Hacking Smart Machines with Smarter Ones: How to Extract Meaningful Data from Machine Learning Classifiers

Machine Learning (ML) algorithms are used to train computers to perform a variety of complex tasks and improve with experience. Computers learn how to recognize patterns, make unintended decisions, or react to a dynamic environment. Certain trained machines may be more effective than others because they are based on more suitable ML algorithms or because they were trained through superior training sets. Although ML algorithms are known and publicly released, training sets may not be reasonably ascertainable and, indeed, may be guarded as trade secrets. While much research has been performed about the privacy of the elements of training sets, in this paper we focus our attention on ML classifiers and on the statistical information that can be unconsciously or maliciously revealed from them. We show that it is possible to infer unexpected but useful information from ML classifiers. In particular, we build a novel meta-classifier and train it to hack other classifiers, obtaining meaningful information about their training sets. This kind of information leakage can be exploited, for example, by a vendor to build more effective classifiers or to simply acquire trade secrets from a competitor's apparatus, potentially violating its intellectual property rights.

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