Improving Robustness of Graph Neural Networks with Heterophily-Inspired Designs

by   Jiong Zhu, et al.

Recent studies have exposed that many graph neural networks (GNNs) are sensitive to adversarial attacks, and can suffer from performance loss if the graph structure is intentionally perturbed. A different line of research has shown that many GNN architectures implicitly assume that the underlying graph displays homophily, i.e., connected nodes are more likely to have similar features and class labels, and perform poorly if this assumption is not fulfilled. In this work, we formalize the relation between these two seemingly different issues. We theoretically show that in the standard scenario in which node features exhibit homophily, impactful structural attacks always lead to increased levels of heterophily. Then, inspired by GNN architectures that target heterophily, we present two designs – (i) separate aggregators for ego- and neighbor-embeddings, and (ii) a reduced scope of aggregation – that can significantly improve the robustness of GNNs. Our extensive empirical evaluations show that GNNs featuring merely these two designs can achieve significantly improved robustness compared to the best-performing unvaccinated model with 24.99 having smaller computational overhead than existing defense mechanisms. Furthermore, these designs can be readily combined with explicit defense mechanisms to yield state-of-the-art robustness with up to 18.33 performance under attacks compared to the best-performing vaccinated model.


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