A New Defense Against Adversarial Images: Turning a Weakness into a Strength

by   Tao Yu, et al.

Natural images are virtually surrounded by low-density misclassified regions that can be efficiently discovered by gradient-guided search — enabling the generation of adversarial images. While many techniques for detecting these attacks have been proposed, they are easily bypassed when the adversary has full knowledge of the detection mechanism and adapts the attack strategy accordingly. In this paper, we adopt a novel perspective and regard the omnipresence of adversarial perturbations as a strength rather than a weakness. We postulate that if an image has been tampered with, these adversarial directions either become harder to find with gradient methods or have substantially higher density than for natural images. We develop a practical test for this signature characteristic to successfully detect adversarial attacks, achieving unprecedented accuracy under the white-box setting where the adversary is given full knowledge of our detection mechanism.


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1 Introduction

The advance of deep neural networks has led to natural questions regarding its robustness to both natural and malicious change in the test input. For the latter scenario, the seminal work of Biggio et al.

Biggio et al. (2013) and Szegedy et al. Szegedy et al. (2014)

first suggested that neural networks may be prone to imperceptible changes in the input — the so-called adversarial perturbations — that alter the model’s decision entirely. This weakness not only applies to image classification models, but is prevalent in various machine learning applications, including object detection and image segmentation

Xie et al. (2017); Cisse et al. (2017), speech recognition Carlini and Wagner (2018), and deep policy networks Huang et al. (2017); Behzadan and Munir (2017).

The threat of adversarial perturbations has prompted tremendous effort towards the development of defense mechanisms. Common defenses either attempt to recover the true semantic labels of the input Buckman et al. (2018); Samangouei et al. (2018); Guo et al. (2018); Song et al. (2018); Dhillon et al. (2018); Prakash et al. (2018) or detect and reject adversarial examples Li and Li (2017); Metzen et al. (2017); Grosse et al. (2017); Meng and Chen (2017); Nitin Bhagoji et al. (2018); Xu et al. (2018); Ma et al. (2018). Although many of the proposed defenses have been successful against passive attackers — ones that are unaware of the presence of the defense mechanism — almost all fail against adversaries that have full knowledge of the internal details of the defense and modify the attack algorithm accordingly Carlini and Wagner (2017a); Athalye et al. (2018). To date, the success of existing defenses have been limited to simple datasets with relatively low variety of classes Raghunathan et al. (2018); Sinha et al. (2018); Wong and Zico Kolter (2017); Kannan et al. (2018); Liu et al. (2018).

Recent studies Fawzi et al. (2018); Shafahi et al. (2018) have shown that the existence of adversarial perturbations may be an inherent property of natural data distributions in high dimensional spaces — painting a grim picture for defenses. However, in this paper we propose a radically new approach to defenses against adversarial attacks that turns this seemingly insurmountable obstacle from a weakness into a strength: We use the inherent property of the existence of valid adversarial perturbations around a natural image as a signature to attest that it is unperturbed.

Concretely, we exploit two seemingly contradicting properties of natural images: On one hand, natural images lie with high probability near the decision boundary to any given label 

Fawzi et al. (2018); Shafahi et al. (2018); on the other hand, natural images are robust to random noise Szegedy et al. (2014), which means these small “pockets” of spaces where the input is misclassified have low density and are unlikely to be found through random perturbations. To verify if an image is benign, we can test for both properties effectively:

1. We measure the degree of robustness to random noise by observing the change in prediction after adding i.i.d. Gaussian noise.

2. We measure the proximity to a decision boundary by observing the number of gradient steps required to change the label of an input image. This procedure is identical to running a gradient-based attack algorithm against the input (which is potentially an adversarial image already).

We hypothesize that artificially perturbed images mostly violate at least one of the two conditions. This gives rise to an effective detection mechanism even when the adversary has full knowledge of the defense. Against strong -bounded white-box adversaries that adaptively optimize against the detector, we achieve a worst-case detection rate of at a false positive rate of

on ImageNet 

Deng et al. (2009) using a pre-trained ResNet-101 model He et al. (2016). Prior art achieves a detection rate of at equal false positive rate under the same setting. Further analysis shows that there exists a fundamental trade-off for white-box attackers when optimizing to satisfy the two detection criteria. Our method creates new challenges for the search of adversarial examples and points to a promising direction for future research in defense against white-box adversaries.

2 Background

Attack overview. Test-time attacks via adversarial examples can be broadly categorized into either black-box or white-box settings. In the black-box setting, the adversary can only access the model as an oracle, and may receive continuous-valued outputs or only discrete classification decisions Liu et al. (2016); Papernot et al. (2017); Tramèr et al. (2017); Chen et al. (2017); Tu et al. (2018); Ilyas et al. (2018a, b); Uesato et al. (2018); Guo et al. (2019)

. We focus on the white-box setting in this paper, where the attacker is assumed to be an insider and therefore has full knowledge of internal details of the network. In particular, having access to the model parameters allows the attacker to perform powerful first-order optimization attacks by optimizing an adversarial loss function.

The white-box attack framework can be summarized as follows. Let be the target classification model that, given any input

, outputs a vector of probabilities

with (i.e. the -th component of the vector ) for every class . Let be the true class of and be a continuous-valued adversarial loss that encourages misclassification, e.g.,

Given a target image

for which the model correctly classifies as

, the attacker aims to solve the following optimization problem:

Here, is a measure of perceptible difference and is commonly approximated using the Euclidean norm or the max-norm , and is a perceptibility threshold. This optimization problem defines an untargeted attack, where the adversary’s goal is to cause misclassification. In contrast, for a targeted attack, the adversary is given some target label and defines the adversarial loss to encourage classification to the target label:


For the remainder of this paper, we will focus on the targeted attack setting but any approach can be readily augmented for untargeted attacks as well.

Optimization. White-box (targeted) attacks mainly differ in the choice of the adversarial loss functions and the optimization procedures. One of the earliest attacks (Szegedy et al., 2014) used L-BFGS to optimize the cross-entropy adversarial loss in Equation 1. Carlini and Wagner Carlini and Wagner (2017b) investigated the use of different adversarial loss functions and found that the margin loss


is more suitable for first-order optimization methods, where

is the logit vector predicted by the model and

is a chosen margin constant. This loss is optimized using Adam Kingma and Ba (2014), and the resulting method is known as the Carlini-Wagner (CW) attack. Another class of attacks favors the use of simple gradient descent using the sign of the gradient (Goodfellow et al., 2015; Kurakin et al., 2017; Madry et al., 2018), which results in improved transferability of the constructed adversarial examples from one classification model to another.

Enforcing perceptibility constraint. For common choices of the measures of perceptibility, the attacker can either fold the constraint as a Lagrangian penalty into the adversarial loss, or apply a projection step at the end of every iteration onto the feasible region. Since the Euclidean norm is differentiable, it is commonly enforced with the former option, i.e.,

for some choice of . On the other hand, the max-norm is often enforced by restricting every coordinate of the difference to the range after every gradient step. In addition, since all pixel values must fall within the range , most methods also project to the unit cube at the end of every iteration Carlini and Wagner (2017b); Madry et al. (2018). When using this option along with the cross entropy adversarial loss, the resulting algorithm is commonly referred to as the Projected Gradient Descent (PGD) attack111Some literature also refer to the iterative Fast Gradient Signed Method (FGSM) Goodfellow et al. (2015) as PGD Madry et al. (2018). Athalye et al. (2018).

3 Detection Methods and Their Insufficiency

One commonly accepted explanation for the existence of adversarial examples is that they operate outside the natural image manifold — regions of the space that the model had no exposure to during training time and hence its behavior can be manipulated arbitrarily. This view casts the problem of defending against adversarial examples as a robust classification or anomaly detection problem. The former aims to project the input back to the natural image manifold and recover its true label, whereas the latter only requires determining whether the input belongs to the manifold and reject it if not.

Detection methods. Many principled detection algorithms have been proposed to date Li and Li (2017); Metzen et al. (2017); Grosse et al. (2017); Meng and Chen (2017); Nitin Bhagoji et al. (2018); Xu et al. (2018); Ma et al. (2018). The most common approach involves testing the input against one or several criteria that are satisfied by natural images but are likely to fail for adversarially perturbed images. In what follows, we briefly describe two representative detection mechanisms.

Feature Squeezing (Xu et al., 2018) applies a semantic-preserving image transformation to the input and measures the difference in the model’s prediction compared to the plain input. Transformations such as median smoothing, bit quantization, and non-local mean do not alter the image content; hence the model is expected to output similar predictions after applying these transformations. The method then measures the maximum change in predicted probability after applying these transformations and flags the input as adversarial if this change is above a chosen threshold.

Artifacts (Feinman et al., 2017)

uses the empirical density of the input and the model uncertainty to characterize benign and adversarial images. The empirical density can be computed via kernel density estimation on the feature vector. For the uncertainty estimate, the method evaluates the network multiple times using different random dropout masks and computes the variance in the output. Under the Bayesian interpretation of dropout, this variance estimate encodes the model’s uncertainty 

Gal and Ghahramani (2016). Adversarial inputs are expected to have lower density and higher uncertainty than natural inputs. Thus, the method predicts the input as adversarial if these criteria are below or above a chosen threshold.

Detectors that use multiple criteria (such as Feature Squeezing and Artifacts) can combine these criteria into a single detection method by either declaring the input as adversarial if any criterion fails to be satisfied, or by training a classifier on top of them as features to classify the input. Other notable useful features for detecting adversarial images include convolutional features extracted from intermediate layers

Metzen et al. (2017); Li and Li (2017), distance to training samples in pixel space Grosse et al. (2017); Ma et al. (2018), and entropy of non-maximal class probabilities Pang et al. (2018).

Bypassing detection methods. While the approaches for detecting adversarial examples appear principled in nature, the difference in settings from traditional anomaly detection renders most techniques easy to bypass. In essence, a white-box adversary with knowledge of the features used for detection can optimize the adversarial input to mimic these features with gradient descent. Any non-differentiable component used in the detection algorithm, such as bit quantization and non-local mean, can be approximated with the identity transformation on the backward pass Athalye et al. (2018), and randomization can be circumvented by minimizing the expected adversarial loss via Monte Carlo sampling Athalye et al. (2018). These simple techniques have proven tremendously successful, bypassing almost all known detection methods to date (Carlini and Wagner, 2017a). Given enough gradient queries, adversarial examples can be optimized to appear even “more benign” than natural images.

4 Detection by Adversarial Perturbations

In this section we describe a novel approach to detect adversarial images that relies on two principled criteria regarding the distribution of adversarial perturbations around natural images. In contrast to the shortcomings of prior work, our approach is hard to fool through first-order optimization.

4.1 Criterion 1: Low density of adversarial perturbations

The features extracted by convolutional neural networks (CNNs) from natural images are known to be particularly robust to random input corruptions 

Szegedy et al. (2014); Guo et al. (2018); Xie et al. (2018). In other words, random perturbations applied to natural images should not lead to changes in the predicted label (i.e. an adversarial image). Our first criterion follows this intuition and tests if the given input is robust to Gaussian noise:

C1: Robustness to random noise. Sample (where

is a hyperparameter) and compute

. The input is rejected as adversarial if is sufficiently large.

Figure 1: Schematic illustration of the shape of adversarial regions near a natural image .

This style of reasoning has indeed been successfully applied to defend against black-box and gray-box222In gray-box attacks, the adversary has full access to the classifier but is agnostic to the defense mechanism. attacks Guo et al. (2018); Xie et al. (2018); Roth et al. (2019). Figure 1 shows a 2D cartoon depiction of the high dimensional decision boundary near a natural image . When the adversarial attack perturbs slightly across the decision boundary from A to an incorrect class B, the resulting adversarial image can be easily randomly perturbed to return to class A and will therefore fail criterion C1.

However, we emphasize that this criterion alone is insufficient against white-box adversaries and can be easily bypassed. In order to make the adversarial image also robust against Gaussian noise, the attacker can optimize the expected adversarial loss under this defense strategy Athalye et al. (2018) through Monte Carlo sampling of noise vectors during optimization. This effectively produces an adversarial image (see Figure 1) that is deep inside the decision boundary.

More precisely, for a natural image with correctly predicted label and target label , let be the predicted class-probability vector. Let us define to be identical to in every dimension, except for the correct class and the target , where the two probabilities are swapped. Consequently, dimension is the dominant prediction in . We redefine the adversarial loss of the (targeted) PGD attack to contain two terms:


where denotes the cross-entropy loss. For the first term, we deviate from standard attacks by targeting the probability vector instead of the one-hot vector corresponding to label . Optimizing against the one-hot vector would cause the adversarial example to over-saturate in probability, which artificially increases the difference and makes it easier to detect using criterion C1.

We evaluate this white-box attack against criterion C1 using a pre-trained ResNet-101 (He et al., 2016) model on ImageNet Deng et al. (2009) as the classification model. We sample 1,000 images from the ImageNet validation set and optimize the adversarial loss for each of them using Adam Kingma and Ba (2014) with learning rate 0.005 for a maximum of 400 steps to construct the adversarial images.

Figure 2 (left) shows the effect of the number of gradient iterations on when optimizing the adversarial loss . The center line shows median values of

across 1,000 sample images, and the error bars show the range of values between the 30th and 70th quantiles. When the attacker is agnostic to the detector (orange line), i.e., only optimizing

, does not decrease throughout optimization and can be used to perfectly separate adversarial and real images (gray line). However, in the white-box attack, the adversarial loss explicitly encourages to be small, and we observe that indeed the blue line shows a downward trend as the adversary proceeds through gradient iterations. As a result, the range of values for quickly begins to overlap with and fall below that of real images after 100 steps, which shows that criterion C1 alone cannot be used to detect adversarial examples.

Figure 2: The variation in under Gaussian perturbations (C1; left plot) and numbers of steps to the decision boundary (C2t; right plot) for adversarial images constructed using different numbers of gradient iterations. Gray-box attacks (orange) can be detected easily with criterion C1 alone (left plot, the orange line is significantly higher than the gray line). For white-box attacks (blue), C1 alone is not sufficient (the blue line overlaps with the gray line) — however C2 (right plot) separates the two lines reliably when C1 does not.

4.2 Criterion 2: Close proximity to decision boundary

The intuitive reason why the attack strategy described above in section 4.1 can successfully fool criterion C1 is that it effectively pushes the adversarial image far into the decision boundary of the target class (e.g. in Figure 1) — an unlikely position for a natural image, which tends to be close to adversarial decision boundaries. Indeed, Fawzi et al. Fawzi et al. (2018) and Shafahi et al. Shafahi et al. (2018)

have shown that adversarial examples are inevitable in high-dimensional spaces. Their theoretical arguments suggest that, due to the curse of dimensionality, a sample from the natural image distribution is close to the decision boundary of any classifier with high probability. Hence, we define a second criterion to test if an image is close to the decision boundary of an incorrect class:

C2(t/u): Susceptibility to adversarial noise. For a chosen first-order iterative attack algorithm , evaluate on the input and record the minimum number of steps required to adversarially perturb . The input is rejected as adversarial if is sufficiently large.

Criterion C2 can be further specialized to targeted attacks (C2t) and untargeted attacks (C2u), which measures the proximity (i.e. number of gradient steps) to either a chosen target class or to an arbitrary but different class. We denote these quantities as and , respectively. In this paper we choose in C2 to be the targeted/untargeted PGD attack, but our framework can plausibly generalize to any first-order attack algorithm. Figure 2 (right) shows the effect of optimizing the adversarial loss on . Again, the center line shows the median value of across 1,000 images and the error bars indicate the 30th and 70th quantiles. As expected, real images (gray line) require very few steps to reach the decision boundary of any random target class. When the adversary does not seek to bypass criterion C1 (orange line), the constructed adversarial images lie very close to the decision boundary and are indistinguishable from real images with C2 alone (however here C1 is already sufficient).

On the other hand, when the attacker minimizes to fool criterion C1, the adversarial image moves away from the decision boundary in order to be robust to random Gaussian noise. This results in an increase in the number of steps to reach the decision boundary of a random target class. At 400 steps, there is almost no overlap between the 30-70th quantiles of values of for real and adversarial images. This separation begins almost precisely as the value of for adversarial images (left plot) begins to overlap with that of natural images at 100 steps. Thus, C2t becomes an effective criterion to detect adversarial images that optimize against C1.

4.3 Detection strategy

The fact that natural images can simultaneously satisfy criteria C1 and C2 can be regarded as almost paradoxical: While the minimum distance from a natural input to the decision boundary of any incorrect class is small, the density of directions that can lead to a decision boundary within a short distance is also very low. We postulate that this behavior of natural images is difficult to imitate even for an adaptive, white-box adversary.

Our detection strategy using the two criteria can be summarized as follows. Given an input (which might be an adversarial example already), we compute and compare these quantities to chosen thresholds , corresponding to criteria C1, C2t, and C2u. We reject as an adversarial example if at least one of the three (sub-)criteria is not satisfied, i.e., if any measurement is larger than the corresponding threshold. Details on hyperparameter selection can be found in the Supplementary Material.

Best effort white-box adversary. Based on our proposed detection method, we define a white-box adversary that aims to cause misclassification while passing the detection criteria C1 and C2. Let be the adversarial loss for the defense-agnostic (targeted) attack (e.g. Equation 1). We define loss functions and as in Equation 3 following the same strategy used in section 4.1 to bypass C1. Since the criterion C2t is discrete, it is difficult to optimize directly. Instead, we encourage the constructed adversarial image to change prediction to any class after a single gradient step towards . As natural images require very few gradient steps to cross the decision boundary, the resulting adversarial image will appear real to criterion C2t. Let

denote the gradient of the cross-entropy loss w.r.t. 333We use to denote the adversarial loss of the algorithm in our detector and differentiate it from of the attacker.. The loss term to bypass C2t can be defined as

which encourages — the one-step move towards class at step size — to be close to or cross the decision boundary of class for every randomly chosen class . Similarly, to bypass criterion C2u, we simulate one gradient step at step size away from the target class (which the defender perceives as the predicted class) as . We then encourage this resulting image to be classified as not via the loss term:

Gradients for and can be approximated using Backward Pass Differentiable Approximation (BPDA) Athalye et al. (2018). As a result of optimizing and , the produced image will admit both a targeted and an untargeted “adversarial example” within one or few steps of the attack algorithm , therefore bypassing C2. Combining all the components, the modified adversarial loss for white-box attack against our detector becomes


The inclusion of additional loss terms hinders the optimality of and may cause the attack to fail to generate a valid adversarial example. Thus, we include the coefficient so that dominates the other loss terms and guarantees close to success rate in constructing adversarial examples to fool . We optimize the total loss using Adam Kingma and Ba (2014).

5 Experiments

We test our detection mechanism against the white-box attack defined in section 4.3 in several different settings, and release our code publicly for reproducibility444https://github.com/s-huu/TurningWeaknessIntoStrength.

5.1 Setup

Datasets and target models. We conduct our empirical studies on ImageNet Deng et al. (2009) and CIFAR-10 Krizhevsky (2009). We use the pre-trained ResNet-101 model He et al. (2016)

in PyTorch for ImageNet and train a VGG-19 model 

Simonyan and Zisserman (2015) with a dropout rate of Srivastava et al. (2014) for CIFAR-10 as target models. We additionally include detection results using an Inception-v3 model Szegedy et al. (2015) on ImageNet in the Supplementary Material.

Figure 3: A sample clean (left) and adversarial (right) image at perceptibility threshold of .

Attack algorithms. We evaluate our detection method against the white-box adversary defined in section 4.3. Since the adversary may vary in the choice of the surrogate loss (cf. in Equation 3), we experiment using both targeted and untargeted variants of two representative loss functions: the margin loss defined in the Carlini-Wagner (CW) attack Carlini and Wagner (2017b) (see Equation 2), and the cross-entropy loss used in the Projected Gradient Descent (PGD) attack Athalye et al. (2018). The -bound for all attacks is set to , which is very strong and often produces images with noticeable visual distortion. See Figure 3 for an illustration.

All attacks optimize the adversarial loss using Adam Kingma and Ba (2014). We set (cf. Equation 4) for ImageNet and for CIFAR-10 to guarantee close to attack success rate. We found that changing the maximum number of iterations has little effect on the attack’s ability to bypass our detector, and thus we fix to a reasonable value of 50 steps for ImageNet (which is sufficient to guarantee convergence; see Figure 4) and 200 steps for CIFAR-10. The learning rate has a more noticeable effect and we evaluate our detector against different chosen values. See the Supplementary Material for detection results against variants of these attacks, including untargeted attacks and .

Baselines. We compare our detector against two similar strategies: Feature Squeezing Xu et al. (2018) and Artifacts (Feinman et al., 2017). These detection algorithms are the most similar in nature to ours — using a combination of different criteria as features for the detector. We modify the Artifacts defense slightly to use the density and uncertainty estimates directly by thresholding rather than training a classifier on top of these features, which has been shown in prior work Carlini and Wagner (2017a) to remain effective against adversaries that are agnostic to the defense. With a false positive rates (FPR) of 0.1, Feature Squeezing attains a detection rate of 0.737 on ImageNet and 0.892 on CIFAR-10, while Artifacts attains a detection rate of 0.587 on CIFAR-10.

We adopt the same strategy as in section 4.3 to formulate white-box attacks against these detectors, adding a term in the adversarial loss for each criterion and using Backward Pass Differentiable Approximation (BPDA) to compute the gradient of non-differentiable transformations Athalye et al. (2018). Details on these modifications can be found in the Supplementary Material.

Detector FPR PGD CW
Feature Squeezing 0.2 0.003 0.000
Feature Squeezing 0.1 0.002 0.000
LR=0.01 LR=0.03 LR=0.1 LR=0.01 LR=0.03 LR=0.1
C1 0.2 0.585 0.132 0.066 0.682 0.103 0.068
C2t 0.2 0.205 0.649 0.724 0.436 0.800 0.882
C2u 0.2 0.001 0.001 0.002 0.154 0.042 0.039
Combined 0.2 0.494 0.490 0.612 0.688 0.718 0.809
C1 0.1 0.320 0.043 0.013 0.486 0.044 0.021
C2t 0.1 0.120 0.483 0.616 0.287 0.709 0.806
C2u 0.1 0.000 0.000 0.000 0.062 0.010 0.003
Combined 0.1 0.269 0.264 0.378 0.512 0.482 0.601
Table 1: Detection rates for different detection algorithms against white-box adversaries on ImageNet. Worst-case performance against all evaluated attacks is underlined for each detector.

5.2 Detection results

ImageNet results. Table 1 shows the detection rate of our method against various adversaries on ImageNet. We evaluate our detector under two different settings, resulting in FPR of 0.1 and 0.2. Entries in the table correspond to the detection rate (or true positive rate) when the white-box adversary defined in section 4.3 is applied to attack the model along with the detector.

Under all six attack settings (PGD vs. CW, LR = ), our detector performs substantially better than random, achieving a worst-case detection rate of 0.49 at FPR = 0.2 and 0.264 at FPR = 0.1 on ImageNet. This result is a considerable improvement over similar detection methods such as Feature Squeezing, where the detection rate is close to 0, i.e. the adversarial images appear “more real” than natural images. We emphasize that given the strong adversary that we evaluate against (), these detection rates are very difficult to attain against white-box attacks.

Ablation study. We further decompose the components of our detector to demonstrate the trade-offs the adversary must make when attacking our detector. When using different learning rates, the adversary switches between attempting to fool criteria C1 and C2. For example, at LR = 0.01, the PGD adversary can be detected using criterion C1 substantially better than using criterion C2t due to under-optimization of the value . On the other hand, at LR = 0.1, the adversary succeeds in bypassing criterion C1 at the cost of failing C2t. The criterion C2u does not appear to be effective here as it consistently achieves a detection rate of close to 0. However, it is a crucial component of our method against untargeted attacks (see Supplementary Material). Overall, our combined detector achieves the best worst-case detection rate across all attack scenarios.

Detector FPR PGD CW
Feature Squeezing 0.2 0.074 0.096
Feature Squeezing 0.1 0.008 0.021
Artifacts 0.2 0.108 0.018
Artifacts 0.1 0.090 0.009
LR=0.001 LR=0.01 LR=0.1 LR=0.001 LR=0.01 LR=0.1
C1 0.2 1.000 0.991 0.792 0.422 0.033 0.012
C2t 0.2 0.024 0.050 0.346 0.098 0.786 0.971
C2u 0.2 0.000 0.000 0.000 0.000 0.000 0.000
Combined 0.2 0.998 0.984 0.660 0.374 0.481 0.740
C1 0.1 0.986 0.953 0.207 0.283 0.016 0.007
C2t 0.1 0.010 0.015 0.180 0.026 0.581 0.858
C2u 0.1 0.000 0.000 0.000 0.000 0.000 0.000
Combined 0.1 0.966 0.909 0.187 0.263 0.356 0.568
Table 2: Detection rates for different detection algorithms against white-box adversaries on CIFAR-10. Worst-case performance against all evaluated attacks is underlined for each detector.

CIFAR-10 results. The detection rates for our method are slightly worse on CIFAR-10 (Table 2) but still outperforming the Feature Squeezing and Artifacts baselines, which are close to 0 in the worst case. For this dataset, criterion C2u becomes ineffective due to the over-saturation of predicted probabilities for clean images, causing untargeted perturbation to take excessively many steps.

Furthermore, the CIFAR-10 dataset violates both of our hypotheses regarding the distribution of adversarial perturbations near a natural image. Models trained on CIFAR-10 are much less robust to random Gaussian noise due to lack of data augmentation and poor diversity of training samples — the VGG-19 model could only tolerate a Gaussian noise of as opposed to for ResNet-101 on ImageNet. Furthermore, CIFAR-10 is much lower-dimensional than ImageNet, hence natural images are comparatively farther from the decision boundary Fawzi et al. (2018); Shafahi et al. (2018). Given this observation, we suggest that our detector be used only in situations where these two assumptions can be satisfied.

Detector FPR
Feature Squeezing 0.05 0.669 0.304 0.572 0.014
Feature Squeezing 0.1 0.758 0.336 0.672 0.020
Ours: Combined 0.05 0.976 0.981 0.896 0.570
Ours: Combined 0.1 0.990 0.989 0.915 0.678
Table 3: Detection rates for variations of the gray-box adversary on ImageNet. Worst-case performance against all evaluated attacks is underlined for each detector.

Gray-box detection results. Despite the fact that our detection mechanism is formulated against white-box adversaries, we evaluated against a gray-box adversary with knowledge of the underlying model but not of the detector for completeness.

Table 3 shows detection rates for gray-box attacks at FPR of 0.05 and 0.1 on ImageNet. At perceptibility bound , the combined detector is very successful at detecting the generated adversarial images, achieving a detection rate of at FPR. In comparison, Feature Squeezing could only achieve a detection rate of against the CW attack. Against the much stronger adversary at , both detectors perform significantly worse, but our combined detector still achieves a non-trivial detection rate.

Figure 4: Plot of different components of the adversarial loss . See text for details.

5.3 Adversarial loss curves

To further substantiate our claim that the criteria C1 and C2t/u are mutually exclusive, we plot the value of different components of the adversarial loss throughout optimization for the white-box attack on ImageNet. The center lines in Figure 4 show the average loss for each

over 1000 images and the shaded areas indicate standard deviation. Since the primary goal is to cause misclassification, the term

(blue line) shows steady descending trend throughout optimization and its value has stabilized after 50 iterations. (orange line) begins at a low value due to the initialization being a natural image (and hence it is robust against Gaussian noise), and after 50 iterations it returns back to the initial level, which shows that the adversary is successful at bypassing criterion C1. However, this success comes at the cost of (red line) failing to reduce to a sufficiently low level due to inherent conflict with (and ), hence criterion C2t can be used to detect the resulting adversarial image.

ImageNet C1 0.074s 0.091s 0.107s
C2t 0.403s 1.057s 3.46s
C2u 4.512s 0.138s 0.241s
CIFAR-10 C1 0.011s 0.013s 0.012s
C2t 0.379s 0.128s 0.27s
C2u 5.230s 0.055s 9.631s
Table 4: Running time of different components of our detection algorithm on ImageNet and CIFAR-10. See text for details.

5.4 Detection times

One drawback of our method is its (relatively) high computation cost. Criteria C2t/u require executing a gradient-based attack until either label change or for a specified number of steps. To limit the number of false positives, the upper threshold on the number of gradient steps must be sufficiently high, dominating the running time of the detection algorithm. Table shows the average per-image detection time for both real and (targeted) adversarial images on ImageNet and CIFAR-10. On both datasets, the average detection time for real images is approximately 5 seconds and is largely due to a large threshold for C2u. The situation is similar for adversarial images: Since the CW attack optimizes the margin loss, taking the adversarial images much farther into the decision boundary, it takes much longer (many more steps to undo via C2t/u) to detect it.

6 Conclusion

We have shown that our detection method achieves substantially improved resistance to white-box adversaries compared to prior work. In contrast to other detection algorithms that combine multiple criteria, the criteria used in our method are mutually exclusive — optimizing one will negatively affect the other — yet are inherently true for natural images. While we do not suggest that our method is impervious to white-box attacks, it does present a significant hurdle to overcome and raises the bar for any potential adversary.

There are, however, some limitations to our method. The running time of our detector is dominated by testing criterion C2, which involves running an iterative gradient-based attack algorithm. The high computation cost could prohibit the suitability of our detector for deployment. Furthermore, it is fair to say that the false positive rate remains relatively high due to a large variance in the statistics , and for the different criteria, hence a threshold-based test cannot completely separate real and adversarial inputs. Future research that improve in either front can certainly ameliorate the performance of our method to be more practical in real world systems.


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Appendix A Additional Experiments

a.1 Detection rates on Inception network

Table 5 shows detection rates on ImageNet using a Inception-v3 model Szegedy et al. (2015) by criteria C1, C2t, and C2u individually and jointly. We observe an almost identical trend as using ResNet-101 as the target model (Table 1 in main paper): the adversary cannot simultaneously fool both criteria C1 and C2t. Detection rates by Feature Squeezing are slightly higher than those for ResNet-101 but remain close to 0 and are substantially worse than those by our combined detector.

Detector FPR PGD CW
Feature Squeezing 0.2 0.068 0.031
Feature Squeezing 0.1 0.062 0.013
LR=0.01 LR=0.03 LR=0.1 LR=0.01 LR=0.03 LR=0.1
C1 0.2 0.858 0.712 0.628 0.803 0.483 0.362
C2t 0.2 0.173 0.411 0.424 0.449 0.585 0.543
C2u 0.2 0.004 0.013 0.003 0.346 0.225 0.067
Combined 0.2 0.762 0.546 0.468 0.788 0.527 0.479
C1 0.1 0.648 0.36 0.258 0.688 0.29 0.142
C2t 0.1 0.043 0.157 0.18 0.231 0.322 0.321
C2u 0.1 0.001 0.006 0.003 0.255 0.114 0.056
Combined 0.1 0.516 0.257 0.203 0.635 0.281 0.199
Table 5: Detection rates for different detection algorithms against white-box adversaries on ImageNet with Inception-v3 target model. Worst-case performance against all evaluated attacks is underlined for each detector.

a.2 Variations of the white-box attack

We further analyze our detection method in three different attack scenarios: Using a smaller perceptibility threshold , attacking criterion C1 only, and performing untargeted attack. The second variation is of interest since the losses and are in direct conflict with (and ), possibly hindering optimization.

Table 6 shows detection rates for the combined detector using criteria C1 and C2 against these attack variations on ResNet-101. First, as expected, we see that the small radius attack ( at the top two rows) is substantially easier to detect than the one with . When evaluated against the attack that only targets C1 (middle two rows) and against untargeted attack (last two rows), our method remains effective and the worst-case detection rate is higher than that for the targeted attack in section 5.2. These experimental observations suggest that the white-box adversary we evaluate against in section 5.2 could be the optimal first-order attack algorithm against our detector and confirms that our evaluation protocol is sound.

Detector FPR PGD CW
LR=0.01 LR=0.03 LR=0.1 LR=0.01 LR=0.03 LR=0.1
Small radius () 0.2 0.715 0.674 0.571 0.934 0.86 0.713
Small radius () 0.1 0.583 0.522 0.418 0.894 0.753 0.500
0.2 0.695 0.765 0.800 0.738 0.604 0.512
0.1 0.527 0.572 0.632 0.58 0.353 0.304
Untargeted Attack 0.2 0.994 0.997 0.997 0.538 0.567 0.576
Untargeted Attack 0.1 0.987 0.995 0.995 0.395 0.342 0.378
Table 6: Detection rates for variations of the white-box adversary. Worst-case performance against all evaluated attacks is underlined for each detector.

Appendix B Implementation Details

b.1 Hyperparameter settings for detector

Our detection algorithm requires the following hyperparameters:

Criterion 1.

We set the variance parameter such that predictions on real images are minimally affected after random perturbation. This quantity is set to on ImageNet and on CIFAR-10.

Criterion 2.

Hyperparameters for criterion C2t (number of steps to a chosen target class) consist of all hyperparameters in the attack algorithm , including step size, maximum number of steps, and perceptibility threshold . On ImageNet, we chose a step size of 0.005, allow a maximum of 200 steps, and set . This setting guarantees that most real images will be successfully perturbed to cross the decision boundary. The hyperparameters for C2u are different due to over-saturation of predicted probabilities. Thus, we chose a step size of 0.2 and allow a maximum of 1,000 steps. The perceptibility threshold remains at . Hyperparameters for Inception-v3 and for VGG-19 on CIFAR-10 are set similarly but are adapted to the particular model and dataset.

b.2 Details for white-box attack against baselines

In this section we give details for the white-box attack used against Feature Squeezing and Artifacts.

Feature Squeezing applies three different transformations — median smoothing, bit quantization, and non-local mean — to the input and measures the distance in predicted probability before and after transformation. We modify the white-box attack to bypass this defense as follows. Let denote the three transformations. The modified (PGD) adversarial loss is defined as

Gradients of non-differentiable transformations, namely bit quantization and non-local mean, are approximated using BPDA Athalye et al. (2018).

Artifacts uses empirical measures of density in feature space and model uncertainty estimated using dropout to characterize adversarial examples. To bypass this defense, we can alter the adversarial loss to maximize density and minimize uncertainty while causing misclassification.

Density is computed via kernel density estimation in feature space with a Gaussian kernel. This quantity, say , is differentiable and can be directly optimized via gradient descent. On the other hand, minimizing uncertainty can be achieved by computing the empirical variance via Monte Carlo sampling. More specifically, let be the classification model with dropout mask , where is the number of model parameters. Each iteration, we sample dropout masks and compute for . Let and be the empirical mean and variance of the sample of probability vectors . We can then minimize the trace of to reduce variance.

The complete adversarial loss is given by