- Abstract: Federated learning distributes model training among a multitude of agents, who, guided by privacy concerns, perform training using their local data but share only model parameter updates, for iterative aggregation at the server. In this work, we explore the threat of model poisoning attacks on federated learning initiated by a single, non-colluding malicious agent where the adversarial objective is to cause the model to misclassify a set of chosen inputs with high confidence. We explore a number of strategies to carry out this attack, starting with simple boosting of the malicious agent's update to overcome the effects of other agents' updates. To increase attack stealth, we propose an alternating minimization strategy, which alternately optimizes for the training loss and the adversarial objective. We follow up by using parameter estimation for the benign agents' updates to improve on attack success. Finally, we use a suite of interpretability techniques to generate visual explanations of model decisions for both benign and malicious models and show that the explanations are nearly visually indistinguishable. Our results indicate that even a highly constrained adversary can carry out model poisoning attacks while simultaneously maintaining stealth, thus highlighting the vulnerability of the federated learning setting and the need to develop effective defense strategies.
- Keywords: federated learning, model poisoning
- TL;DR: Effective model poisoning attacks on federated learning able to cause high-confidence targeted misclassification of desired inputs