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Understanding Backdoor Attacks through the Adaptability Hypothesis

Xun Xian · Ganghua Wang · Jayanth Srinivasa · Ashish Kundu · Xuan Bi · Mingyi Hong · Jie Ding

Exhibit Hall 1 #527
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A poisoning backdoor attack is a rising security concern for deep learning. This type of attack can result in the backdoored model functioning normally most of the time but exhibiting abnormal behavior when presented with inputs containing the backdoor trigger, making it difficult to detect and prevent. In this work, we propose the adaptability hypothesis to understand when and why a backdoor attack works for general learning models, including deep neural networks, based on the theoretical investigation of classical kernel-based learning models. The adaptability hypothesis postulates that for an effective attack, the effect of incorporating a new dataset on the predictions of the original data points will be small, provided that the original data points are distant from the new dataset. Experiments on benchmark image datasets and state-of-the-art backdoor attacks for deep neural networks are conducted to corroborate the hypothesis. Our finding provides insight into the factors that affect the attack's effectiveness and has implications for the design of future attacks and defenses.

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