Policy Smoothing for Provably Robust Reinforcement LearningDownload PDF

Published: 28 Jan 2022, Last Modified: 22 Oct 2023ICLR 2022 PosterReaders: Everyone
Keywords: Reinforcement Learning, Provable Adversarial Robustness, Randomized Smoothing
Abstract: The study of provable adversarial robustness for deep neural networks (DNNs) has mainly focused on $\textit{static}$ supervised learning tasks such as image classification. However, DNNs have been used extensively in real-world $\textit{adaptive}$ tasks such as reinforcement learning (RL), making such systems vulnerable to adversarial attacks as well. Prior works in provable robustness in RL seek to certify the behaviour of the victim policy at every time-step against a non-adaptive adversary using methods developed for the static setting. But in the real world, an RL adversary can infer the defense strategy used by the victim agent by observing the states, actions, etc. from previous time-steps and adapt itself to produce stronger attacks in future steps (e.g., by focusing more on states critical to the agent's performance). We present an efficient procedure, designed specifically to defend against an adaptive RL adversary, that can directly certify the total reward without requiring the policy to be robust at each time-step. Focusing on randomized smoothing based defenses, our main theoretical contribution is to prove an $\textit{adaptive version}$ of the Neyman-Pearson Lemma -- a key lemma for smoothing-based certificates -- where the adversarial perturbation at a particular time can be a stochastic function of current and previous observations and states as well as previous actions. Building on this result, we propose $\textit{policy smoothing}$ where the agent adds a Gaussian noise to its observation at each time-step before passing it through the policy function. Our robustness certificates guarantee that the final total reward obtained by policy smoothing remains above a certain threshold, even though the actions at intermediate time-steps may change under the attack. We show that our certificates are $\textit{tight}$ by constructing a worst-case scenario that achieves the bounds derived in our analysis. Our experiments on various environments like Cartpole, Pong, Freeway and Mountain Car show that our method can yield meaningful robustness guarantees in practice.
One-sentence Summary: A provable adversarial robustness technique for reinforcement learning.
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