Feeds

Google-backed research fights review spam

Seeing through the sockpuppet

Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable

University of Illinois at Chicago researchers are taking aim at fake reviews, which they say can seriously damage online businesses.

In particular, the Google-backed study is designed to seek out organized groups of comment fraudsters, and automate the process of identifying and shutting them down.

Fake reviewers can have devastating affects on a variety of Internet-dependent businesses, but with the emergence of user-reviewed social-style operations like Yelp and TripAdvisor, both positive (to promote a business) and negative (to damage a competitor) frauds are becoming endemic.

For the affected business, the researchers say, weeding out the fakes is expensive: while it’s not hard for a human to identify a fraud, the process is labour-intensive.

In their paper, authored by the university’s Bing Liu and Arjun Mukherjee, along with Google’s Natalie Glance, the researchers present an algorithm called GSRank which they hope can be deployed against review fraud.

The key to identifying groups working organized review fraud is their behavior, the paper states, with key fingerprints comprising:

* Time window – members of a group working together to promote or demote a product or service are likely to post reviews within a few days of each other;

* Deviation – naturally, since they’re hired to push a products ratings in a particular direction, an organized group will all post similar ratings. The degree to which the group’s reviews deviate from “genuine” reviews is a hint that someone’s trying to game the system;

* Content similarity – not only will a group give their target the same rating, they’ll also often copy content among themselves. In addition, individuals trying to eke out a living in the cents-per-review business of fraud will have stock phrases that they re-use in different reviews;

* Get in first – the researchers also note that fake reviews will be posted early in the life of a product or service. “Spammers usually review early to make the biggest impact” they write, because “when group members are among the very first people to review a product, they can totally hijack the sentiments”. That behavior can, however, also help identify the fakes;

* Group size – the size of the group, and its size relative to the number of genuine reviews, can both indicate the presence of spammers; and

* “Group support count” – as the researchers note, it’s unlikely that the same (say) 10 random individuals would repeatedly find themselves reviewing many different products; so to have the same group turning up across many different products also helps indicate spammers.

The researchers note that they can’t tell the difference between multiple individuals working together, or one “sockpuppet” user operating multiple user IDs. However, since their algorithm is looking at behavior rather than identity, that shouldn’t matter. ®

Mobile application security vulnerability report

More from The Register

next story
NEW, SINISTER web tracking tech fingerprints your computer by making it draw
Have you been on YouPorn lately, perhaps? White House website?
HIDDEN packet sniffer spy tech in MILLIONS of iPhones, iPads – expert
Don't panic though – Apple's backdoor is not wide open to all, guru tells us
LibreSSL RNG bug fix: What's all the forking fuss about, ask devs
Blow to bit-spitter 'tis but a flesh wound, claim team
Black Hat anti-Tor talk smashed by lawyers' wrecking ball
Unmasking hidden users is too hot for Carnegie-Mellon
Manic malware Mayhem spreads through Linux, FreeBSD web servers
And how Google could cripple infection rate in a second
NUDE SNAPS AGENCY: NSA bods love 'showing off your saucy selfies'
Swapping other people's sexts is a fringe benefit, says Snowden
Own a Cisco modem or wireless gateway? It might be owned by someone else, too
Remote code exec in HTTP server hands kit to bad guys
prev story

Whitepapers

Reducing security risks from open source software
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.