Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Electrical and Computer Engineering


Computer Engineering

First Advisor

Neil Zhenqiang Gong


Graphs are a powerful tool to represent complex interactions between various entities. A particular family of graph-based machine learning techniques called collective classification has been applied to various security and privacy problems, e.g., malware detection, Sybil detection in social networks, fake review detection, malicious website detection, auction fraud detection, APT infection detection, attribute inference attacks, etc.. Moreover, some collective classification methods have been deployed in industry, e.g., Symantec deployed collective classification to detect malware; Tuenti, the largest social network in Spain, deployed collective classification to detect Sybils.

In this dissertation, we aim to systematically study graph-based security and privacy problems that are modeled via collective classification. In particular, we focus on collective classification methods that leverage random walk (RW) or loopy belief propagation (LBP).

First, we propose a local rule-based framework to unify existing RW-based and LBP-based methods. Under our framework, existing methods can be viewed as iteratively applying a different local rule to every node in the graph. know about the node.

Second, we design a novel local rule for undirected graphs. Based on our local rule, we propose a collective classification method that can maintain the advantages and overcome the disadvantages of state-of-the-art undirected graph-based collective classification methods for Sybil detection.

Third, many security and privacy problems are modeled using directed graphs. Directed graph- based security and privacy problems have their unique characteristics. Existing undirected graph- based collective classification methods (e.g., LBP-based methods) cannot be applied to directed graphs and existing directed graph-based methods (e.g., RW-based methods) cannot make full use of the labeled training set. To address the issue, we develop a novel local rule for directed graph-based Sybil detection and propose a collective classification method that captures unique characteristics of directed graph-based Sybil detection.

Finally, one key issue of all collective classification methods is that they either assign small weights to a large number of edges whose two corresponding nodes have the same label or/and assign large weights to a large number of edges whose two corresponding nodes have different labels. Although collective classification has been studied and applied for security and privacy problems for more than a decade, it is still challenging to assign edge weights such that an edge has a large weight if the two corresponding nodes have the same label, and a small weight otherwise. We develop a novel collective classification framework to address this long-standing challenge. Specifically, we first formulate learning edge weights as an optimization problem, which, however, is computationally challenging to solve. Then, we relax the optimization problem and design an efficient joint weight learning and propagation algorithm to solve this approximate optimization problem.

Copyright Owner

Binghui Wang



File Format


File Size

114 pages