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Liu, Jienan, Rahbarinia, Babak, Perdisci, Roberto, Du, Haitao, Su, Li.  2018.  Augmenting Telephone Spam Blacklists by Mining Large CDR Datasets. Proceedings of the 2018 on Asia Conference on Computer and Communications Security. :273–284.

Telephone spam has become an increasingly prevalent problem in many countries all over the world. For example, the US Federal Trade Commission's (FTC) National Do Not Call Registry's number of cumulative complaints of spam/scam calls reached 30.9 million submissions in 2016. Naturally, telephone carriers can play an important role in the fight against spam. However, due to the extremely large volume of calls that transit across large carrier networks, it is challenging to mine their vast amounts of call detail records (CDRs) to accurately detect and block spam phone calls. This is because CDRs only contain high-level metadata (e.g., source and destination numbers, call start time, call duration, etc.) related to each phone calls. In addition, ground truth about both benign and spam-related phone numbers is often very scarce (only a tiny fraction of all phone numbers can be labeled). More importantly, telephone carriers are extremely sensitive to false positives, as they need to avoid blocking any non-spam calls, making the detection of spam-related numbers even more challenging. In this paper, we present a novel detection system that aims to discover telephone numbers involved in spam campaigns. Given a small seed of known spam phone numbers, our system uses a combination of unsupervised and supervised machine learning methods to mine new, previously unknown spam numbers from large datasets of call detail records (CDRs). Our objective is not to detect all possible spam phone calls crossing a carrier's network, but rather to expand the list of known spam numbers while aiming for zero false positives, so that the newly discovered numbers may be added to a phone blacklist, for example. To evaluate our system, we have conducted experiments over a large dataset of real-world CDRs provided by a leading telephony provider in China, while tuning the system to produce no false positives. The experimental results show that our system is able to greatly expand on the initial seed of known spam numbers by up to about 250%.