Building an Open, Robust, and Stable Voting-Based Domain Top List


Qinge Xie, Georgia Institute of Technology; Shujun Tang, QI-ANXIN Technology Research Institute; Xiaofeng Zheng, QI-ANXIN Technology Research Institute and Tsinghua University; Qingran Lin, QI-ANXIN Technology Research Institute; Baojun Liu, Tsinghua University; Haixin Duan, QI-ANXIN Technology Research Institute and Tsinghua University; Frank Li, Georgia Institute of Technology


Domain top lists serve as critical resources for the Internet measurement, security, and privacy research communities. Hundreds of prior research studies have used these lists as a set of supposedly popular domains to investigate. However, existing top lists exhibit numerous issues, including a lack of transparency into the list data sources and construction methods, high volatility, and easy ranking manipulation. Despite these flaws, these top lists remain widely used today due to a lack of suitable alternatives.

In this paper, we systematically explore the construction of a domain top list from scratch. Using an extensive passive DNS dataset, we investigate different top list design considerations. As a product of our exploration, we produce a voting-based domain ranking method where we quantify the domain preferences of individual IP addresses, and then determine a global ranking across addresses through a voting mechanism. We empirically evaluate our top list design, demonstrating that it achieves better stability and manipulation resistance than existing top lists, while serving as an open and transparent ranking method that other researchers can use or adapt.

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@inproceedings {279952,
author = {Qinge Xie and Shujun Tang and Xiaofeng Zheng and Qingran Lin and Baojun Liu and Haixin Duan and Frank Li},
title = {Building an Open, Robust, and Stable {Voting-Based} Domain Top List},
booktitle = {31st USENIX Security Symposium (USENIX Security 22)},
year = {2022},
isbn = {978-1-939133-31-1},
address = {Boston, MA},
pages = {625--642},
url = {},
publisher = {USENIX Association},
month = aug,