Large-scale and Robust Code Authorship Identification with Deep Feature Learning

Mohammed Abuhamad, Tamer Abuhmed, David Mohaisen, Daehun Nyang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Successful software authorship de-anonymization has both software forensics applications and privacy implications. However, the process requires an efficient extraction of authorship attributes. The extraction of such attributes is very challenging, due to various software code formats from executable binaries with different toolchain provenance to source code with different programming languages. Moreover, the quality of attributes is bounded by the availability of software samples to a certain number of samples per author and a specific size for software samples. To this end, this work proposes a deep Learning-based approach for software authorship attribution, that facilitates large-scale, format-independent, language-oblivious, and obfuscation-resilient software authorship identification. This proposed approach incorporates the process of learning deep authorship attribution using a recurrent neural network, and ensemble random forest classifier for scalability to de-anonymize programmers. Comprehensive experiments are conducted to evaluate the proposed approach over the entire Google Code Jam (GCJ) dataset across all years (from 2008 to 2016) and over real-world code samples from 1,987 public repositories on GitHub. The results of our work show high accuracy despite requiring a smaller number of samples per author. Experimenting with source-code, our approach allows us to identify 8,903 GCJ authors, the largest-scale dataset used by far, with an accuracy of 92.3%. Using the real-world dataset, we achieved an identification accuracy of 94.38% for 745 C programmers on GitHub. Moreover, the proposed approach is resilient to language-specifics, and thus it can identify authors of four programming languages (e.g., C, C++, Java, and Python), and authors writing in mixed languages (e.g., Java/C++, Python/C++). Finally, our system is resistant to sophisticated obfuscation (e.g., using C Tigress) with an accuracy of 93.42% for a set of 120 authors. Experimenting with executable binaries, our approach achieves 95.74% for identifying 1,500 programmers of software binaries. Similar results were obtained when software binaries are generated with different compilation options, optimization levels, and removing of symbol information. Moreover, our approach achieves 93.86% for identifying 1,500 programmers of obfuscated binaries using all features adopted in Obfuscator-LLVM tool.

Original languageEnglish
Article number23
JournalACM Transactions on Privacy and Security
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 2021

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© 2021 ACM.


  • Software authorship identification
  • deep learning identification
  • program features
  • software forensics


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