Poisoning Attacks and Subpopulation Susceptibility


Machine learning is susceptible to poisoning attacks, in which an attacker controls a small fraction of the training data and chooses that data with the goal of inducing some behavior unintended by the model developer in the trained model. We consider a realistic setting in which the adversary with the ability to insert a limited number of data points attempts to control the model’s behavior on a specific subpopulation. Inspired by previous observations on disparate effectiveness of random label-flipping attacks on different subpopulations, we investigate the properties that can impact the effectiveness of state-of-the-art poisoning attacks against different subpopulations. For a family of 2-dimensional synthetic datasets, we empirically find that dataset separability plays a dominant role in subpopulation vulnerability for less separable datasets. However, well-separated datasets exhibit more dependence on individual subpopulation properties. We further discover that a crucial subpopulation property is captured by the difference in loss on the clean dataset between the clean model and a target model that misclassifies the subpopulation, and a subpopulation is much easier to attack if the loss difference is small. This property also generalizes to high-dimensional benchmark datasets. For the Adult benchmark dataset, we show that we can find semantically-meaningful subpopulation properties that are related to the susceptibilities of a selected group of subpopulations. The results in this paper are accompanied by a fully interactive web-based visualization of subpopulation poisoning attacks found at https://uvasrg.github.io/visualizing-poisoning/.

In The Workshop on Visualization for AI Explainability , 2022
Fnu Suya
Fnu Suya
MC2 Postdoctoral Fellow

My research interests include machine learning for security and trustworthy machine learning.