Recent high-profile cyber-attacks exemplify why organizations need better cyber-defenses. Cyber-threats are hard to accurately predict because attackers usually try to mask their traces. However, they often discuss exploits and techniques on hacking forums. The community behavior of the hackers may provide insights into the groups’ collective malicious activity. We propose a novel approach to predict cyber-events using sentiment analysis. We test our approach using cyber-attack data from two major business organizations. We consider three types of events: malicious software installation, malicious-destination visits, and malicious emails that surmounted the target organizations’ defenses. We construct predictive signals by applying sentiment analysis to hacker forum posts to better understand hacker behavior. We analyze over 400 K posts written between January 2016 and January 2018 on over 100 hacking forums both on the surface and dark web. We find that some forums have significantly more predictive power than others. Sentiment-based models that leverage specific forums can complement state-of-the-art time-series models on forecasting cyber-attacks weeks ahead of the events.
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