State-of-the-art segmentation network fooled to segment a heart symbol in chest X-Ray images

Gerda Bortsova, Florian Dubost, Laurens Hogeweg, Ioannis Katramados, Marleen De Bruijne

Adversarial attacks consist in maliciously changing the input data to mislead the predictions of automated decision systems and are potentially a serious threat for automated medical image analysis. Previous studies have shown that it is possible to adversarially manipulate automated segmentations produced by neural networks in a targeted manner in the white-box attack setting. In this article, we studied the effectiveness of adversarial attacks in targeted modification of segmentations of anatomical structures in chest X-rays. Firstly, we experimented with using anatomically implausible shapes as targets for adversarial manipulation. We showed that, by adding almost imperceptible noise to the image, we can reliably force state-of-the-art neural networks to segment the heart as a heart symbol instead of its real anatomical shape. Moreover, such heart-shaping attack did not appear to require higher adversarial noise level than an untargeted attack based the same attack method. Secondly, we attempted to explore the limits of adversarial manipulation of segmentations. For that, we assessed the effectiveness of shrinking and enlarging segmentation contours for the three anatomical structures. We observed that adversarially extending segmentations of structures into regions with intensity and texture uncharacteristic for them presented a challenge to our attacks, as well as, in some cases, changing segmentations in ways that conflict with class adjacency priors learned by the target network. Additionally, we evaluated performances of the untargeted attacks and targeted heart attacks in the black-box attack scenario, using a surrogate network trained on a different subset of images. In both cases, the attacks were substantially less effective. We believe these findings bring novel insights into the current capabilities and limits of adversarial attacks for semantic segmentation.

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