Visible to the public Biblio

Filters: Author is Alrwais, Sumayah  [Clear All Filters]
Mi, Xianghang, Feng, Xuan, Liao, Xiaojing, Liu, Baojun, Wang, XiaoFeng, Qian, Feng, Li, Zhou, Alrwais, Sumayah, Sun, Limin, Liu, Ying.  2019.  Resident Evil: Understanding Residential IP Proxy as a Dark Service. 2019 IEEE Symposium on Security and Privacy (SP). :1185—1201.

An emerging Internet business is residential proxy (RESIP) as a service, in which a provider utilizes the hosts within residential networks (in contrast to those running in a datacenter) to relay their customers' traffic, in an attempt to avoid server- side blocking and detection. With the prominent roles the services could play in the underground business world, little has been done to understand whether they are indeed involved in Cybercrimes and how they operate, due to the challenges in identifying their RESIPs, not to mention any in-depth analysis on them. In this paper, we report the first study on RESIPs, which sheds light on the behaviors and the ecosystem of these elusive gray services. Our research employed an infiltration framework, including our clients for RESIP services and the servers they visited, to detect 6 million RESIP IPs across 230+ countries and 52K+ ISPs. The observed addresses were analyzed and the hosts behind them were further fingerprinted using a new profiling system. Our effort led to several surprising findings about the RESIP services unknown before. Surprisingly, despite the providers' claim that the proxy hosts are willingly joined, many proxies run on likely compromised hosts including IoT devices. Through cross-matching the hosts we discovered and labeled PUP (potentially unwanted programs) logs provided by a leading IT company, we uncovered various illicit operations RESIP hosts performed, including illegal promotion, Fast fluxing, phishing, malware hosting, and others. We also reverse engi- neered RESIP services' internal infrastructures, uncovered their potential rebranding and reselling behaviors. Our research takes the first step toward understanding this new Internet service, contributing to the effective control of their security risks.

Liao, Xiaojing, Alrwais, Sumayah, Yuan, Kan, Xing, Luyi, Wang, XiaoFeng, Hao, Shuang, Beyah, Raheem.  2016.  Lurking Malice in the Cloud: Understanding and Detecting Cloud Repository As a Malicious Service. Proceedings of the 2016 ACM SIGSAC Conference on Computer and Communications Security. :1541–1552.

The popularity of cloud hosting services also brings in new security challenges: it has been reported that these services are increasingly utilized by miscreants for their malicious online activities. Mitigating this emerging threat, posed by such "bad repositories" (simply Bar), is challenging due to the different hosting strategy to traditional hosting service, the lack of direct observations of the repositories by those outside the cloud, the reluctance of the cloud provider to scan its customers' repositories without their consent, and the unique evasion strategies employed by the adversary. In this paper, we took the first step toward understanding and detecting this emerging threat. Using a small set of "seeds" (i.e., confirmed Bars), we identified a set of collective features from the websites they serve (e.g., attempts to hide Bars), which uniquely characterize the Bars. These features were utilized to build a scanner that detected over 600 Bars on leading cloud platforms like Amazon, Google, and 150K sites, including popular ones like, using them. Highlights of our study include the pivotal roles played by these repositories on malicious infrastructures and other important discoveries include how the adversary exploited legitimate cloud repositories and why the adversary uses Bars in the first place that has never been reported. These findings bring such malicious services to the spotlight and contribute to a better understanding and ultimately eliminating this new threat.

Alrwais, Sumayah, Yuan, Kan, Alowaisheq, Eihal, Liao, Xiaojing, Oprea, Alina, Wang, XiaoFeng, Li, Zhou.  2016.  Catching Predators at Watering Holes: Finding and Understanding Strategically Compromised Websites. Proceedings of the 32Nd Annual Conference on Computer Security Applications. :153–166.

Unlike a random, run-of-the-mill website infection, in a strategic web attack, the adversary carefully chooses the target frequently visited by an organization or a group of individuals to compromise, for the purpose of gaining a step closer to the organization or collecting information from the group. This type of attacks, called "watering hole", have been increasingly utilized by APT actors to get into the internal networks of big companies and government agencies or monitor politically oriented groups. With its importance, little has been done so far to understand how the attack works, not to mention any concrete step to counter this threat. In this paper, we report our first step toward better understanding this emerging threat, through systematically discovering and analyzing new watering hole instances and attack campaigns. This was made possible by a carefully designed methodology, which repeatedly monitors a large number potential watering hole targets to detect unusual changes that could be indicative of strategic compromises. Running this system on the HTTP traffic generated from visits to 61K websites for over 5 years, we are able to discover and confirm 17 watering holes and 6 campaigns never reported before. Given so far there are merely 29 watering holes reported by blogs and technical reports, the findings we made contribute to the research on this attack vector, by adding 59% more attack instances and information about how they work to the public knowledge. Analyzing the new watering holes allows us to gain deeper understanding of these attacks, such as repeated compromises of political websites, their long lifetimes, unique evasion strategy (leveraging other compromised sites to serve attack payloads) and new exploit techniques (no malware delivery, web only information gathering). Also, our study brings to light interesting new observations, including the discovery of a recent JSONP attack on an NGO website that has been widely reported and apparently forced the attack to stop.