Omni: Automated Ensemble with Unexpected Models against Adversarial Evasion Attack

Rui Shu, Tianpei Xia, Laurie Williams, Tim Menzies

BACKGROUND: Machine learning-based security detection models have become prevalent in modern malware and intrusion detection systems. However, previous studies show that such models are susceptible to adversarial evasion attacks. In this type of attack, inputs (i.e., adversarial examples) are specially crafted by intelligent malicious adversaries, with the aim of being misclassified by existing state-of-the-art models (e.g., deep neural networks). Once the attackers can fool a classifier to think that a malicious input is actually benign, they can render a machine learning-based malware or intrusion detection system ineffective. GOAL: To help security practitioners and researchers build a more robust model against adversarial evasion attack through the use of ensemble learning. METHOD: We propose an approach called OMNI, the main idea of which is to explore methods that create an ensemble of "unexpected models"; i.e., models whose control hyperparameters have a large distance to the hyperparameters of an adversary's target model, with which we then make an optimized weighted ensemble prediction. RESULTS: In studies with five adversarial evasion attacks (FGSM, BIM, JSMA, DeepFool and Carlini-Wagner) on five security datasets (NSL-KDD, CIC-IDS-2017, CSE-CIC-IDS2018, CICAndMal2017 and the Contagio PDF dataset), we show that the improvement rate of OMNI's prediction accuracy over attack accuracy is about 53% (median value) across all datasets, with about 18% (median value) loss rate when comparing pre-attack accuracy and OMNI's prediction accuracy. CONCLUSIONWhen using ensemble learning as a defense method against adversarial evasion attacks, we suggest to create ensemble with unexpected models who are distant from the attacker's expected model (i.e., target model) through methods such as hyperparameter optimization.

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