Modern recommender systems (RS) have seen substantial success, yet they remain vulnerable to malicious activities, notably poisoning attacks. These attacks involve injecting malicious data into the training datasets of RS, thereby compromising their integrity and manipulating recommendation outcomes for gaining illicit profits. This survey paper provides a systematic and up-to-date review of the research landscape on Poisoning Attacks against Recommendation (PAR). A novel and comprehensive taxonomy is proposed, categorizing existing PAR methodologies into three distinct categories: Component-Specific, Goal-Driven, and Capability Probing. For each category, we discuss its mechanism in detail, along with associated methods. Furthermore, this paper highlights potential future research avenues in this domain. Additionally, to facilitate and benchmark the empirical comparison of PAR, we introduce an open-source library, ARLib, which encompasses a comprehensive collection of PAR models and common datasets. The library is released at https://github.com/CoderWZW/ARLib.
Contrastive learning (CL) has recently gained significant popularity in the field of recommendation. Its ability to learn without heavy reliance on labeled data is a natural antidote to the data sparsity issue. Previous research has found that CL can not only enhance recommendation accuracy but also inadvertently exhibit remarkable robustness against noise. However, this paper identifies a vulnerability of CL-based recommender systems: Compared with their non-CL counterparts, they are even more susceptible to poisoning attacks that aim to promote target items. Our analysis points to the uniform dispersion of representations led by the CL loss as the very factor that accounts for this vulnerability. We further theoretically and empirically demonstrate that the optimization of CL loss can lead to smooth spectral values of representations. Based on these insights, we attempt to reveal the potential poisoning attacks against CL-based recommender systems. The proposed attack encompasses a dual-objective framework: One that induces a smoother spectral value distribution to amplify the CL loss's inherent dispersion effect, named dispersion promotion; and the other that directly elevates the visibility of target items, named rank promotion. We validate the destructiveness of our attack model through extensive experimentation on four datasets. By shedding light on these vulnerabilities, we aim to facilitate the development of more robust CL-based recommender systems.
Implicit feedback plays a huge role in recommender systems, but its high noise characteristic seriously reduces its effect. To denoise implicit feedback, some efforts have been devoted to graph data augmentation (GDA) methods. Although the bi-level optimization thought of GDA guarantees better recommendation performance theoretically, it also leads to expensive time costs and severe space explosion problems. Specifically, bi-level optimization involves repeated traversal of all positive and negative instances after each optimization of the recommendation model. In this paper, we propose a new denoising paradigm, i.e., Quick Graph Conversion (QGrace), to effectively transform the original interaction graph into a purified (for positive instances) and densified (for negative instances) interest graph during the recommendation model training process. In QGrace, we leverage the gradient matching scheme based on elaborated generative models to fulfill the conversion and generation of an interest graph, elegantly overcoming the high time and space cost problems. To enable recommendation models to run on interest graphs that lack implicit feedback data, we provide a fine-grained objective function from the perspective of alignment and uniformity. The experimental results on three benchmark datasets demonstrate that the QGrace outperforms the state-of-the-art GDA methods and recommendation models in effectiveness and robustness.
Self-supervised learning (SSL) recently has achieved outstanding success on recommendation. By setting up an auxiliary task (either predictive or contrastive), SSL can discover supervisory signals from the raw data without human annotation, which greatly mitigates the problem of sparse user-item interactions. However, most SSL-based recommendation models rely on general-purpose auxiliary tasks, e.g., maximizing correspondence between node representations learned from the original and perturbed interaction graphs, which are explicitly irrelevant to the recommendation task. Accordingly, the rich semantics reflected by social relationships and item categories, which lie in the recommendation data-based heterogeneous graphs, are not fully exploited. To explore recommendation-specific auxiliary tasks, we first quantitatively analyze the heterogeneous interaction data and find a strong positive correlation between the interactions and the number of user-item paths induced by meta-paths. Based on the finding, we design two auxiliary tasks that are tightly coupled with the target task (one is predictive and the other one is contrastive) towards connecting recommendation with the self-supervision signals hiding in the positive correlation. Finally, a model-agnostic DUal-Auxiliary Learning (DUAL) framework which unifies the SSL and recommendation tasks is developed. The extensive experiments conducted on three real-world datasets demonstrate that DUAL can significantly improve recommendation, reaching the state-of-the-art performance.
With the increasingly fierce market competition, offering a free trial has become a potent stimuli strategy to promote products and attract users. By providing users with opportunities to experience goods without charge, a free trial makes adopters know more about products and thus encourages their willingness to buy. However, as the critical point in the promotion process, finding the proper adopters is rarely explored. Empirically winnowing users by their static demographic attributes is feasible but less effective, neglecting their personalized preferences. To dynamically match the products with the best adopters, in this work, we propose a novel free trial user selection model named SMILE, which is based on reinforcement learning (RL) where an agent actively selects specific adopters aiming to maximize the profit after free trials. Specifically, we design a tree structure to reformulate the action space, which allows us to select adopters from massive user space efficiently. The experimental analysis on three datasets demonstrates the proposed model's superiority and elucidates why reinforcement learning and tree structure can improve performance. Our study demonstrates technical feasibility for constructing a more robust and intelligent user selection model and guides for investigating more marketing promotion strategies.
To explore the robustness of recommender systems, researchers have proposed various shilling attack models and analyzed their adverse effects. Primitive attacks are highly feasible but less effective due to simplistic handcrafted rules, while upgraded attacks are more powerful but costly and difficult to deploy because they require more knowledge from recommendations. In this paper, we explore a novel shilling attack called Graph cOnvolution-based generative shilling ATtack (GOAT) to balance the attacks' feasibility and effectiveness. GOAT adopts the primitive attacks' paradigm that assigns items for fake users by sampling and the upgraded attacks' paradigm that generates fake ratings by a deep learning-based model. It deploys a generative adversarial network (GAN) that learns the real rating distribution to generate fake ratings. Additionally, the generator combines a tailored graph convolution structure that leverages the correlations between co-rated items to smoothen the fake ratings and enhance their authenticity. The extensive experiments on two public datasets evaluate GOAT's performance from multiple perspectives. Our study of the GOAT demonstrates technical feasibility for building a more powerful and intelligent attack model with a much-reduced cost, enables analysis the threat of such an attack and guides for investigating necessary prevention measures.