Towards lightweight url-based phishing detection

Andrei Butnaru, Alexios Mylonas, Nikolaos Pitropakis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Nowadays, the majority of everyday computing devices, irrespective of their size and operating system, allow access to information and online services through web browsers. However, the pervasiveness of web browsing in our daily life does not come without security risks. This widespread practice of web browsing in combination with web users’ low situational awareness against cyber attacks, exposes them to a variety of threats, such as phishing, malware and profiling. Phishing attacks can compromise a target, individual or enterprise, through social interaction alone. Moreover, in the current threat landscape phishing attacks typically serve as an attack vector or initial step in a more complex campaign. To make matters worse, past work has demonstrated the inability of denylists, which are the default phishing countermeasure, to protect users from the dynamic nature of phishing URLs. In this context, our work uses supervised machine learning to block phishing attacks, based on a novel combination of features that are extracted solely from the URL. We evaluate our performance over time with a dataset which consists of active phishing attacks and compare it with Google Safe Browsing (GSB), i.e., the default security control in most popular web browsers. We find that our work outperforms GSB in all of our experiments, as well as performs well even against phishing URLs which are active one year after our model’s training.
Original languageEnglish
Article number154
Number of pages15
JournalFuture Internet
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 13 Jun 2021


  • Classifier
  • Heuristics
  • Phishing
  • Supervised machine learning
  • URL-based


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