Attacks and defenses in location-based social networks: A heuristic number theory approach

Jiawen Peng, Yan Meng, Minhui Xue, Xiaojun Hei, Keith W. Ross

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

    Abstract

    The rapid growth of location-based social network (LBSN) applications - such as WeChat, Momo, and Yik Yak - has in essence facilitated the promotion of anonymously sharing instant messages and open discussions. These services breed a unique anonymous atmosphere for users to discover their geographic neighborhoods and then initiate private communications. In this paper, we demonstrate how such location-based features of WeChat can be exploited to determine the user's location with sufficient accuracy in any city from any location in the world. Guided by the number theory, we design and implement two generic localization attack algorithms to track anonymous users' locations that can be potentially adapted to any other LBSN services. We evaluated the performance of the proposed algorithms using Matlab simulation experiments and also deployed real-world experiments for validating our methodology. Our results show that WeChat, and other LBSN services as such, have a potential location privacy leakage problem. Finally, k-anonymity based countermeasures are proposed to mitigate the localization attacks without significantly compromising the quality-of-service of LBSN applications. We expect our research to bring this serious privacy pertinent issue into the spotlight and hopefully motivate better privacy-preserving LBSN designs.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Title of host publicationProceedings - 2015 International Symposium on Security and Privacy in Social Networks and Big Data, SocialSec 2015
    PublisherInstitute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc.
    Pages64-71
    Number of pages8
    ISBN (Electronic)9781467384209
    DOIs
    StatePublished - Jan 4 2016
    EventInternational Symposium on Security and Privacy in Social Networks and Big Data, SocialSec 2015 - Hangzhou, China
    Duration: Nov 16 2015Nov 18 2015

    Publication series

    NameProceedings - 2015 International Symposium on Security and Privacy in Social Networks and Big Data, SocialSec 2015

    Other

    OtherInternational Symposium on Security and Privacy in Social Networks and Big Data, SocialSec 2015
    CountryChina
    CityHangzhou
    Period11/16/1511/18/15

    Keywords

    • Localization attack
    • Location-based social network
    • Number theory
    • Privacy
    • Wechat

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Computer Networks and Communications
    • Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality

    Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Attacks and defenses in location-based social networks: A heuristic number theory approach'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

  • Cite this

    Peng, J., Meng, Y., Xue, M., Hei, X., & Ross, K. W. (2016). Attacks and defenses in location-based social networks: A heuristic number theory approach. In Proceedings - 2015 International Symposium on Security and Privacy in Social Networks and Big Data, SocialSec 2015 (pp. 64-71). [7371450] (Proceedings - 2015 International Symposium on Security and Privacy in Social Networks and Big Data, SocialSec 2015). Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc.. https://doi.org/10.1109/SocialSec2015.19