Model Poisoning Attacks in Federated Learning

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 agents 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.
  • Arjun Nitin Bhagoji (IBM US)
  • Supriyo Chakraborty (IBM US)
  • Prateek Mittal
  • Seraphin Calo (IBM US)
Date Dec-2018
Venue Neural Information Processing Systems (NeurIPS) 2018