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Abstract:Over recent years, devising classification algorithms that are robust to adversarial perturbations has emerged as a challenging problem. In particular, deep neural nets (DNNs) seem to be susceptible to small imperceptible changes over test instances. In this work, we study whether there is any learning task for which it is possible to design classifiers that are only robust against polynomial-time adversaries. Indeed, numerous cryptographic tasks (e.g. encryption of long messages) are only be secure against computationally bounded adversaries, and are indeed mpossible for computationally unbounded attackers. Thus, it is natural to ask if the same strategy could help robust learning. We show that computational limitation of attackers can indeed be useful in robust learning by demonstrating a classifier for a learning task in which computational and information theoretic adversaries of bounded perturbations have very different power. Namely, while computationally unbounded adversaries can attack successfully and find adversarial examples with small perturbation, polynomial time adversaries are unable to do so unless they can break standard cryptographic hardness assumptions. Our results, therefore, indicate that perhaps a similar approach to cryptography (relying on computational hardness) holds promise for achieving computationally robust machine learning. We also show that the existence of such learning task in which computational robustness beats information theoretic robustness implies (average case) hard problems in $\mathbf{NP}$.