SecTrend Analysis

A data-driven analysis on 17,797 security paper from 1980 to 2020.

As a security researcher, one of my daily tasks is to keep up with the latest security research and trends. I check notification emails from google scholar, arxiv, and other platforms everyday and think about possible rising-star topics.

Then, one idea popped into my head.

Can we extract keywords from security papers to discover the most popular topics each year? What lifecycle did these topics go through in history?

Finally, here comes the toy project, SecTrend Analysis . In this project, I collect 17,797 security papers from 18 security conferences(1980-2020) and analyse them from data-driven perspectives.

1. Data Collection

We focus on tier1(6) and tier2(12) security conferences presented on Computer Security Conference Ranking and Statistic and extract corresponding paper metadata from dblp . The 18 conferences are S&P (Oakland), CCS, Security, NDSS, Crypto, Eurocrypt, ESORICS, RAID, ACSAC, DSN, IMC, ASIACCS, PETS, EuroS&P, CSF (CSFW), Asiacrypt, TCC, and CHES . Dblp is a computer science bibliography website. Data released by dblp are testified to be highly accurate and acceptable complete . And all dblp data are under the CC0 1.0 Public Domain Dedication license , which means people are free to copy, distribute, use, modify, transform, and produce derived works from their data.

In dblp, a conference, e.g. S&P, is composed of multiple proceedings, e.g. S&P2020 . Each proceeding page contains the bibliographic information of papers on the proceedings and can be accessed by dblp api, such as . We manually gather dblp links of 18 security conferences, crawl proceedings and the related paper metadata of it. You can get the whole dataset from page Dataset .

In this way, we obtain 17,797 papers from 1980 to 2020 with 18 conferences and 529 proceedings.

venue tier item_cnt paper_cnt min(year) max(year) year_cnt proceedings_cnt
CCS Tier 1 2179 2073 1993 2019 26 26
Crypto Tier 1 1266 1234 1981 2012 32 32
Eurocrypt Tier 1 1252 1220 1982 2014 33 32
NDSS Tier 1 853 829 1995 2019 25 25
S&P (Oakland) Tier 1 1548 1499 1980 2019 40 49
Security Tier 1 1779 1696 1993 2019 25 83
ACSAC Tier 2 1345 1304 1989 2019 30 34
ASIACCS Tier 2 846 832 2006 2019 14 14
Asiacrypt Tier 2 798 777 1990 2014 23 21
CHES Tier 2 639 618 1999 2018 20 21
CSF (CSFW) Tier 2 750 714 1988 2019 32 35
DSN Tier 2 1936 1841 2000 2019 20 37
ESORICS Tier 2 1014 971 1990 2020 25 43
EuroS&P Tier 2 253 246 2016 2019 4 7
IMC Tier 2 772 753 2001 2019 19 19
PETS Tier 2 227 213 2002 2014 13 13
RAID Tier 2 539 515 1999 2019 21 23
TCC Tier 2 477 462 2004 2016 12 15

2. Keyword Extraction

Title, the heap of major technology and ideas, is a high-level summary of a paper. Therefore, we directly extract keywords of conferences/proceedings from the titles of papers. We will not consider cryptography conferences in this keyword extraction task.

Dblp also provides external hyperlink of electronic edition of research papers. But to access the electronic version without permission from publishers may involve copyright issues, as they declared . Here we remain the abstract-level and fulltext-level tasks to the future.

2.1 Text cleaning

Four cleaning methods are applied to the dataset.

  1. Normalization : convert all words to lowercase, remove punctuation.
  2. Tokenization: split titles into multiple words.
  3. Removing stopwords : stopwords are commonly used words, e.g. "the", "a", "an".
  4. Stemming and Lemmatization : restore words to stem or root.
Original Text
"many popular programs, such as netscape, use untrusted helper applications to process data from the network. unfortunately, the unauthenticated net- work data they interpret could well have been created by an adversary, and the helper applications are usually too complex to be bug-free."

After normalization
'mani popular program netscap use untrust helper applic process data network unfortun unauthent work data interpret could well creat adversari helper applic usual complex'


We use TF-IDF to extract keywords.

TF-IDF (Term Frequency-InversDocument Frequency) is a numerical statistic that is intended to reflect how important a word is to a document in a collection or corpus. (Refers to WikiPedia)

The TF-IDF calculation formula in sklearn is

def keywords_extractor(level, corpus_from,tier):
    data = get_corpus(level, corpus_from,tier=tier)
    corpus = [i[2] for i in data]


    topx = 30
    top_keywords_li = []
    for i in range(weight.shape[0]):
        sorted_keyword = sorted(zip(word, weight[i]), key=lambda x:x[1], reverse=True)
        top_keywords = [w[0] for w in sorted_keyword[:topx]]
        top_keywords_li.append(list(data[i][:2]) + top_keywords)
        # print(top_keywords_li)
    df = pd.DataFrame(top_keywords_li)
    df.columns = ["%s" % level, "cnt"]  + ["top%d" % i for i in range(1,topx + 1)]

    df.to_csv("./nlp/top_keywords_%s_%s.csv" % (level, corpus_from), index=False)

2.2 Analysis

Let's first look at top10 keywords of tier1 conferences in the past 40 years. Click section Dataset to get the full version.

year cnt top1 top2 top3 top4 top5 top6 top7 top8 top9 top10
1980 19 secur system preliminari safeguard key data report cryptosystem deceit describ
1981 18 secur system protect fund half lead loaf none restricit problem
1982 20 secur allianc blindfold conseqeu cryptanalyt memoryless neval obm oskar restitut
2017 502 attack secur detect android privaci vulner network learn analysi via
2018 542 secur attack learn deep android detect use network analysi adversari
2019 590 attack secur privaci adversari learn apo neural deep iot fuzz

Horrible, right? Let's turn it into line charts.

Following are the top10 keywords in the past 40 years. They are secur, system, attack, detect, network, use, analysi, privaci, data and protocol .


If we expand observation scope to top11-20 keywords, we can track more topics' trends. To get reach to more keywords, have a look at Section Title .


Now let's turn our attention to tier2 conferences.

Same, you can find the full comparison charts at Section Tier1 VS Tier2 .

3. Other Findings

3.1 Title Length

The length of title gradually increases over 40 years. In 1996, the average length was still 57, and by 2020 this value had become 75.

The shortest title is "Run-DMA." (length 8) and the longest title is "Security Scenario Generator (SecGen)-A Framework for Generating Randomly Vulnerable Rich-scenario VMs for Learning Computer Security and Hosting CTF Events." (length 158).

3.2 Authors per Paper

Authors per paper also increased. The average number increased from 2.5 in 1996 to 4.77 in 2019. The maximum number of paper authors is 20( "Five Years of the Right to be Forgotten." ), and the minimum is 1.

3.3 Subtitle Proposition

Due to some unknown reasons, subtitles (or mottos) are favored, such as "I Like It, but I Hate It-Employee Perceptions Towards an Institutional Transition to BYOD Second-Factor Authentication." . So, what is the proportion of papers with subtitles?

With researchers' efforts, the usage rate of subtitles increases from 10.53% in 1980 to 31.63% in 2019 and reached the highest record of 33.66% in 2012. XD

Among them, the most frequently used proverb is "Less is More" , which was used 3 times in 2014-2019.

4. Related Work

Questions or ideas?

We welcome questions, discussions, and inspirations about SecTrend Analysis through e-mail to


MIT © Vera Xinyue Shen