Pythia: a framework for the automated analysis of web hosting environments
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Citation (published version)Srdjan Matic, Gareth Tyson, Gianluca Stringhini. 2019. "Pythia: a Framework for the Automated Analysis of Web Hosting Environments." The Web Conference (WWW)
A common approach when setting up a website is to utilize third party Web hosting and content delivery networks. Without taking this trend into account, any measurement study inspecting the deployment and operation of websites can be heavily skewed. Unfortunately, the research community lacks generalizable tools that can be used to identify how and where a given website is hosted. Instead, a number of ad hoc techniques have emerged, e.g., using Autonomous System databases, domain prefixes for CNAME records. In this work we propose Pythia, a novel lightweight approach for identifying Web content hosted on third-party infrastructures, including both traditional Web hosts and content delivery networks. Our framework identifies the organization to which a given Web page belongs, and it detects which Web servers are self-hosted and which ones leverage third-party services to provide contents. To test our framework we run it on 40,000 URLs and evaluate its accuracy, both by comparing the results with similar services and with a manually validated groundtruth. Our tool achieves an accuracy of 90% and detects that under 11% of popular domains are self-hosted. We publicly release our tool to allow other researchers to reproduce our findings, and to apply it to their own studies.
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