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Why do universal adversarial attacks work on large language models?: Geometry might be the answer
Varshini Subhash · Anna Bialas · Siddharth Swaroop · Weiwei Pan · Finale Doshi-Velez
Event URL: https://openreview.net/forum?id=d3LYgvc5da »

Transformer based large language models with emergent capabilities are becoming increasingly ubiquitous in society. However, the task of understanding and interpreting their internal workings, in the context of adversarial attacks, remains largely unsolved. Gradient-based universal adversarial attacks have been shown to be highly effective on large language models and potentially dangerous due to their input-agnostic nature. This work presents a novel geometric perspective explaining universal adversarial attacks on large language models. By attacking the 117M parameter GPT-2 model, we find evidence indicating that universal adversarial triggers could be embedding vectors which merely approximate the semantic information in their adversarial training region. This hypothesis is supported by white-box model analysis comprising dimensionality reduction and similarity measurement of hidden representations. We believe this new geometric perspective on the underlying mechanism driving universal attacks could help us gain deeper insight into the internal workings and failure modes of LLMs, thus enabling their mitigation.

Author Information

Varshini Subhash (Harvard University)
Anna Bialas (Harvard University)
Siddharth Swaroop (Harvard University)
Weiwei Pan (Harvard University)
Finale Doshi-Velez (Harvard University)
Finale Doshi-Velez

Finale Doshi-Velez is a Gordon McKay Professor in Computer Science at the Harvard Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. She completed her MSc from the University of Cambridge as a Marshall Scholar, her PhD from MIT, and her postdoc at Harvard Medical School. Her interests lie at the intersection of machine learning, healthcare, and interpretability. Selected Additional Shinies: BECA recipient, AFOSR YIP and NSF CAREER recipient; Sloan Fellow; IEEE AI Top 10 to Watch

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