RTbust: Exploiting Temporal Patterns for Botnet Detection on Twitter

Michele Mazza, Stefano Cresci, Marco Avvenuti, Walter Quattrociocchi, Maurizio Tesconi

Within OSNs, many of our supposedly online friends may instead be fake accounts called social bots, part of large groups that purposely re-share targeted content. Here, we study retweeting behaviors on Twitter, with the ultimate goal of detecting retweeting social bots. We collect a dataset of 10M retweets. We design a novel visualization that we leverage to highlight benign and malicious patterns of retweeting activity. In this way, we uncover a 'normal' retweeting pattern that is peculiar of human-operated accounts, and 3 suspicious patterns related to bot activities. Then, we propose a bot detection technique that stems from the previous exploration of retweeting behaviors. Our technique, called Retweet-Buster (RTbust), leverages unsupervised feature extraction and clustering. An LSTM autoencoder converts the retweet time series into compact and informative latent feature vectors, which are then clustered with a hierarchical density-based algorithm. Accounts belonging to large clusters characterized by malicious retweeting patterns are labeled as bots. RTbust obtains excellent detection results, with F1 = 0.87, whereas competitors achieve F1 < 0.76. Finally, we apply RTbust to a large dataset of retweets, uncovering 2 previously unknown active botnets with hundreds of accounts.

Knowledge Graph

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