Binary Classification Under $\ell_0$ Attacks for General Noise Distribution

9 Mar 2022  ·  Payam Delgosha, Hamed Hassani, Ramtin Pedarsani ·

Adversarial examples have recently drawn considerable attention in the field of machine learning due to the fact that small perturbations in the data can result in major performance degradation. This phenomenon is usually modeled by a malicious adversary that can apply perturbations to the data in a constrained fashion, such as being bounded in a certain norm. In this paper, we study this problem when the adversary is constrained by the $\ell_0$ norm; i.e., it can perturb a certain number of coordinates in the input, but has no limit on how much it can perturb those coordinates. Due to the combinatorial nature of this setting, we need to go beyond the standard techniques in robust machine learning to address this problem. We consider a binary classification scenario where $d$ noisy data samples of the true label are provided to us after adversarial perturbations. We introduce a classification method which employs a nonlinear component called truncation, and show in an asymptotic scenario, as long as the adversary is restricted to perturb no more than $\sqrt{d}$ data samples, we can almost achieve the optimal classification error in the absence of the adversary, i.e. we can completely neutralize adversary's effect. Surprisingly, we observe a phase transition in the sense that using a converse argument, we show that if the adversary can perturb more than $\sqrt{d}$ coordinates, no classifier can do better than a random guess.

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