiding errors incurred in human annotation.

identity theft; machine learning; natural language processing; phishing; probabilistic latent semantic analysis; boosting; co-training