The Hammer and the Nut: Is Bilevel Optimization Really Needed to Poison Linear Classifiers?

03/23/2021 ∙ by Antonio Emanuele Cinà, et al. ∙ 7

One of the most concerning threats for modern AI systems is data poisoning, where the attacker injects maliciously crafted training data to corrupt the system's behavior at test time. Availability poisoning is a particularly worrisome subset of poisoning attacks where the attacker aims to cause a Denial-of-Service (DoS) attack. However, the state-of-the-art algorithms are computationally expensive because they try to solve a complex bi-level optimization problem (the "hammer"). We observed that in particular conditions, namely, where the target model is linear (the "nut"), the usage of computationally costly procedures can be avoided. We propose a counter-intuitive but efficient heuristic that allows contaminating the training set such that the target system's performance is highly compromised. We further suggest a re-parameterization trick to decrease the number of variables to be optimized. Finally, we demonstrate that, under the considered settings, our framework achieves comparable, or even better, performances in terms of the attacker's objective while being significantly more computationally efficient.

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