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Applying Social Network Analysis to Security

Elizabeth Phillips‚ Jason R. C. Nurse‚ Michael Goldsmith and Sadie Creese


In this paper, we set out to explore some of the many ways in which Social Network Analysis (SNA) can be applied to the field of security. In particular, we investigate what information someone (e.g., an attacker) could infer if they were able to gather data on a person's friend-groups or device communications (e.g., email interactions) and whether this could be used to predict the "hierarchical importance" of the individual. This research could be applied to various social networks to help with criminal investigations by identifying the users with high influence within the criminal gangs on DarkWeb Forums, in order to help identify the ring-leaders of the gangs. For this study we conducted an initial investigation on the Enron email dataset, and investigated the effectiveness of existing SNA metrics in establishing hierarchy from the social network created from the email communications metadata. We then tested the metrics on a fresh dataset to assess the practicality of our results to a new network.

Book Title
International Conference on Cyber Security for Sustainable Society