Complex Backdoor Detection by Symmetric Feature Differencing

Many existing backdoor scanners work by finding a small and fixed trigger. However, advanced attacks have large and pervasive triggers, rendering existing scanners less effective. We develop a new detection method. It first uses a trigger inversion technique to generate triggers, namely, universal input patterns flipping victim class samples to a target class. It then checks if any such trigger is composed of features that are not natural distinctive features between the victim and target classes. It is based on a novel symmetric feature differencing method that identifies features separating two sets of samples (e.g., from two respective classes). We evaluate the technique on a number of advanced attacks including composite attack, reflection attack, hidden attack, filter attack, and also on the traditional patch attack. The evaluation is on thousands of models, including both clean and trojaned models, with various architectures. We compare with three state-of-the-art scanners. Our technique can achieve 80-88% accuracy while the baselines can only achieve 50-70% on complex attacks. Our results on the TrojAI competition rounds 2-4, which have patch backdoors and filter backdoors, show that existing scanners may produce hundreds of false positives (i.e., clean models recognized as trojaned), while our technique removes 78-100% of them with a small increase of false negatives by 0-30%, leading to 17-41% overall accuracy improvement. This allows us to achieve top performance on the leaderboard.

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