Detecting Credential Spearphishing Attacks in Enterprise Settings

Grant Ho


We present a new approach for detecting credential spearphishing attacks in enterprise settings. Our method uses features derived from an analysis of fundamental characteristics of spearphishing attacks, combined with a new non-parametric anomaly scoring technique for ranking alerts. We evaluate our technique on a multi-year dataset of over 370 million emails from a large enterprise with thousands of employees. Our system successfully detects 6 known spearphishing campaigns that succeeded (missing one instance); an additional 9 that failed; plus 2 successful spearphishing attacks that were previously unknown, thus demonstrating the value of our approach. We also establish that our detector’s false positive rate is low enough to be practical: on average, a single analyst can investigate an entire month’s worth of alerts in under 15 minutes. Comparing our anomaly scoring method against standard anomaly detection techniques, we find that standard techniques using the same features would need to generate at least 9 times as many alerts as our method to detect the same number of attacks.

Time and Place

Tuesday, October 3, 4:15pm
Gates 463