Handcrafted Backdoors in Deep Neural Networks

Sanghyun Hong, Nicholas Carlini, Alexey Kurakin

Deep neural networks (DNNs), while accurate, are expensive to train. Many practitioners, therefore, outsource the training process to third parties or use pre-trained DNNs. This practice makes DNNs vulnerable to $backdoor$ $attacks$: the third party who trains the model may act maliciously to inject hidden behaviors into the otherwise accurate model. Until now, the mechanism to inject backdoors has been limited to $poisoning$. We argue that such a supply-chain attacker has more attack techniques available. To study this hypothesis, we introduce a handcrafted attack that directly manipulates the parameters of a pre-trained model to inject backdoors. Our handcrafted attacker has more degrees of freedom in manipulating model parameters than poisoning. This makes it difficult for a defender to identify or remove the manipulations with straightforward methods, such as statistical analysis, adding random noises to model parameters, or clipping their values within a certain range. Further, our attacker can combine the handcrafting process with additional techniques, $e.g.$, jointly optimizing a trigger pattern, to inject backdoors into complex networks effectively$-$the meet-in-the-middle attack. In evaluations, our handcrafted backdoors remain effective across four datasets and four network architectures with a success rate above 96%. Our backdoored models are resilient to both parameter-level backdoor removal techniques and can evade existing defenses by slightly changing the backdoor attack configurations. Moreover, we demonstrate the feasibility of suppressing unwanted behaviors otherwise caused by poisoning. Our results suggest that further research is needed for understanding the complete space of supply-chain backdoor attacks.

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