In traditional databases, the entity resolution problem (which is also known as deduplication) refers to the task of mapping multiple manifestations of virtual objects to their corresponding real-world entities. When addressing this problem, in both theory and practice, it is widely assumed that such sets of virtual objects appear as the result of clerical errors, transliterations, missing or updated attributes, abbreviations, and so forth. In this paper, we address this problem under the assumption that this situation is caused by malicious actors operating in domains in which they do not wish to be identified, such as hacker forums and markets in which the participants are motivated to remain semi-anonymous (though they wish to keep their true identities secret, they find it useful for customers to identify their products and services). We are therefore in the presence of a different, and even more challenging, problem that we refer to as adversarial deduplication. In this paper, we study this problem via examples that arise from real-world data on malicious hacker forums and markets arising from collaborations with a cyber threat intelligence company focusing on understanding this kind of behavior. We argue that it is very difficult—if not impossible—to find ground truth data on which to build solutions to this problem, and develop a set of preliminary experiments based on training machine learning classifiers that leverage text analysis to detect potential cases of duplicate entities. Our results are encouraging as a first step towards building tools that human analysts can use to enhance their capabilities towards fighting cyber threats.
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