Poisoning Attacks to Graph-Based Recommender Systems

11 Sep 2018  ·  Minghong Fang, Guolei Yang, Neil Zhenqiang Gong, Jia Liu ·

Recommender system is an important component of many web services to help users locate items that match their interests. Several studies showed that recommender systems are vulnerable to poisoning attacks, in which an attacker injects fake data to a given system such that the system makes recommendations as the attacker desires. However, these poisoning attacks are either agnostic to recommendation algorithms or optimized to recommender systems that are not graph-based. Like association-rule-based and matrix-factorization-based recommender systems, graph-based recommender system is also deployed in practice, e.g., eBay, Huawei App Store. However, how to design optimized poisoning attacks for graph-based recommender systems is still an open problem. In this work, we perform a systematic study on poisoning attacks to graph-based recommender systems. Due to limited resources and to avoid detection, we assume the number of fake users that can be injected into the system is bounded. The key challenge is how to assign rating scores to the fake users such that the target item is recommended to as many normal users as possible. To address the challenge, we formulate the poisoning attacks as an optimization problem, solving which determines the rating scores for the fake users. We also propose techniques to solve the optimization problem. We evaluate our attacks and compare them with existing attacks under white-box (recommendation algorithm and its parameters are known), gray-box (recommendation algorithm is known but its parameters are unknown), and black-box (recommendation algorithm is unknown) settings using two real-world datasets. Our results show that our attack is effective and outperforms existing attacks for graph-based recommender systems. For instance, when 1% fake users are injected, our attack can make a target item recommended to 580 times more normal users in certain scenarios.

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