The Dark Side of AutoML: Towards Architectural Backdoor SearchDownload PDF

Published: 01 Feb 2023, Last Modified: 28 Feb 2023ICLR 2023 posterReaders: Everyone
Keywords: backdoor attack and defense, neural architecture search
TL;DR: This paper presents EVAS, a new attack to leverage NAS to find neural architectures with exploitable backdoor vulnerability.
Abstract: This paper asks the intriguing question: is it possible to exploit neural architecture search (NAS) as a new attack vector to launch previously improbable attacks? Specifically, we present EVAS, a new attack that leverages NAS to find neural architectures with inherent backdoors and exploits such vulnerability using input-aware triggers. Compared with existing attacks, EVAS demonstrates many interesting properties: (i) it does not require polluting training data or perturbing model parameters; (ii) it is agnostic to downstream fine-tuning or even re-training from scratch; (iii) it naturally evades defenses that rely on inspecting model parameters or training data. With extensive evaluation on benchmark datasets, we show that EVAS features high evasiveness, transferability, and robustness, thereby expanding the adversary's design spectrum. We further characterize the mechanisms underlying EVAS, which are possibly explainable by architecture-level ``shortcuts'' that recognize trigger patterns. This work showcases that NAS can be exploited in a harmful way to find architectures with inherent backdoor vulnerability. The code is available at
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