Quantization Backdoors to Deep Learning Commercial Frameworks

Currently, there is a burgeoning demand for deploying deep learning (DL) models on ubiquitous edge Internet of Things (IoT) devices attributed to their low latency and high privacy preservation. However, DL models are often large in size and require large-scale computation, which prevents them from being placed directly onto IoT devices, where resources are constrained and 32-bit floating-point (float-32) operations are unavailable. Commercial framework (i.e., a set of toolkits) empowered model quantization is a pragmatic solution that enables DL deployment on mobile devices and embedded systems by effortlessly post-quantizing a large high-precision model (e.g., float-32) into a small low-precision model (e.g., int-8) while retaining the model inference accuracy. However, their usability might be threatened by security vulnerabilities. This work reveals that the standard quantization toolkits can be abused to activate a backdoor. We demonstrate that a full-precision backdoored model which does not have any backdoor effect in the presence of a trigger -- as the backdoor is dormant -- can be activated by the default i) TensorFlow-Lite (TFLite) quantization, the only product-ready quantization framework to date, and ii) the beta released PyTorch Mobile framework. When each of the float-32 models is converted into an int-8 format model through the standard TFLite or Pytorch Mobile framework's post-training quantization, the backdoor is activated in the quantized model, which shows a stable attack success rate close to 100% upon inputs with the trigger, while it behaves normally upon non-trigger inputs. This work highlights that a stealthy security threat occurs when an end user utilizes the on-device post-training model quantization frameworks, informing security researchers of cross-platform overhaul of DL models post quantization even if these models pass front-end backdoor inspections.

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