Top authors in the big4

It has been one year since I wrote any blogs, how time flies. Recently, I read Li Li’s project on who the top researchers are in software engineering and security field, so I want to do a similar one on security myself.

As a computer security researcher, your goal is to get your paper in the big4, i.e., CCS, Oakland, Usenix and NDSS. Fortunately (in some sense…), the deadlines of the big4 are distributed sort of uniformly  through the whole year so you basically need to keep on working every day.

Every year by checkin the authors of the big4, you can clearly get a clue on who are the top guys in computer security research. So let’s talk about the real thing, who are the top researchers in the big4?

Getting the data.

To collect the data, the best source is DBLP. So I wrote a very simple python script to naively crawl the authors’ information from the big4’s pages in DBLP from 2010 to 2016, and embarrassingly parse the html file to find the authors’ name. I have no knowledge about HTML and XML, so the embarrassing part is to read the html source myself to find where the authors names are…….It took me a while (about half an hour) but after that everything goes much easier (of course, this is the only challenging part…..).


We aim to answer three questions with the data we have collected…….oh no, it is just a blog so let’s check the data in a spontaneous way.

Here are the top 20 researchers with most publications in the big4.

Christopher Kruegel 37
Giovanni Vigna 33
Wenke Lee 31
XiaoFeng Wang 30
Michael Backes 25
Elaine Shi 24
Vern Paxson 24
Thorsten Holz 23
Thomas Ristenpart 23
Ahmad-Reza Sadeghi 23
David Brumley 21
Dan Boneh 21
Dawn Song 21
Prateek Saxena 20
Engin Kirda 20
Ari Juels 18
Stefan Savage 18
Angelos D. Keromytis 18
Damon McCoy 17
Jonathan Katz 17

Not surprisingly, most of these researchers are in the US such as the top2 from UCSB, meanwhile, Germany is a also a powerful player, I have seen at least 2 researchers from German institutions.

Now let’s check the top10 for each conference.


Wenke Lee 9
Engin Kirda 8
Giovanni Vigna 8
Christopher Kruegel 8
Yan Chen 6
Dawn Song 6
Xiangyu Zhang 6
Prateek Mittal 6
Nikita Borisov 6
Dongyan Xu 6


XiaoFeng Wang 14
Elaine Shi 12
Ahmad-Reza Sadeghi 12
Gilles Barthe 11
Michael Backes 10
Ari Juels 10
Wenke Lee 10
Christopher Kruegel 10
Thomas Ristenpart 9
Michael K. Reiter 9


Christopher Kruegel 14
Giovanni Vigna 13
Thomas Ristenpart 9
Wenke Lee 8
Damon McCoy 8
Stefan Savage 7
J. Alex Halderman 7
Michael Backes 7
Vern Paxson 7
David Brumley 7


XiaoFeng Wang 10
Elie Bursztein 8
Thorsten Holz 7
Adrian Perrig 7
Vern Paxson 7
Cedric Fournet 6
Engin Kirda 6
Bryan Parno 6
John C. Mitchell 6
Rui Wang 5

It seems that the rankings are quite different for different conferences, so this shows the differences among the big4 w.r.t. research fields.

Now let’s show some trend, we plot the number of publications as a function of every year for the top 5 authors. It seems that most of them have increased their big4 papers.


Another thing I’m interested in is how many authors in one big4 paper, so I calculate the average number of authors, and the result is 4.26. If you check by conference,  the number would be 4.18 for NDSS, 4.09 for CCS, 4.49 for Usenix and 4.54 for Oakland. Of course, we need some baseline model to check whether this number is high or low, so let’s crawl WWW and KDD, the two prestigious conferences in data mining community. It turns out that the average number of authors for WWW is 3.78 and for KDD is 4.01. What this means is that the big4 indeeds involves more authors but the number is not significantly high compared to other top conferences.

Now let’s see the trend, it turns out for the past 6 years, the average number of authors for big4 increase quite a lot from 4 to 4.5, more than 10%, this shows a path on how the security community is shifting.



Yes, this is a blog, I don’t have a general conclusion.

If you are interested, the naive python code can be downloaded here.

PS: Merry Xmas and Happy New Year!


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