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Yiwei Lu, Matthew Y. R. Yang, Gautam Kamath, Yaoliang Yu

Machine learning models have achieved great success in supervised learning tasks for end-to-end training, which requires a large amount of labeled data that is not always feasible. Recently, many practitioners have shifted to self-supervised learning methods that utilize cheap unlabeled data to learn a general feature extractor via pre-training, which can be further applied to personalized downstream tasks by simply training an additional linear layer with limited labeled data. However, such a process may also raise concerns regarding data poisoning attacks. For instance, indiscriminate data poisoning attacks, which aim to decrease model utility by injecting a small number of poisoned data into the training set, pose a security risk to machine learning models, but have only been studied for end-to-end supervised learning. In this paper, we extend the exploration of the threat of indiscriminate attacks on downstream tasks that apply pre-trained feature extractors. Specifically, we propose two types of attacks: (1) the input space attacks, where we modify existing attacks to directly craft poisoned data in the input space. However, due to the difficulty of optimization under constraints, we further propose (2) the feature targeted attacks, where we mitigate the challenge with three stages, firstly acquiring target parameters for the linear head; secondly finding poisoned features by treating the learned feature representations as a dataset; and thirdly inverting the poisoned features back to the input space. Our experiments examine such attacks in popular downstream tasks of fine-tuning on the same dataset and transfer learning that considers domain adaptation. Empirical results reveal that transfer learning is more vulnerable to our attacks. Additionally, input space attacks are a strong threat if no countermeasures are posed, but are otherwise weaker than feature targeted attacks.

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Mark Bun, Gautam Kamath, Argyris Mouzakis, Vikrant Singhal

We give an example of a class of distributions that is learnable in total variation distance with a finite number of samples, but not learnable under $(\varepsilon, \delta)$-differential privacy. This refutes a conjecture of Ashtiani.

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Shai Ben-David, Alex Bie, Clément L. Canonne, Gautam Kamath, Vikrant Singhal

We study the problem of private distribution learning with access to public data. In this setup, which we refer to as public-private learning, the learner is given public and private samples drawn from an unknown distribution $p$ belonging to a class $\mathcal Q$, with the goal of outputting an estimate of $p$ while adhering to privacy constraints (here, pure differential privacy) only with respect to the private samples. We show that the public-private learnability of a class $\mathcal Q$ is connected to the existence of a sample compression scheme for $\mathcal Q$, as well as to an intermediate notion we refer to as list learning. Leveraging this connection: (1) approximately recovers previous results on Gaussians over $\mathbb R^d$; and (2) leads to new ones, including sample complexity upper bounds for arbitrary $k$-mixtures of Gaussians over $\mathbb R^d$, results for agnostic and distribution-shift resistant learners, as well as closure properties for public-private learnability under taking mixtures and products of distributions. Finally, via the connection to list learning, we show that for Gaussians in $\mathbb R^d$, at least $d$ public samples are necessary for private learnability, which is close to the known upper bound of $d+1$ public samples.

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Yiwei Lu, Gautam Kamath, Yaoliang Yu

Indiscriminate data poisoning attacks aim to decrease a model's test accuracy by injecting a small amount of corrupted training data. Despite significant interest, existing attacks remain relatively ineffective against modern machine learning (ML) architectures. In this work, we introduce the notion of model poisonability as a technical tool to explore the intrinsic limits of data poisoning attacks. We derive an easily computable threshold to establish and quantify a surprising phase transition phenomenon among popular ML models: data poisoning attacks become effective only when the poisoning ratio exceeds our threshold. Building on existing parameter corruption attacks and refining the Gradient Canceling attack, we perform extensive experiments to confirm our theoretical findings, test the predictability of our transition threshold, and significantly improve existing data poisoning baselines over a range of datasets and models. Our work highlights the critical role played by the poisoning ratio, and sheds new insights on existing empirical results, attacks and mitigation strategies in data poisoning.

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Xin Gu, Gautam Kamath, Zhiwei Steven Wu

Differentially private stochastic gradient descent privatizes model training by injecting noise into each iteration, where the noise magnitude increases with the number of model parameters. Recent works suggest that we can reduce the noise by leveraging public data for private machine learning, by projecting gradients onto a subspace prescribed by the public data. However, given a choice of public datasets, it is not a priori clear which one may be most appropriate for the private task. We give an algorithm for selecting a public dataset by measuring a low-dimensional subspace distance between gradients of the public and private examples. We provide theoretical analysis demonstrating that the excess risk scales with this subspace distance. This distance is easy to compute and robust to modifications in the setting. Empirical evaluation shows that trained model accuracy is monotone in this distance.

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Alex Bie, Gautam Kamath, Guojun Zhang

We show that the canonical approach for training differentially private GANs -- updating the discriminator with differentially private stochastic gradient descent (DPSGD) -- can yield significantly improved results after modifications to training. Existing instantiations of this approach neglect to consider how adding noise only to discriminator updates disrupts the careful balance between the generator and discriminator necessary for successful GAN training. We show that a simple fix -- taking more discriminator steps between generator steps -- restores parity and improves results. Additionally, with the goal of restoring parity between the generator and discriminator, we experiment with other modifications to improve discriminator training and see further improvements in generation quality. Our results demonstrate that on standard benchmarks, DPSGD outperforms all alternative GAN privatization schemes.

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Gautam Kamath, Argyris Mouzakis, Matthew Regehr, Vikrant Singhal, Thomas Steinke, Jonathan Ullman

The canonical algorithm for differentially private mean estimation is to first clip the samples to a bounded range and then add noise to their empirical mean. Clipping controls the sensitivity and, hence, the variance of the noise that we add for privacy. But clipping also introduces statistical bias. We prove that this tradeoff is inherent: no algorithm can simultaneously have low bias, low variance, and low privacy loss for arbitrary distributions. On the positive side, we show that unbiased mean estimation is possible under approximate differential privacy if we assume that the distribution is symmetric. Furthermore, we show that, even if we assume that the data is sampled from a Gaussian, unbiased mean estimation is impossible under pure or concentrated differential privacy.

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Jimmy Z. Di, Jack Douglas, Jayadev Acharya, Gautam Kamath, Ayush Sekhari

We introduce camouflaged data poisoning attacks, a new attack vector that arises in the context of machine unlearning and other settings when model retraining may be induced. An adversary first adds a few carefully crafted points to the training dataset such that the impact on the model's predictions is minimal. The adversary subsequently triggers a request to remove a subset of the introduced points at which point the attack is unleashed and the model's predictions are negatively affected. In particular, we consider clean-label targeted attacks (in which the goal is to cause the model to misclassify a specific test point) on datasets including CIFAR-10, Imagenette, and Imagewoof. This attack is realized by constructing camouflage datapoints that mask the effect of a poisoned dataset.

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