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Eric Lei, Arman Adibi, Hamed Hassani

Discrete optimization problems often arise in deep learning tasks, despite the fact that neural networks typically operate on continuous data. One class of these problems involve objective functions which depend on neural networks, but optimization variables which are discrete. Although the discrete optimization literature provides efficient algorithms, they are still impractical in these settings due to the high cost of an objective function evaluation, which involves a neural network forward-pass. In particular, they require $O(n)$ complexity per iteration, but real data such as point clouds have values of $n$ in thousands or more. In this paper, we investigate a score-based approximation framework to solve such problems. This framework uses a score function as a proxy for the marginal gain of the objective, leveraging embeddings of the discrete variables and speed of auto-differentiation frameworks to compute backward-passes in parallel. We experimentally demonstrate, in adversarial set classification tasks, that our method achieves a superior trade-off in terms of speed and solution quality compared to heuristic methods.

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Patrick Chao, Alexander Robey, Edgar Dobriban, Hamed Hassani, George J. Pappas, Eric Wong

There is growing interest in ensuring that large language models (LLMs) align with human values. However, the alignment of such models is vulnerable to adversarial jailbreaks, which coax LLMs into overriding their safety guardrails. The identification of these vulnerabilities is therefore instrumental in understanding inherent weaknesses and preventing future misuse. To this end, we propose Prompt Automatic Iterative Refinement (PAIR), an algorithm that generates semantic jailbreaks with only black-box access to an LLM. PAIR -- which is inspired by social engineering attacks -- uses an attacker LLM to automatically generate jailbreaks for a separate targeted LLM without human intervention. In this way, the attacker LLM iteratively queries the target LLM to update and refine a candidate jailbreak. Empirically, PAIR often requires fewer than twenty queries to produce a jailbreak, which is orders of magnitude more efficient than existing algorithms. PAIR also achieves competitive jailbreaking success rates and transferability on open and closed-source LLMs, including GPT-3.5/4, Vicuna, and PaLM-2.

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Alexander Robey, Eric Wong, Hamed Hassani, George J. Pappas

Despite efforts to align large language models (LLMs) with human values, widely-used LLMs such as GPT, Llama, Claude, and PaLM are susceptible to jailbreaking attacks, wherein an adversary fools a targeted LLM into generating objectionable content. To address this vulnerability, we propose SmoothLLM, the first algorithm designed to mitigate jailbreaking attacks on LLMs. Based on our finding that adversarially-generated prompts are brittle to character-level changes, our defense first randomly perturbs multiple copies of a given input prompt, and then aggregates the corresponding predictions to detect adversarial inputs. SmoothLLM reduces the attack success rate on numerous popular LLMs to below one percentage point, avoids unnecessary conservatism, and admits provable guarantees on attack mitigation. Moreover, our defense uses exponentially fewer queries than existing attacks and is compatible with any LLM.

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Behrad Moniri, Donghwan Lee, Hamed Hassani, Edgar Dobriban

Feature learning is thought to be one of the fundamental reasons for the success of deep neural networks. It is rigorously known that in two-layer fully-connected neural networks under certain conditions, one step of gradient descent on the first layer followed by ridge regression on the second layer can lead to feature learning; characterized by the appearance of a separated rank-one component -- spike -- in the spectrum of the feature matrix. However, with a constant gradient descent step size, this spike only carries information from the linear component of the target function and therefore learning non-linear components is impossible. We show that with a learning rate that grows with the sample size, such training in fact introduces multiple rank-one components, each corresponding to a specific polynomial feature. We further prove that the limiting large-dimensional and large sample training and test errors of the updated neural networks are fully characterized by these spikes. By precisely analyzing the improvement in the loss, we demonstrate that these non-linear features can enhance learning.

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Zebang Shen, Jiayuan Ye, Anmin Kang, Hamed Hassani, Reza Shokri

Repeated parameter sharing in federated learning causes significant information leakage about private data, thus defeating its main purpose: data privacy. Mitigating the risk of this information leakage, using state of the art differentially private algorithms, also does not come for free. Randomized mechanisms can prevent convergence of models on learning even the useful representation functions, especially if there is more disagreement between local models on the classification functions (due to data heterogeneity). In this paper, we consider a representation federated learning objective that encourages various parties to collaboratively refine the consensus part of the model, with differential privacy guarantees, while separately allowing sufficient freedom for local personalization (without releasing it). We prove that in the linear representation setting, while the objective is non-convex, our proposed new algorithm \DPFEDREP\ converges to a ball centered around the \emph{global optimal} solution at a linear rate, and the radius of the ball is proportional to the reciprocal of the privacy budget. With this novel utility analysis, we improve the SOTA utility-privacy trade-off for this problem by a factor of $\sqrt{d}$, where $d$ is the input dimension. We empirically evaluate our method with the image classification task on CIFAR10, CIFAR100, and EMNIST, and observe a significant performance improvement over the prior work under the same small privacy budget. The code can be found in this link: https://github.com/shenzebang/CENTAUR-Privacy-Federated-Representation-Learning.

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Liam Collins, Hamed Hassani, Mahdi Soltanolkotabi, Aryan Mokhtari, Sanjay Shakkottai

Feature learning, i.e. extracting meaningful representations of data, is quintessential to the practical success of neural networks trained with gradient descent, yet it is notoriously difficult to explain how and why it occurs. Recent theoretical studies have shown that shallow neural networks optimized on a single task with gradient-based methods can learn meaningful features, extending our understanding beyond the neural tangent kernel or random feature regime in which negligible feature learning occurs. But in practice, neural networks are increasingly often trained on {\em many} tasks simultaneously with differing loss functions, and these prior analyses do not generalize to such settings. In the multi-task learning setting, a variety of studies have shown effective feature learning by simple linear models. However, multi-task learning via {\em nonlinear} models, arguably the most common learning paradigm in practice, remains largely mysterious. In this work, we present the first results proving feature learning occurs in a multi-task setting with a nonlinear model. We show that when the tasks are binary classification problems with labels depending on only $r$ directions within the ambient $d\gg r$-dimensional input space, executing a simple gradient-based multitask learning algorithm on a two-layer ReLU neural network learns the ground-truth $r$ directions. In particular, any downstream task on the $r$ ground-truth coordinates can be solved by learning a linear classifier with sample and neuron complexity independent of the ambient dimension $d$, while a random feature model requires exponential complexity in $d$ for such a guarantee.

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Arman Adibi, Aritra Mitra, Hamed Hassani

Delays and asynchrony are inevitable in large-scale machine-learning problems where communication plays a key role. As such, several works have extensively analyzed stochastic optimization with delayed gradients. However, as far as we are aware, no analogous theory is available for min-max optimization, a topic that has gained recent popularity due to applications in adversarial robustness, game theory, and reinforcement learning. Motivated by this gap, we examine the performance of standard min-max optimization algorithms with delayed gradient updates. First, we show (empirically) that even small delays can cause prominent algorithms like Extra-gradient (\texttt{EG}) to diverge on simple instances for which \texttt{EG} guarantees convergence in the absence of delays. Our empirical study thus suggests the need for a careful analysis of delayed versions of min-max optimization algorithms. Accordingly, under suitable technical assumptions, we prove that Gradient Descent-Ascent (\texttt{GDA}) and \texttt{EG} with delayed updates continue to guarantee convergence to saddle points for convex-concave and strongly convex-strongly concave settings. Our complexity bounds reveal, in a transparent manner, the slow-down in convergence caused by delays.

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Eric Lei, Yiğit Berkay Uslu, Hamed Hassani, Shirin Saeedi Bidokhti

Recent advances in text-to-image generative models provide the ability to generate high-quality images from short text descriptions. These foundation models, when pre-trained on billion-scale datasets, are effective for various downstream tasks with little or no further training. A natural question to ask is how such models may be adapted for image compression. We investigate several techniques in which the pre-trained models can be directly used to implement compression schemes targeting novel low rate regimes. We show how text descriptions can be used in conjunction with side information to generate high-fidelity reconstructions that preserve both semantics and spatial structure of the original. We demonstrate that at very low bit-rates, our method can significantly improve upon learned compressors in terms of perceptual and semantic fidelity, despite no end-to-end training.

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