Climbing the Kaggle Leaderboard by Exploiting the Log-Loss Oracle

6 Jul 2017  ·  Jacob Whitehill ·

In the context of data-mining competitions (e.g., Kaggle, KDDCup, ILSVRC Challenge), we show how access to an oracle that reports a contestant's log-loss score on the test set can be exploited to deduce the ground-truth of some of the test examples. By applying this technique iteratively to batches of $m$ examples (for small $m$), all of the test labels can eventually be inferred... In this paper, (1) We demonstrate this attack on the first stage of a recent Kaggle competition (Intel & MobileODT Cancer Screening) and use it to achieve a log-loss of $0.00000$ (and thus attain a rank of #4 out of 848 contestants), without ever training a classifier to solve the actual task. (2) We prove an upper bound on the batch size $m$ as a function of the floating-point resolution of the probability estimates that the contestant submits for the labels. (3) We derive, and demonstrate in simulation, a more flexible attack that can be used even when the oracle reports the accuracy on an unknown (but fixed) subset of the test set's labels. These results underline the importance of evaluating contestants based only on test data that the oracle does not examine. read more

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